Why Tampon Adverts Are Frustrating For People With Vaginismus


Disclaimer: We appreciate that many people who have vaginas do not identify as female and are using “women” and “female” to encompass anyone who menstruates or uses tampons.

For most people, their ‘time of the month’ isn’t something they look forward to. Cramps, mood swings and aching all over are not the best experiences. Now add to that vaginismus, and it becomes even more treacherous. For those who haven’t heard of it, vaginismus is a condition which makes the vaginal muscles tense and tighten when attempting to insert something. It can be painful and is certainly distressing. Not only are you dealing with everything that comes with periods, you’re now trying to work out why you can’t use a tampon when everyone else seems to be able to. The involuntary tightening, spasms, and pain just adds to the anxiety, making things worse.

Since I was a teenager, I’ve had problems using tampons. It was so frustrating especially as everything I read was telling me how ‘easy’ it was. It just left me feeling there was something wrong with me. After being diagnosed, I started Googling and realised I wasn’t alone; in fact lots of other women struggled with this too. I also realised that I wasn’t the only one getting angry about tampon adverts on TV and online.

The latest Tampax advert has made the headlines after it addressed tampon discomfort openly and freely. It’s the first time an advert like this has been made, telling women how to ‘correctly insert a tampon’. According to research carried out by Tampax, 42% of tampon-with-applicator users were not inserting it properly and 79% said they experienced discomfort while using tampons.

It would have been interesting to know if the company asked whether any of those people struggled with vaginismus. How do they know that some of these women are not struggling because of this condition?

Needless to say, the British public were not ready for this type of advert and complained about Tampax airing ‘get them up there girls’ in the middle of family friendly programmes like Britain’s Got Talent. There were complaints about how explicit it was with the ‘chat show host’ in the advert telling women and girls the correct way to use a tampon is to ‘just pull it, lock it and put it in.’

Over the decades, we’ve made great moves to talk more openly about women’s health but what about those people who struggle with these products for health reasons? It’s not as easy, simple or straightforward as advertised, especially for women with vaginismus. In fact, these kinds of adverts just exacerbate our anxiety around the whole thing and the already unpleasant experience is made unbearable. It’s understandable that companies want these products to be accessible to all but in their marketing approach they are just eliminating a secret association of women who feel that every time they ‘give it a go’, it just gets worse. Ultimately, we feel we are failing and are made to feel bad because in the case of vaginismus, it isn’t just a case of getting a tampon up there. It takes real blood, sweat, and sometimes tears.

Multi-million-dollar companies like Tampax should be doing more research into what happens if you can’t use tampons because of a health condition. Conducting anonymous surveys might encourage women who are too embarrassed to speak openly to be counted and share their experiences.

More should be done about educating school age girls about what vaginismus actually is and if they do experience it and struggle with tampons, then it’s OK. It’s important that they know they are still women and shouldn’t feel less than that. Yes, it’s seen as an embarrassing topic for most but isn’t it better to address it and educate girls? Rather than to watch Tampax adverts, like the one above, and feel there’s something wrong with them?

Luckily, tampons are not the be-all and end-all of period products. There are plenty of different things out there to suit everyone. At the end of the day, we choose what goes into our bodies.

People with vaginismus are in tune with their amazing bodies and shouldn’t be made to feel that we’re not powerful. We’re not in any way failures just because we can’t ‘get it up there’.

Words by Anonymous

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