I have vaginismus. This creates a number of problems, but the most-discussed is that I can’t be on the receiving end of penetrative vaginal sex. When I try to put things in my vagina, the muscles clamp so tightly that it’s very painful (and often impossible) to keep going. Causes of vaginismus vary, but mine is a result of sexual assault trauma.
There are many ways to treat vaginismus. One way I’m coping with mine is using dilators.
Dilators 101: The What?, Who?, and How?
“Dilator” can seem like a scary word. It sounds unpleasantly medical and vaguely alien. But dilators aren’t murderous invaders from Mars, or nightmarish dental tools. In fact, the dilators that I use – Blush Novelties’ Wellness Dilators – are pretty cute! They even have heart-shaped bases.
So, what are dilators exactly? Dilators are smooth, insertable columns that typically come in kits including 3 to 5 units of gradually increasing size. They can be made of plastic, glass, or silicone. The smallest sizes are typically 0.5 to 0.75 inches in diameter (slimmer than a finger) and usually go up to 1.5 inches or larger. 1.5 inches is the average diameter of a penis or insertable sex toy.
Using dilators can ease and retrain muscles, soften scar tissue, and increase vaginal capacity and tissue elasticity. This is done over a period of time by using them daily (or nearly daily) for specific intervals of 5 minutes to 2 hours as instructed by your doctor. As the vagina becomes more accommodating through consistent practice, users switch to larger dilators. How long this process takes is entirely dependent on the individual’s body and the medical reason for dilating.
Dilators can be used as part of a treatment or recovery plan for a number of things. This can include (or be a byproduct of) cancer, pelvic floor dysfunction, surgeries like vaginoplasties or hysterectomies, trauma scarring, vaginismus, pelvic radiation, vaginal agenesis, injurious childbirth, and more.
There are millions of people with vaginas who use, have used, or will use dilators. I’m one of them. Maybe you’re one too. They’re not scary. They’re not alien. They represent a big step towards recovery, healing, and reclamation. It’s normal – even common – to use them. And you are not alone.
Experiences with the Blush Wellness Silicone Dilator Kit
Blush Wellness Dilators are made of body-safe silicone and have pliable flared bases in the shape of hearts. The smallest unit is 0.5 inches in diameter and the largest is 1.25 inches, spread over 4 sizes. Their lengths start at 3.5 inches, with the largest size being 6 inches tall.
This kit stands out from the crowd both for its disarming design, and the softness and flexibility of the silicone.
Many dilator designs are firm, and feature prominent curves or pointed tips. While this may work with some bodies, for others it simply adds to the painfulness of penetration. Armed with firsthand experience with uncomfortable dilators, author and sex educator Ducky DooLittle worked with colleagues at Blush Novelties to make a more comfortable set of dilators.
“[The silicone] needs to be able to move with me if I sit or reposition my body. [The base] needs to be really comfortable up against my body,” explains DooLittle in a video on the kit. People who use dilators for lengthier sessions – which is a majority of users – should be able to do other things at the same time like read a book or watch tv, DooLittle reasoned. (I’m partial to playing video games while dilating, myself.)
Multitasking can help normalize using dilators and decrease the likelihood of falling off schedule or becoming resentful of their use. But stuff dilators can make moving around too difficult or painful. “So we went with a [silicone density] that could push past penetration but was also soft,” says DooLittle, referring to the need for enough pressure to (carefully and painlessly) work past clenched muscles or unyielding scar tissue.
These are the dilators I use myself, and DooLittle and the Blush team’s care in their creation is evident in the simple but versatile design. They’re definitely wonderfully flexible, and their snubbed tips are comfortable to insert when slicked with thick but silky Sliquid Sassy, my favorite water-based lube. The bases are thin and pliable enough to bend with me when I wear my dilator under clothes, and wide enough to give me an okay handhold for inserting them.
Another thing I love about the Blush Wellness Dilator Kit? The affordability. These dilators are sold as a complete set for less than some dilators are priced individually.
Not sure if these are the right dilators for you? You can also check out Tawney Seren’s video review here: