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Myths or Facts: Not Having Sex Being Unhealthy?

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Marina asks:

I'm a 19-year-old (soon to be 20) female virgin. I haven't really had any sexual experience so far, and it doesn't look like I will in the near future. So the question is: is it true that loosing your virginity gets more painful with age? I was told that having first time when you are in your twenties is a lot more painful than when you're a teenager. From what I read about hymen on this site I assume this is wrong, because hymen tends to wear away with time, not get sturdier, but I would like to make sure if it really is just one of those popular myths. What I've also been told is that not having sexual life is somewhat harmful for your health after you reach a certain age. Like, a girl can start having female disorders when she doesn't have regular sexual intercourse in her 20s. I even heard a story about how doctor told a 23-year-old girl to get a lover to get rid of gynecological problems she's been having. This seems more likely to be true. And does it mean that vaginal sex is really essential or is clitoral stimulation, for instance, enough to keep you healthy?

Stephanie replies:

One of the biggest problems with all of the information out there about sex is that there are quite a lot of myths surrounding the subject, and it’s very difficult to know what’s safe to believe and what isn’t.

First, it is not bad for someone to abstain from having sex of any type for a while or even to be celibate their entire lives if that’s the choice that they’re making for themselves. What is unhealthy is for you to force yourself to have sex when it really isn’t something that you want to be doing at that time. Even if someone doesn’t masturbate (and the most recent studies say that most people do or have) it won’t make you any less healthy or in some way cause to you become ill. The body is not made as a storage cell for sperm or vaginal fluids, quite the opposite actually. Part of the body’s job is to continually replace dead cells (which include blood, sperm, vaginal fluids, skin, etc.) You don’t need to have sex alone or with a partner to use up these cells and fluids, they’re simply reabsorbed into the body and disposed of in other ways and so there’s really never an excess of these. Remember that being ready for sex happens to different people at different times, and while it may be right for someone in their early teens, another person may not feel ready until much later.

Furthermore, vaginal sex or clitoral stimulation are certainly not enough to keep you healthy. A lot of factors all play into your general health, and in that sense there’s a lot of factors that are added together to make you remain healthy. For instance, it can not help you to remain hydrated and well nourished, not can it suffice the amount of exercise needed to keep muscle tone etc. all by itself. On these same lines, vaginal intercourse can actually be a cause for certain infections if certain steps aren’t taken afterwards (or for that matter if the wrong steps are taken. For instance, without protection when needed STIs can be passed. Additionally, urinating after sex helps to prevent the bacteria that is pushed into the urethra from vaginal intercourse (and indeed other types of sex as well) from causing urinary tract infections. Also, some women have used douching in the past as a method to prevent pregnancy by “washing the sperm” out after intercourse, or even to simply clean the vagina and make it “fresh”, a technique that has proven to disturb the natural ph balance of the vagina and cause yeast infections.

That said, every woman has her own personal pain threshold – so any pain that may be felt at all will differ from woman to woman anyway. Most women (but not all) are born with a hymen and for most women it will be at least partially worn away by the time they decide to have sex. If first intercourse hurts a great deal and penetration isn’t working (and you may notice things like not being able to insert a finger into your vagina or use tampons) you may have a very resistant hymen in which case an obgyn will have to take care of this for you. Additionally, being comfortable and ready, fully aroused, and also having a partner that is understanding and taking everything one step at a time can play a major factor on whether or not a lot or even any pain at all is felt during first intercourse. Some women very well may find that their hymen being worn away more through time (or even the use of tampons or masturbation especially with vaginal insertion of fingers or toys) can make first intercourse less painful – but just know that there are other factors involved as well.

As for the story you heard, perhaps her problems lay with very bad cramps. Many women find that orgasms do a lot of good in the area of relieving cramps. Not only does it help to loosen the muscles of your pelvis and back, but the endorphins released afterward are a natural pain reliever. Of course, she could have experienced orgasm via masturbation to help with that -- and would be more likely to experience orgasm that way than with a new partner -- and her doctor suggesting she get a sex partner as a treatment for cramps was actually somewhat unethical, as well as in poor taste.

I’ve attached some articles from the site below that may help you with some further information.

written 19 May 2008 . updated 20 May 2008

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