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Sex as punishment?

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Anonymous asks:

My husband and I have sex a lot...well it used to be more before I got pregnant with our daughter. Anyways, he has pushed for anal sex-which hurts so much-and the second time I let him go ahead and do it I was crying so much afterwards that he said he'd never ask again...but he has, and when I say no he pushes. I feel like he's punishing me for having cheated on last year...it's like by hurting me physically he's getting back at me for hurting him emotionally. Is that right? And is there any way I can make anal not hurt so much - lube doesn't help but so much.

Heather Corinna replies:

Looking at what you've posted, and given he knows that not only does anal sex not feel good for you, it causes you pain, I'd be inclined to agree that there's probably something very unhealthy going on here interpersonally.

It doesn't make a lot of sense to give someone tips on how to do something they aren't interested in doing, feel pushed into doing and which also doesn't feel at all good to them.

But, for sure:
• if you two aren't using plenty of lubricant, right from the start,
• if he isn't being very gradual about anal entry, like starting with oral-anal sex, then using a small finger, working up only as feels good to you, and as he can feel your anus opening gradually on its own,
• if you both aren't engaging other parts of your body, like stimulating your clitoris at the same time...

...then it's going to be anything from less pleasurable to seriously painful. And with anything at all, when we are fearful, nervous or not feeling truly safe, we are always more likely to experience physical pain.

I also usually advise that couples engaging in anal sex of any kind take advantage of the fact that it's something each can do to each other with a body part both have (and with male/female couples, since men have a prostate gland stimulated via their anuses, being the receptive partner in anal play is usually more enjoyable for men physically, anyway). Male/female couples don't often get that opportunity with sexual activities, so it's pretty helpful that this is one place where they can when it IS a kind of sex BOTH partners are interested in exploring. That way, it's also easy both to keep things balanced, and for your male partner to have a better understanding of what being the receptive partner feels like; to know that it's very delicate tissue there. If things like all that aren't helping -- or your partner isn't willing to engage in anal sex in a way that is pleasurable for you, rather than pressured and painful -- then it seems to me that anal sex just isn't your thing. And you get to have something that you don't like: I'm sure he has things he doesn't like, too. Most people have at least one sexual activity that just isn't their thing, and plenty have something they even strongly dislike.

But more to the point, if this is about a punishment, if any kind of sex is about expressing anger or resentment towards a partner, it's not something I'm going to advise, period, even when it DOES feel good, let alone when it hurts.

I don't see you expressing that there is a healthy sexual dynamic between the two of you right now, and it seems clear you have some serious problems to work out: your anus isn't the place to work them out. Sitting at the kitchen table might be, and from the sounds of things, in the office of a couples counselor might be an even better place right now.

Even if he is not intending to use anal sex as punishment, or earnestly using it as something to express anger towards you with, if you feel like he is, there's something foundational you two need to repair.

We have to be able to trust that our sexual partners are invested in our mutual pleasure, and that needs to always be demonstrated in the sex we're having. So, you having cheated, you being pregnant aside -- and the fact is, some men do become angry and jealous when a female partner is pregnant -- a partner pressuring or pushing you to do something which hurts you, which doesn't feel good, and which seems to be more about a nonconsensual powerplay than about earnestly seeking out shared pleasure isn't emotionally healthy. Him doing that alone needs to be talked about and changed. THAT is what needs to change here, not you trying anything you can think of to make something that should be about pleasure but is about pain slightly less painful just so that you can placate him, or let him work out his anger on your body.

I don't know what your situation is, but since you're about to be parents (or are already) and are married -- big commitments, and also someone else in the mix who will be very effected by unhealthy dynamics, which probably aren't only happening in the bedroom -- I'd encourage you to seek out counseling together to work this out, pronto. If for some reason that isn't possible, you at least need to both be able to agree to dedicate yourselves to either working this out in some way that's healthy, without fail. It might not be the worst idea ever to take a break from sex together until you can do that, or to at least take baby steps back to getting sexual together again, with very clear limits and boundaries intact, including that no one of you will pressure the other to do anything which hurts or which you don't like, physically or emotionally. And by all means, if he isn't willing to address all of these issues and change his sexual behavior in this way -- and if his behavior in other aspects of your relationship feels or in punishing or abusive -- I'd encourage you to do what you need to in order to be sure you're only in situations that really are emotionally and sexually safe and beneficial for you and your daughter.

Here's a few extra links for you which may help get you thinking and help in terms of tools of expressing why this is problematic:

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