What Can I Do If Sex Is Painful?

Sex should never cause you pain or discomfort. Here are some things you can try if your fumbles are hurting

Sex can be a toe-curling, hair-raising, weird-sound-making exploding glitterball of an experience. But that’s not always the case: and if you’re not enjoying sex, it’s not a feeling you should ignore.

While it may seem you’re the only person not getting their rocks off with every bump and grind, discomfort or pain during sex can be surprisingly common. Especially for women or people with vulvas. In fact, statistics suggest a whopping one in three women experienced pain the last time they had sex.

There are lots of reasons why this might be happening, which include:

❗️Lack of sexual arousal

❗️Infections such as thrush, or sexually transmitted infections, such as chlamydiagonorrhoea, or herpes.

❗️Vaginismus: a condition where muscles in or around the vagina shut tight, making sex painful or impossible (ouch).

❗️Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID): usually caused by a bacterial infection that has spread up from your vagina or cervix to your reproductive organs.

Talk to your partner

Disclaimer: the person you are having sex with should, at their core, be wanting you to have a fantastic time. If you feel like this is not something they care about, you should get out of there ASAP. But assuming they’re a good person who just hasn’t realised you’re not finding sex enjoyable, it’s important to let them know when it hurts.

Learning to talk to each other about what feels good is a key part of having great sex. You should never feel embarrassed or awkward about speaking up if something isn’t working for you. It’s equally important to share what turns you on, and explore it together.

Add lube

Sex is, broadly, more enjoyable when it doesn’t feel as though your insides are being sandpapered. This means lubricants can be an absolute godsend if you struggle with your bits getting wet. Fun fact: the wetness of your vagina is not directly proportional to how turned on you are feeling  and it’s therefore not ‘cheating’ to help yourself out with a slippery substance.

Brands like Durex stock a huge range of different lubricants, which you can buy over the counter in most chemists and pharmacies. But remember to never combine oil-based lubes with latex condoms, because they can make them tear.

Mix things up

Sex is so much more than penis-in-vagina action  or any kind of penetrative action, for that matter. In fact, some experts found that 70% of women are incapable of orgasming through vaginal sex alone. If penetration is something that causes you pain or discomfort, try taking a break from it. Instead you can explore other kinds of sexy fun, such as oral sex or different kinds of sexual outercourse.

You can always come back to penetration when you’re feeling more ready for it. Just remember, the first step of any kind of sexual activity is loud and enthusiastic consent from all parties involved.  

Practice on yourself

It’s easier to share with a partner how they can make you feel good if you understand what brings you pleasure. So why not take some time to explore that by yourself? Masturbation is a completely normal part of human sexuality (according to Brook over half of 16-20 year olds have tried it). And it can be a great way to learn more about what your body likes, at your own pace. It’s also how a lot of people end up having their first orgasm.

Chat to a professional

If you are experiencing ongoing emotional problems and anxiety around having sex, then it might be worth visiting a GUM clinic, having a chat with your GP, or talking to a counsellor about how you are feeling.

Remember that pain during or after sex could be your body trying to tell you that something is wrong, so don’t ignore it. If you find talking about it embarrassing, just remember that doctors are used to dealing with problems like this, and will be able to offer help and support.

Good luck  —  and may all your future fumbles have a foundation in happy, pain-free, consensual pleasure.

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