Few men understand how painful sex can be for some women. This isn’t pain from sex that’s rushed or rough. It’s more like when a Q-tip is pressed against a woman’s genitals and it causes her to flinch in pain. Or when intercourse with a gentle lover creates an intense burning sensation in her vagina or makes her feel like she’s being stabbed with a knife. Or when the muscles around the opening of her vagina are clamped so tight she can’t insert a tampon.
Fortunately, for plenty of women with sexual pain, it’s not this severe. But it still makes sex something they endure rather than enjoy.
Many of us assume there are two times in life when sex hurts for women: their first time and after menopause. We don’t realize that more than 20% of women in their teens, twenties, thirties and beyond can experience pain during sex, and not just once or twice. Chronic sexual pain that can last for months or years.
While rushed or clumsy lovemaking can make sex painful for women, this can usually be resolved with effort and education, or by finding a new lover. That is not the case when there is chronic pain during sex.
Sometimes a woman can have great sex with a man for years, and then suddenly develop pelvic pain. Or sometimes she will have pain from the first time she tries to put in a tampon and it doesn’t go away, no matter how many different lovers she tries to have sex with.
This kind of pain isn’t when a woman is enjoying intercourse and the head of her partner’s penis hits her cervix and it feels like she was punched in the stomach. Nor is it the pain a woman feels if she is dry and needs lube. Chronic sexual pain doesn’t go away by adding lube.
A woman can’t fix chronic pelvic pain by changing positions or wrapping her legs around a partner’s waist instead of around his neck. So it’s not a matter of lube or logistics.
A lover’s penis might be three clicks bigger than huge and a woman may need to do exercises like they teach in childbirth classes to fit it in, but that is not usually what causes chronic sexual pain.
Chronic sexual pain is pretty much there each and every time a woman has intercourse, assuming she is able to have intercourse. It doesn’t suddenly get better if she has sex with another guy or her partner’s younger brother.
Illustration by Daerick Gross Sr. from the Guide To Getting It On.