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When we think of pain and sex, we probably think of the first time and BDSM. Outside of this, most women don’t typically anticipate or want sex to be painful. The unfortunate truth is, as many as 75% of women will experience pain during sex at some point, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Pain during sex is often left untreated and frustrates many women who are left with consistent dissatisfaction in the bedroom.

Many medical reasons can lead to painful sex; pelvic floor dysfunction, vaginismus, ovarian cysts and infections such as STIs are just a few to name. The medical term for painful sex is dyspareunia and it is important to talk to your doctor if persistent genital pain is an issue for you. Sex is not meant to be painful. Pain during sex can be an underlying symptom of a much bigger issue, which is why it should never be ignored. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution but there is treatment available that can combat painful sex.

Other factors can cause pain during sex, such as a lack of foreplay. In a study published in the Journal of Sex Research, 152 heterosexual couples were asked how long they spent engaging in foreplay and intercourse and the amount of time they wished that they were. The study showed that both men and women say they want foreplay to last about the same amount of time at 18 and 19 minutes. However, the research found that foreplay typically lasts about 11 minutes for women and 13 minutes for men. Foreplay is so important for women and although lube can help combat any dryness, it won’t necessarily achieve the same results. During foreplay, we release hormones that arouse our connection. That intensity enhances the sex and just slathering on some lube might not be enough for some women who want that extra time to get not only physically aroused but mentally aroused as well.

Fear, stress and anxiety around penetration can create a mental roadblock. This can cause women to tense up their pelvic floor muscles which in turn causes pain. Female pain during sex is not always due to prior sexual abuse, but it can be a factor for some. When pain is anticipated, the mind can go into fight or flight mode and this can cause some women to clench. Poor self-esteem can also cause anxiety during sex, as well as relationship issues. Mental barriers during sex should be taken just as seriously because it ultimately affects the physical aspects of sex and your overall wellbeing.

One of the most problematic reasons why pain and discomfort during sex are ignored and hardly discussed is because sex has notoriously been viewed as being done strictly for men’s pleasure. When I first experienced discomfort during sex, I felt guilty because I thought my boyfriend at the time deserved to be having good sex. I thought that since I was his girlfriend, I needed to get over the pain. I look back at this mindset and a part of my soul dies. The reality is, I deserve to be having good sex. I now encourage myself to think about how sex can be more pleasurable for myself and not solely about performing for my partner. This isn’t to say that we should all be selfish in bed, but I know far too many women who think of having sex as something to do for someone, rather than something being done for them. And the fact of the matter is, when you’re genuinely enjoying yourself and having a good time in the bedroom, your partner will in turn be attracted to your confidence and satisfaction. It’s a win-win for everyone involved. Who doesn’t love to know that they’re satisfying their partner?

It’s one thing to fake an orgasm every once in a while but downplaying persistent pain during sex is a disservice to yourself. The truth is, you deserve to be having good sex.


C. (n.d.). What women need to know about pain during sex. Retrieved March 25, 2021, from Cedars-sinai.org

Fellizar, K. (2017, August 04). How long should foreplay last? Men & women actually agree on this one, study finds. Retrieved March 25, 2021, from Bustle.com

Painful intercourse (dyspareunia). (2020, February 07). Retrieved March 25, 2021, from Mayo Clinic

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