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Is sex supposed to hurt?

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funkgurl asks:

I just lost my virginity more than a week ago. Everytime me and my BF have sex it always hurts, usually a few hours after doing it I start to bleed. I've asked my friends if thats normal but they don't know. Is that normal? I also wanted to asked why I haven't been feeling any pleasure yet? Is that bad? I would like it if you would please answer my questions I don't know where else to go and ask.

Heather Corinna replies:

While it's common for women -- especially young women -- to feel pain or discomfort with sex, it's not "normal" in that it has to happen or there isn't an alternative. Sex is not supposed to hurt: it's supposed to feel very good.

If you're bleeding after sex every time, and it's also not feeling good at all, what's likely is that:
a) you're rushing into vaginal intercourse each time, rather than spending PLENTY of time with other sexual activities for your pleasure,
b) you and your partner aren't communicating enough during intercourse for him to know when it hurts so he can change up what he is doing (such as slowing down, not pushing in all the way, not being too forceful),
c) you are not relaxed and aroused -- and lubricated -- enough before and during intercourse or
d) any or all of the above.

We talk about this a lot here, but vaginal intercourse is not, all by itself, the most satisfying sexual activity for most women. And if that is either ALL that is going on, or MOST of what is going on, things are less likely to feel good for you than if you make intercourse a side-note and other kinds of sex -- especially those focusing more on your whole body and your clitoris -- the main course. Often, heterosexual young men have the idea that what sex is is vaginal intercourse, oral sex for them, and maybe a couple other things, but only to get a female partner "ready" for intercourse. You may need to explain to your partner that that's not really what sex is when men and women enjoy themselves together. It's about a bunch of different activities, with intercourse only being one, and that's one that, by itself, is enjoyable for far more men than women.

Too, when something hurts, you have to speak up. You tell your partner, "Hey, that hurts," and then what your partner needs to do is try it a different way and ask you if that feels better. That different way may be more gradual intercourse, it may be a different position, it may be going less fast or less deep, it may be going back to another sexual activity you were enjoying, like him rubbing your clitoris, any number of things, But you do that back and forth -- "That hurts," then "How about this?" -- until you both find what DOES feel good. Often, we need to talk to each other during sex, especially when it's new or we're with a new partner. That's normal. People don't tend to just find out what feels good for both without talking. If you don't feel able to speak up like that, then it's important you hold off on any sexual activities until you do. It may take you longer to really be ready for sex together than you thought, especially if you figured you could just be quiet about it and follow your boyfriend's lead. Your boyfriend should also be checking in with you and asking how you feel: both of you should be communicating this way, and both of you should be invested in you BOTH feeling really good.

As well, if and when intercourse is what's going to be going on, not only do you need to be very sexually aroused beforehand, you'll also need to be using an extra lubricant especially if -- and since your sexual partnership is new, you should be -- you're using condoms. You'll use that lubricant by putting a drop or two into the tip of the condom before your partner puts it on for his pleasure, then by putting a more generous amount on your vulva and your vaginal opening. If things feel like they aren't staying slippery during intercourse, you can add some more, but just be sure that if that's because you aren't feeling aroused anymore, that you stop, then. If your boyfriend wasn't feeling aroused he probably would want to stop having sex, and the same rules apply to you.

Lastly, that bleeding can also be due to abrasion of your hymen. In many young women, the hymen hasn't fully eroded by now, and vaginal intercourse or entry (like with fingers) can cause microtears to that tissue. That's normal, and it doesn't mean anything is wrong, but that should cease in time.

I could go on, but I actually have a very extensive article on pain during intercourse right here: From OW! to WOW! Demystifying Painful Intercourse. But I have this funny feeling that the article you might also want to look at is this one: Yield for Pleasure. I'm suggesting that one because you didn't mention that OTHER kinds of sex are feeling great for you, so I can't help but wonder if you two have even explored other kinds of sex for you before moving on to intercourse. That article explains why that's so important.

So, have a look at those, and then, depending on what those fill you in on in terms of your own situation, sit down and have a chat with your boyfriend about this as well. Let him know you've been hurting and that while you like being with him, things really aren't feeling good for you yet. If he cares for you, while that may not be the best news he ever heard, he'll want to know how he can help so that whatever kinds of sex you have DO feel good for you. Any partner who cares for you is not going to want you to be in pain, and is going to want to do what they can to prevent that, and make sure you're feeling just as good as they are during sex.

Lastly? Do be sure you're practicing safer sex, and that now that you're both sexually active, you've started getting full STI screenings -- both of you -- every year. I suggest that just because it's what everyone needs to do, but also because vaginal bleeding or pain during intercourse can also be due to an infection. In your case, if you've only been sexually active for a week, that's not what's likely to be going on here, but in case you have been having sex longer than that, and in case this continues even when you make the other changes above, that's something to bear in mind.

Here are a few more links which may be of help to you:

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