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How to Rethink Intimacy When ‘Regular’ Sex Hurts

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There’s no rule that says sex has to be penetrative.

By Breena Kerr

When sex hurts, women often feel alone—but they’re not. About 30 percent of women report pain during vaginal intercourse, according to a 2015 study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine which surveyed a subsample of 1,738 women and men ages 18 and older online.

Awareness of painful vaginal sex—sometimes lumped under the term Female Sexual Dysfunction (FSD)—has grown as more women talk about their experiences and more medical professionals start to listen.

Many conditions are associated with FSD, including vulvodynia (chronic vulva pain), vestibulodynia (chronic pain around the opening of the vagina), and vaginismus (cramping and tightness around the opening of the vagina). But they all have one thing in common: vaginal or vulval pain that can make penetrative sex anywhere from mildly uncomfortable to physically impossible. However, you can absolutely still have sex, which we’ll get to in a minute.

First and most important, if you are experiencing any type of genital pain, talk to your doctor.

There’s no reason to suffer in silence, even if it seems awkward or embarrassing or scary. Your gynecologist has heard it all and can help (or they can refer you to someone who can). The International Pelvic Pain Society has great resources for finding a licensed health care provider who specializes in genital pain.

“We don’t yet know why women get vestibulodynia or vulvodynia,” Kayna Cassard, M.A., M.F.T., a psychotherapist who specializes in vaginismus and other pelvic pain issues, tells SELF. “[There can be] many traumas, physical and psychological, that become internalized and add to vaginal pain. Women’s pain isn’t just ‘in their heads,’ ” Cassard says.

This kind of pain can affect anyone—regardless of sexual orientation or relationship status—but it can be particularly difficult for someone who mostly engages in penetrative sex with their partner. The important thing to remember is that you have options.

Sex does not have to revolve around penetration.

Hell, it doesn’t even need to include it. And for a lot of people, it doesn’t. Obviously, if P-in-V sex is what you and your partner are used to, it can be intimidating to consider redefining what sex means to you. But above all, sex should be pleasurable.

“The first thing to do is expand what ‘counts’ as sex,” sex educator and Girl Sex 101 author Allison Moon tells SELF. “Many people in heterosexual relationships consider only penis-in-vagina to count as sex, and everything else is some form of foreplay,” she says. But sex can include (or not include) whatever two consensual people decide on: oral sex, genital massage, mutual masturbation, whatever you’re into.

“If you only allow yourself one form of sex to count as the real deal, you may feel broken for enjoying, or preferring, other kinds of touch,” Moon says.

To minimize pain, give yourself time to prepare physically and mentally for sex.

That might sound like a lot of prep work, but it’s really about making sure you’re in the right mindset, that you’re relaxed, and that you’re giving your body time to warm up.

Heather S. Howard, Ph.D., a certified sexologist and founder of the Center for Sexual Health and Rehabilitation in San Francisco, publishes free guides that help women prepare physically and mentally for sex. She tells SELF that stretching and massaging, including massaging your vaginal muscles, is especially helpful for women with muscle tightness. (Too much stretching, though, is a bad idea for women with sensitive vaginal skin that’s prone to tearing.)

Starting with nonsexual touch is key, as Elizabeth Akincilar-Rummer, M.S.P.T., president and cofounder of the Pelvic Health and Rehabilitation Center in San Francisco, tells SELF. This puts the emphasis on relaxation so you don’t feel pressured to rush arousal.

Inserting a cool or warm stainless steel dilator (or a homemade version created with water and a popsicle mold) can also help reduce pain, Howard says. Women can tailor the size and shape to whatever is comfortable. If a wand or dilator is painful, however, a cool cloth or warm bath can feel soothing instead. Again, do what feels good to you and doesn’t cause pain.

Several studies have shown that arousal may increase your threshold for pain tolerance (not to mention it makes sex more enjoyable). So don’t skimp on whatever step is most arousing for you. That might mean some solo stimulation, playing sexy music, dressing up, reading an erotic story, watching porn, etc.

And of course, don’t forget lubrication. Lube is the first line of defense when sex hurts. Water-based lubricant is typically the safest for sensitive skin. It’s also the easiest to clean and won’t stain your clothes or sheets. Extra lubrication will make the vagina less prone to irritation, infections, and skin tears, according to Howard. But some people may also be irritated by the ingredients in lube, so if you need a recommendation, ask your gynecologist.

Now it’s time figure out what feels good.

Women with pain often know what feels bad. But Howard says it’s important for them to remember what feels good, too. “Lots of people aren’t asking, ‘What feels good?’ So I ask women to set what their pleasure scale is, along with their pain scale. I ask them to develop a tolerance for pleasure.”

To explore what feels good, partners can try an exercise where they rate touch. They set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes and ask their partner to touch them in different ways on different parts of their body. Sex partners can experiment with location, pressure, and touch type (using their fingertips, nails, breath, etc.) and change it up every 30 seconds. With every different touch, women should say a number from 0 to 10 that reflects how good the touch feels, with 10 being, “This feels amazing!” and 0 meaning, “I don’t like this particular kind of touch.” This allows women to feel a sense of ownership and control over the sensations, Howard says.

Another option is experimenting with different sensations. Think tickling, wax dripping, spanking, and flogging. Or if they prefer lighter touch, feathers, fingers, hair, or fabric on skin are good options. Some women with chronic pain may actually find it empowering to play with intense sensations (like hot wax) and eroticize them in a way that gives them control, according to Howard. But other women may need extremely light touch, she says, since chronic pain can lower some people’s general pain tolerance.

Masturbating together can also be an empowering way for you to show a partner how you like to be touched. And it can involve the entire body, not just genitals, Akincilar-Rummer says. It’s also a safe way for you to experience sexual play with a partner, when you aren’t quite ready to be touched by another person. For voyeurs and exhibitionists, it can be fun for one person to masturbate while the other person watches. Or, for a more intimate experience, partners can hold and kiss each other while they masturbate. It feels intimate while still allowing control over genital sensations.

If clitoral stimulation doesn’t hurt, feel free to just stick with that.

It’s worth noting that the majority of women need direct clitoral stimulation to reach orgasm, Maureen Whelihan, M.D., an ob/gyn in West Palm Beach, Florida, tells SELF. Stimulating the clit is often the most direct route to arousal and climax and requires no penetration.

Some women won’t be able to tolerate clitoral stimulation, especially if their pain is linked to the pudendal nerve, which can affect sensations in the clitoris, mons pubis, vulva, vagina, and labia, according to Howard and Akincilar-Rummer. For that reason, vibrators may be right for some women and wrong for others. “Many women with pelvic pain can irritate the pelvic nerve with vibrators,” says Akincilar-Rummer. “But if it’s their go-to, that’s usually fine. I just tell them to be cautious.”

For women with pain from a different source, like muscle tightness, vibrators may actually help them become less sensitive to pain. “Muscular pain can actually calm down with a vibrator,” Howard says. Sex and relationship coach Charlie Glickman, Ph.D., tells SELF that putting a vibrator in a pillow and straddling it may decrease the amount of direct vibration.

Above all else, remember that sexual play should be fun, pleasurable, and consensual—but it doesn’t need to be penetrative. There’s no need to do anything that makes you uncomfortable physically or emotionally or worsens your genital pain.

Complete Article HERE!

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New Mommy Woes

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Name: Megan
Gender: Female
Age: 29
Location: Toronto
I’m a new mother and this is my first child. He was born 3 weeks ago, but I am still enthralled with the miracle of it all. So far motherhood has been pretty wonderful. Sure I’m tired, but just holding my son in my arms makes me so happy I sometime cry with the joy. There is a problem, however, my husband wants to resume our sex life, but I have absolutely no interest. I love him dearly and I know I owe him this, but I have no libido. What can I do?

Yep, this is common enough complaint. This is precisely the place where new parents experience the most strain on their relationship. And when you think about it, it’s not all that surprising. Most new mothers are exhausted by the expectations of motherhood. And first babies are the most challenging. Added to these burdens her partner eagerly awaits the resumption of the sort of sex life that was in place before the pregnancy. New mothers often feel like their husband is just one more person to service, one more person with needs and demands that are keeping her from much-needed sleep.

New Mother LoveNew mothers can find sex unappealing for reasons both physical and emotional. If you’re breastfeeding, your breasts are sore, heavy, and leaky. Your body just doesn’t feel sexy, with its stretch marks, cellulite, dark nipples and dark line down the abdomen, not to mention the weight gain and varicose veins. Then there is lochia, the discharge after the birth, which lasts for 3 to 4 weeks and does not smell very good. If you had an episiotomy, the stitches are very uncomfortable and you may worry about infection. Your hormones may still be in a state of flux, so you feel moody or depressed. And you may not have a good method of birth control, so sex is the last thing on your mind!

Some doctors recommend that new mothers refrain from sex until their first post partum examination, usually about 6 weeks after the birth.NewMother

So if you and your husband weren’t warned about all this, you’re probably both totally unprepared. And if you can’t talk about it, there will be trouble ahead. Many new fathers labor under the misconception that once the baby is born, their sex life will return to normal. Besides this being completely unrealistic; it mostly puts pressure on the wife to do, as you suggest, her ”duty”. This is no way to pursue a sex life together.

Of course, new fathers can help their partner move beyond those feelings of sexual disinterest by being an involved parent and helping around the house.

There are loads of sex things new mothers can do that will pleasure their partner that don’t involve full-on fucking. Hand jobs and blowjobs are always welcome. Reading erotica aloud to each other can be fun. Mutual masturbation, or even watching him and cheering him on as he squeezes one out is also an option. But probably the thing that will get your libido back is a lot of touching, massaging, hugging, kissing, and snuggling and not as a prelude to sex, but just for the joy of it. These things, without the pressure to perform will help reestablish the pair-bond between you and your old man, which will inevitably lead to the long awaited fuckfest.

Good luck

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What’s a mother to do?

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What we have here is an exchange I had with a woman and while I don’t know anything about her, not even her name, I can make some inferences. If I had to guess, she’s in her 40’s. She’s married and has kids.

You must talk to a lot of women in your practice and hear from a lot of women through your advice site. What would you say are the main sexual concerns of women over the age of 40?

Research shows that approximately 40% of women experience sexual problems. But a 2008 study out of Harvard suggests that only a few — 12% — are concerned enough with these issues to do anything about them. I find that not only surprising, but shocking! That suggests to me that sexual wellbeing is not a high priority for a good number of women.  What a bummer!sexual-Frustration

Low libido, diminished arousal, difficulties with orgasm, pain with sex or body image concerns all play a part. A lot of this is directly connected with having an ineffectual partner. I mean, I’d give up sex too if I was consistently frustrated and unfulfilled. But what about masturbation? Are sexually frustrated women seeing to their own needs through self-pleasuring? I don’t see any hard data, you should pardon the pun, on that topic.

We hear a lot about the horny dad and the tired mom, but what do you do if the “roles” are reversed – and dad is tired and mom is horny?

Curiously enough, I hear from way more men these days, who are exhausted, depressed or overweight and who have little or no libido, than I hear from women with the same problems. Sign of the times? You betcha!

But don’t sink to the lowest common denominator. Here’s one of my most popular tutorials, Sex Play — Tips and Techniques.

How can parents find common “ground” when it comes to when they might have sex (as in day of the week or time of day)? Does it always involve compromise? Can our internal clocks ever synch up?

Synching up schedules my not always be the solution. If we wait for that to happen, we could die waiting. The answer might be finding a middle ground. “I may not be up for full on fucking at the moment, but I’ll give you a fantastic hand-job.” Or “I can’t seem to get it up right now, but hand me your vibrator and I’ll send you to heaven!” I’m a huge proponent of mutual masturbation.

Another suggestion might be something like The MoodSign. We reviewed this very clever gismo awhile back. In fact, it was among our Best Products List for 2013. Check it out and see if something like this would help.

If parents are interested in kinking it up, what are some simple, not too scary ways to introduce it into the relationship?

Keep it safe and consensual. Always have a safeword. I developed a workshop called; The Gospel of Kink. I’ve also conveniently packaged this workshop into a workbook with the same title. You can find the book HERE!

GOK small cover

Both the workshop and book are designed to help people, like you, develop the skills they need to effectively communicate with one another and improve their problem solving skills. The workshop and book, as the title suggests, are specifically geared toward folks in kinky, BDSM, and alt-culture relationships, but even vanilla couples will find what I present very helpful.

Bondage games are always fun. And you don’t need anything beyond what you already have in your closets — silk scarves, belts, shoe strings, etc.

Nipple clamps, playing with sensations like ice cubes and hot wax, hair pulling, making use of blindfolds and gags

Discipline/Spanking is always fun too — a ruler, a hairbrush, a wooden spoon, a belt, rubber bands. See my tutorial: Spank Me, Daddy.

Role play is always a delight. Don’t forget about phone sex.

There are tons of instructional videos at Dr Dick’s How To Video Library.

I always suggest that couples read erotica aloud to each other. That never fails to get one’s motor purring.

I’d also love to talk with you about the taboo of sex, particularly with the parenting set, and how parents, moms, and dads, can work to break stereotypes without feeling like a sexual “deviant.”

Really? What would be so wrong about being a deviant?

Good luck

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A little bit of this, a little bit of that

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Name: Jake
Gender: Male
Age: 16
Location: NM
Can u get more guys to tell about mutual masturbation stories? And how I can get my friends (both straight) to do it with me?

OK, I’ll ask my audience to send us stories about their mutual masturbation experiences.wanking

Hey guys, and guys and gals, here’s what I want you to do. Send me stories about your mutual masturbation experiences. You can post your stories in the comments section of this posting, or use the Got A Sex Question form in the sidebar to the right. If we get some good ones, I’ll put them up on my site.

As to asking your straight friends to jerk-off with you, well, that’s another issue all together. Most young men won’t even acknowledge that they pull their pud. Most ostensibly straight men wouldn’t consider choking the chicken in front of a gay guy, or even with a gay guy, because they think that’s…well gay. Maybe your friends are more open-minded about such things, but I won’t hold my breath.

However, if you think there is a chance they’d consider such a thing. Why not just come out and ask. “Hey guys, I’m hosting a circle jerk at my house on Wednesday afternoon after school. If you’re lookin for a good time all you have to do is show up, drop trou and spring a boner. We’ll all be handing our own meat, so it’s just for the ritual. Prizes for the biggest load and the guy who shoots the furthest.”

See, if ya make it a sport; they may cum.

Here’s a curious exchange I had with a fellow named Dennis.

Hi, thanks for taking the time to answer me. My new girlfriend is 49, sexually active, but has never given oral sex to a male. She was married 6 years to a man who had sex with her. He liked to dress in women’s heels and clothing but never asked his wife for oral sex. They had sex and he gave her oral. Could there be a reason why he didn’t ask for oral for himself? Could he have been cheating with men to get what the wife did not do?Submissive-Crossdressing

Thank you very much; I’m very concerned. Also my girlfriend has never jerked a man off including her husband. I’m concerned why is this? Dennis

Can’t see why you’re concerned at all, Dennis. Some men, your GF’s former husband for example, aren’t all that interested in getting a blowjob or even a hand job. He probably was a submissive and was way more interested crossdressing and pleasuring his wife than getting pleasured (blowjob or hand job) himself.

There’s no reason to think he cheated on his wife with other men either. He’s just a sub. Not a particularly difficult concept to grasp, right?

Then Dennis writes back to say: I’m concerned because I’m having trouble with her touching me and giving me oral sex. Is this normal? I’ve never encountered this. Thanks Dennis

Maybe, just maybe, she just doesn’t want to blow you. Maybe she doesn’t like the whole idea. Lots of women don’t like giving BJs. And you pestering her for something she’s not interested in doling out, is only gonna make matters worse.

Have you talked to her about it? If not, that’s the way to go.

I don’t think I have anything more to offer you besides the suggestion that you and your GF might want to consult a sex therapist. You might find that there are a lot of things that you and she need to understand about one another before you invest too much more into this relationship.

Good luck

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Foreplay – Making a Meal of Appetizers

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Special Valentine’s Day Workshop with Yours Truly!

When:   02/14/14 — 7PM to 9PM
Where:   Foundation For Sex Positive Culture — 1608 15th Ave W. Bldg B, Seattle, WA 98119
Who:   Anyone 18+ with ID
Cost at the Door:   $25       Advance prices:   $20 for Individuals, $35 for Couples and $50 for Triads.

Purchase your tickets HERE!

***Limited to 30 attendees.***
This workshop is open to all regardless of gender, orientation, or relationship status.

Tired of the same old in and out? Is penetrative sex boring you to tears, or worse leaving you unfulfilled? Well, I have just the thing for you. Let’s whip up a menu of spicy, tantalizing, and oh so satisfying hors d’oeuvres that will revitalize your diet and expand your sexual repertoire.you've been bad

We’ll cover a wide variety of topics, including:

  • Oral skills
  • The art of aural seduction
  • Sensual massage
  • Sensory play
  • Ritualizing your connection
  • Mutual masturbation; the key to great partnered sex at any age
  • Exploring kinks and fetishes
  • Toys
  • And so much more!

Remember, creativity and exploration is the spice of life!

There will be lots of adult product to giveaway too.

foundation-for-sex-positive-culture




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