I am 20 years old and I cannot insert anything into my vagina, not even a tampon. After a month of practice, I have managed to be able to insert a finger about halfway into my vaginal canal. After that I freak out because it's uncomfortable and I pull out very quickly, which hurts a bit.
I know I'm not the only one with this problem because one of my close friends has it too, but I haven't figured out what to do about it. I would really like to be able to have vaginal sex sometime in the future, if not exactly now, or at the very least be able to use tampons! I haven't figured out anything that works.
amenie358's question continued:
I should mention that I've seen a gynecologist and she says there's no sort of physical impediment involved and that if I practice I'll be able to do it, but it's so uncomfortable. It's not getting easier. When I visit the gynecologist I have to be tanked up on valium, and I'm the sort of person who can go through major surgical operations without flinching.
I haven't been able to find any information or advice! Would using more lubrication help? Should I try practicing a certain way? Just how unusual is this problem? Thank you for all of the work that you do.
Thank you for your question. You are not the only one to experience discomfort with vaginal insertion. I am glad that you visited a gynecologist, just to rule out any other possibilities and ensure that you do not have any health issues. There are different types of vaginal conditions that make putting something inside the vagina painful or impossible, but a gynecologist would be able to tell you if you had any of those.
Many people with vaginas, in different places in their lives, experience vaginal discomfort during partnered sex, masturbation, or during non-sexual penetration like putting in a tampon. An important part in dealing with vaginal discomfort is understanding your body and how it works and how it can change when you're aroused. Being in touch with your body and what works for you can make a world of difference in your sexual life.
The vagina, or vaginal canal, changes size depending on your level of sexual arousal. When one is not aroused, the vaginal walls are usually touching each other, and the vaginal canal is a few inches long. However, once someone becomes turned on, it can expand in both width and length, kind of like a balloon! In addition to expanding in size, the vagina also might produce more fluid when one is turned on. While everyone's level of vaginal lubrication and degree of vaginal length and width expansion is different, generally speaking, these are the changes you would expect to see when aroused. These changes are what can make solo or partnered sexual activities easier, more comfortable, and more enjoyable than they would be if physical and mental arousal weren't happening.
Sometimes when people explore their vaginas, it is when they are not turned on at all or very much, so the vaginal canal can feel smaller, or less lubricated. Waiting until one feels sexually aroused, or exploring what one needs to increase one's feelings of arousal, can often help. If you want to learn more about arousal, I suggest taking a look at Sexual Response and Orgasm: A User's Guide.
In addition to being affected by arousal, your vagina can also be affected by stress!
When you are stressed or feeling any type of pressure, tension, or frustration, your muscles tense up. This can affect the muscles around your genitals. This is really important to understand, particularly when you are exploring putting anything inside the vagina, because being relaxed and going slow can make a huge difference.
Muscle tension can sometimes be hard to detect. You may not be feeling tense. Whether or not you feel tension, you can try breathing slowly and deeply, and consciously relaxing your pelvic area, or even your entire body.
If you are putting pressure on yourself with an end goal of being able to insert your entire finger or tampon, then it is less likely that your muscles will be relaxed. Mental tension can lead to physical tension, which can lead to the kind of discomfort you're describing.
Many people do find that putting something inside of the vagina, especially the first few times, can be uncomfortable. However, it shouldn't be painful, and it's helpful to differentiate between the two sensations. Pain is your body's way of telling you that you are doing something that isn't good for your body, but being uncomfortable sometimes simply means that you are experiencing a sensation that your body isn't used to. For many people, the first few (or several) times of putting something inside of the vagina feels weird, because it might be a completely new sensation. Uncomfortable, weird, or unfamiliar feelings aren't necessarily pain, though they can feel scary. I definitely encourage you to pay attention to what you are feeling, figure out whether it's pain or something less serious than that, and stop whatever you are doing if you are feeling any pain.
Now that you have some more information about how the vagina can change depending on your state of mind and physical arousal, here are some things that you can take into consideration.
The best thing that you can do for yourself is to listen to your body. If you feel pain or a lot of discomfort, don't push it! If you feel like the discomfort is more due to unfamiliarity and nervousness, try taking a deep breath, consciously relaxing, and see what happens. Only you know what is best for you, and what your body is okay with. There's no timeline you have to follow in terms of what your body can do or how ready you feel for any sort of sexual activities.
Now that you have a better idea of how your vagina changes and responds to insertion depending on how turned on you are, whether you are using lubrication, whether you are stressed out, et cetera, hopefully you are able to explore your body in a safe, comfortable and enjoyable way.
If you continue to experience discomfort or pain, I would recommend seeing a healthcare provider again. Sometimes having a second opinion is helpful, especially if your initial doctor's feedback doesn't seem right. You'll want to be as specific as you can with your doctor about what your experiences are, and make sure they conduct an exam. Having extreme difficulty with insertion can, as I mentioned above, indicate a medical condition, such as vaginismus.
For help finding a different doctor, feel free to look around on Scarleteen's Find-a-Doc search tool.
Below are some resources that might be helpful in your journey in exploring your body: