sex

After my divorce, I dated a man with a tiny penis. It was exactly what I needed.

In 2006, I got divorced after only two and a half years of marriage. It’s not as if my divorce was messy (we were young and childless), but it was painful and a little bit strange.

Because I suffered from a condition called vaginismus, my husband and I never had penetrative sex. And since I was naive in my early twenties and we were both coming out of the evangelical purity culture of the 90s, we each seemed to think that penetrative P-in-V sex was what we should be having. All of the time.

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Unfortunately for me, my husband was very well endowed, and that only seemed to make our attempts at penetration more painful.

There are different schools of thought about vaginismus and whether it’s purely psychological or a mixture of physical and psychological problems, but the end result is the same. Women struggle to experience penetration without a great deal of pain.

And while two and a half years is quite short in terms of a marriage, it is a very long time to live in shame. Rather than seeing the problem as a ‘we’ thing, I saw it as a ‘me’ thing. I felt that it was my body, my mind, my problem, and 100 percent my fault.

In the end, the marriage unsurprisingly fell apart. My husband had an affair with his high school sweetheart, and told me that he wanted to leave me by writing a note on a paper plate, and crumpling that message to fit inside our mailbox.

There are undoubtedly worse ways to leave your wife, but this way was still toward the bottom of the list. Despite the fact that I was very unhappy in our marriage and life together, the way my husband left me formed a needlessly deeper wound. The depth of that wound made our divorce feel much more complicated than it ever really was.

Although we had no children and honestly, nothing to fight for or hang onto, the affair and our failure to speak the truth added more pain. Confusingly, it left me longing for the connection we never even had.

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Had my husband been more upfront and honest, the blow to ending a marriage at just 23 years old would have been a little more gentle.

As it happened, the events surrounding the dissolution of our marriage left me with a lot of unresolved trauma.

The healing would take a lot of time because I didn’t know how lost I was. I had entered our marriage hopeful, naive, and poorly prepared.

We went through the same basic premarital counselling with a pastor that many young Christian couples go through as a prerequisite for the pastor to perform the ceremony. In hindsight, that counselling was so lacking and out of touch that it was never going to help us stay together or work out our problems in a healthy way.

It was merely something we had to do to have the wedding, but it offered no real value to our relationship. It didn’t give us the tools we needed to deal with an issue like vaginismus, and frankly, it’s ridiculous to me now (nearly 15 years later) how simply talking to anyone about our sex life seemed so taboo.

Even when I returned to my hometown after my marriage ended, I wasn’t able to talk about what had happened. Although my mother suspected that my husband had cheated on me, I felt it was necessary to deny it.

I think I was ashamed. In those days, I fully felt the stigma of being married and divorced so young, and for a very long time I felt as if my husband’s affair was a glaring indication that I was unworthy and unlovable.

If people knew that my husband cheated on me and left me for another woman, I thought that they would judge me poorly. After all, I had been taught for years by Christian leaders that sexual intercourse was essentially the most important thing a wife could give her husband.

Before children.

Our failure to consummate the marriage felt wholly like my failure to be a pleasing wife to God and my husband. Those thoughts weren’t just about being in pain. They made me jaded. Before too long, my husband wasn’t someone I even liked, let alone loved.

While some hardships or challenges bring a couple closer together, this one pulled us apart, and I slowly checked out of our life.

I became something of a shut-in. My husband had university and work, but I only had him and the internet. We lived in family housing on his university campus, but I didn’t know anyone because I’d dropped out of my own school a couple of hours away to marry him.

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We had one car and I didn’t know how to drive, so he took it often while I sat at home. Initially, I tried to be the good wife who cooked, cleaned, and made our house a home, but that quickly grew old. I craved connection. And I wanted more for myself, but I didn’t know exactly what that was.

Nothing really felt possible or accessible to me.

Time passed, and it wasn’t just a lack of sex that put a wedge between me and my husband. We argued over little things that grew exponentially bigger. I hated the way he closed doors loudly and moved around the kitchen noisily. I didn’t like the way he used me as an excuse to avoid his mother.

Eventually, we argued so much that I longed for an escape. But any escape seemed unrealistic, a fairy tale. Since I spent so much of my life coached into believing that “God hates divorce,” I saw myself stuck in a loveless marriage.

I dealt with those stuck feelings by disassociating from my unhappy life. I spent my time writing on Xanga, creating One Tree Hill fanfic, and honestly, by eating.

Eating wasn’t just something I did to survive. It passed the time and made me feel nourished even when my soul felt empty. By the end of our marriage, I had gained 45kg and felt like a shell of the person I had been before we met.

My body was yet another thick layer of shame.

I returned home and slept on my mother’s couch for about nine months. Never telling her about my husband’s affair. She strangely blamed the end of my marriage on me and my supposed “fixations” on sex. In other words, she assumed I was some depraved person who enjoyed sex too much and that destroyed my marriage.

In the autumn of 2006, I moved into my first solo apartment and got myself some temporary office work. It happened like most big changes in my life – spontaneously because I felt my back up against the wall.

In less than a year, my life went through a dramatic transformation. I was beginning to interact with people again. And holding a job gave me a brand new outlook on life. A tiny bit of purpose.

I had hope for the future, even if I didn’t know what it might be.

On the first day of my very first temporary assignment, I wasn’t thinking about dating, but the security guard at my office building was. He quickly made himself available to help me navigate the workplace, often messaging me on the company’s intranet to see how I was doing. We frequently ate lunch together, and it was nice to feel some companionship again.

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Before too long, he asked me out and I realised that it was not just my first date after my marriage, but it was my first date outside of the Christian bubble.

The security guard was a somewhat outspoken atheist. We got along well, but it was apparent to me that many of our views differed. He was also pro-pornography, when back in those days, porn still horrified me. I still had the mainstay objections that “those women” weren’t objects, but they were sisters, daughters, mothers, etc. I was still repressed sexually.

Despite my conservative views, I was interested in the unknown, and I secretly wanted to make choices that didn’t involve God or church. In that way, this new love interest was good for me.

He gave me a glimpse of the world outside the bubble I was raised in.

At the same time, though, my experiences with him were a real culture shock.

On our first date, we went to the movies and saw some Bruce Willis flick, whatever came out in 2007. I have never been confident about my body, but I remember choosing a pretty bra and low cut top because I wanted to feel sexy.

The reality was that I didn’t know what to expect on a “grown up” date. But I wanted to be more grown up. To be honest, I hadn’t even decided what any of my boundaries or intentions should be. On a very basic, level, I wanted to have fun and be happy.

The low-cut top must have worked, because my security guard date had his hands in my cleavage and between my legs by the middle of the movie. It was a strange thing for me: half of my person wanted something to happen between us while the other half felt surprised that it just happened without much warning.

I didn’t know it back then, but I was struggling to verbalise my need for consent. In those days, it was hard enough for me to talk about sex, but it was impossible for me to broach consent because the term wasn’t even on my radar.

At the end of the date, mister security guard drove me back home and I felt like I was “supposed” to let him into my apartment. So, I did.

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When he started kissing me, it already felt like things were moving fast (probably too fast), but I felt like that was simply “how things worked.” He began to undress me and although I would have preferred to wait, I thought that I had no control over what happened next because I wore a low-cut shirt.

Again, that’s one of the dangers of a Christian sexual education.

“Wait a second,” I said nervously. “I need to explain something. I have never been able to fully have sex…”

It’s awkward looking back on my former sexual relationships, particularly during my twenties when I was battling vaginismus. The fact that I now understand consent explains my mixed (and often, negative) feelings about each experience.

But it’s still challenging to explain those mixed feelings today. Fact: I wanted to have sex like a “normal person” without pain. Also a fact: I wasn’t sure that I was “ready” for sex.

The truth, of course, is that I wasn’t. I was so hung up on sex being “wrong” that I didn’t take the space I needed to learn about my options for birth control. And I didn’t explore any of my boundaries. Instead, the men I dated took the lead and made all of the decisions. In most cases, we did not have safe sex.

This guy was no exception, and it feels important for me to say that. I did my best to explain my situation to him and how my marriage went unconsummated due to vaginismus.

His reply sounded good. He told me that we didn’t have to go any further than I wanted, but then he kept going anyway. I realise now how in terms of consent, telling someone that they don’t have to do anything they don’t want to do isn’t all that helpful.

It put all of the pressure on me to stop him. Consent asks for permission, while faux consent tends to expect you to go along with everything. In my case, I didn’t know how they would respond to my request for a full stop.

It wasn’t that he was a bad guy, but he was a guy of the current culture. And true consent wasn’t really a thing at that point.

That said, our experience wasn’t all bad. I definitely felt pressured to comply, both from the dude and my own internal messaging about my body which was rooted in conservatism. But I don’t look back on it all as a negative encounter. And on the unexpected bright side?

This guy’s dick was very small.

Tiny and uncircumcised, but somehow, much more approachable. Better yet, he never said anything about its size. No apology, no explanation, and I have to say I liked that.

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I’ve always apologised so much for my body and perceived shortcomings. His non-apology in a culture that routinely makes fun of little dicks stuck with me and made an impact.

Because of my vaginismus, it still took some work, but we were able to have sex and get to the point where it felt great for each of us. Sometimes, it still hurt, but most of the time (eventually) it felt good.

Small dicks are frequently underrated. In my case, I could appreciate how it was easier to hold in my mouth and attempt intercourse.

People sometimes say this it’s not the size of the equipment that matters, but what you do with it. I think that’s true. In my experience, a large cock doesn’t have to make vaginismus worse, not if the owner knows how to use it gently. And a tiny dick isn’t automatically any easier if the dude is not an active participant.

Truth be told? This tiny dick didn’t really penetrate my vagina, partly because I was still worried about pain. And frankly, it couldn’t fully penetrate me because it was so small. Instead, we had sex across my vulva and clit. Back then, I still felt uncertain that what we were doing really “counted” as sex. Today, I have no problem classifying it as sex and recognising that it was so much more pleasurable than many other encounters I labelled sex without hesitation.

Looking back on our previous sexual relationships can be a wild ride when we realise how much we’ve changed since “the old days.”

Yet, year after year, I find myself appreciative for the time I spent with that security guard with the little penis. We kept dating for a few months, until circumstances with his family required him to move back to his hometown a thousand miles away.

All in all, our encounters taught me that I really could enjoy sex, and penetration might be overrated. Finally, it taught me that consent is a much bigger conversation than we’d sometimes like to believe.

Back then, I had a lot to sort out about my sex life, but as it happened, a tiny dick was exactly what I needed to start the healing process.

This post originally appeared on Medium and has been republished here with full permission.

You can read more from Shannon Ashley on Medium, or follow her on Twitter

Feature image: Getty.

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