Vaginismus, a component of a general defensive reaction. an investigation of pelvic floor muscle activity during exposure to emotion-inducing film excerpts in women with and without vaginismus

Int Urogynecol J Pelvic Floor Dysfunct. 2001;12(5):328-31. doi: 10.1007/s001920170035.


This study investigates the mechanism underlying vaginismus, which may be part of a general defense mechanism. Exposure to a threatening situation will evoke an increase in muscle activity. This muscle reaction will not be restricted to the pelvic floor but will also occur in postural muscles, such as in the trapezius region. Women with and without vaginismus were exposed to four stimuli: excerpts from threatening, erotic, neutral and sexual-threatening films. Subjects were 45 physician- or self-referred patients with vaginismus and 32 controls with no sexual or pelvic floor complaints. The activity of the pelvic floor muscles and of the muscles in the trapezius region was recorded with surface electrodes. There were no differences between women with and without vaginistic reactions. EMG measurement of both the pelvic floor muscles and the trapezius muscle showed an increase in muscle activity during the threatening and sexual-threatening excerpts in women with and without vaginismus. This increase of involuntary pelvic floor muscle activity is part of a general defense mechanism that occurs during exposure to threatening situations. This reaction is not restricted to a situation with a sexual content. The results of this study shed new light on the concept of vaginismus as a primarily sexual dysfunction.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Electromyography
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Pelvic Floor / physiopathology*
  • Photic Stimulation*
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / physiopathology*
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / psychology*