Shelby Hadden Creates 'Tightly Wound,' an Animated Film About Chronic Pelvic Pain

Update: “Tightly Wound” was completed and is now available on Conde Nast’s Iris.

Millions of women will experience pain during sexual intercourse at some point during their lives, but very few will end up talking about that. To help others speak up, Shelby Hadden, a filmmaker in Austin, Texas, is using her own personal experiences and technical skills to make “Tightly Wound,” an animated film about chronic pelvic pain.

“There is not a lot of art out there that represents people with chronic pelvic pain or sexual dysfunction,” Hadden told The Mighty. “When you’re struggling with something or dealing with something, you usually like to talk to people who have experienced similar things, which not a lot of people talk about it if they do have it, people who have it don’t know that they have it. I thought, you know, I really want to tell this story in some way and for a long time I didn’t know what that meant.”

To help others looking for these personal stories, Hadden decided to turn her experience with chronic pelvic pain and vaginismus into an animated film. “Pelvic pain is such an internal experience – both physically and emotionally – and I think animation allows me to tell that story in a visual and interesting way,” she said.

The film focusses on Hadden’s experience going to multiple doctors – trying to get a diagnosis, years’ worth of sessions with physical therapists and the frustration of dating when sexual intimacy is a challenge.

“Being rejected over and over again for one body part really… sucks,” Hadden wrote on her film’s Kickstarter page. “Dating is not even fun for me, because I have this big secret looming over me like a black cloud, a secret that will send them running. After telling one guy I was dating about my vaginismus, he left my apartment, promised to call me, and I never heard from him again.”

In addition to talking about the challenges that come with chronic pelvic pain, Hadden hopes to advocate for pelvic floor physical therapy, a treatment option which has helped manage her pain. “I’ve been going to physical therapy regularly, once a week for about a year-and-a-half and I had been going on-and-off for about the last three years,” she said. “As much as I love my physical therapist, PT is really hard and frustrating and uncomfortable and slow, time consuming and expensive.” Still, Hadden says the treatments are worth it and that the therapists she’s worked with have all supported her both physically and emotionally.

Currently, Hadden is fundraising for her film through Kickstarter, where she has already reached her goal of $20,000, and hopes to release the film by the end of 2017.

You can learn more about “Tightly Wound” through Hadden’s Kickstarter page. 

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