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» Got Questions? Get Answers. » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sex Basics and Sexual Health » Continuous pain with intercourse

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Author Topic: Continuous pain with intercourse
Cian
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To a large part any intercourse I have is solo with an appropriate toy. I have little to no trouble with my small vibrator, but alas I also have little to no sensation with it when properly relaxed and aroused. I also have another toy which, while significantly larger than the other one, is still what is apparently considered "an average" sized penis. (The shop assistant was trying to persuade me into buying a larger one so I wouldn't find myself "disappointed")

However, despite having been to multiple doctors because of painful intercourse specifically, no one has had an answer. The most sympathy I have gotten so far has been "Oh it hurts for a lot of women, it's normal". Seeing as it is primarily solo it's not like there's anything specifically holding me back. I take my time to relax, self-lubricate properly as well as apply water-based lube generously, and genuinely want the insertion. Yet it hurts. Every time it hurts, both insertion and during. I have numbing gel as well as another gel that is supposed to strengthen my membranes, but neither have had an effect.

One thing my sexual therapist brought to my attention was that I may not be doing it frequently enough and that my vagina will be more accustomed to being collapsed, thus causing the pain. I'm not so sure about this theory as it doesn't seem to go with the whole "flexible muscle" idea. But could "under-exercising" it be the issue?

I want to be able to have pain free intercourse, as I do get pleasure from internal stimulation and as it is something I and my partner find sexually appealing. My partner is aware of my pain condition and doesn't force intercourse.

I have been having solo and partnered intercourse for 3 years, pain has persisted from the first time to the last time. I'm at a loss, really.

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Heather
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Are the exams you have been getting also painful? And with these exams, from gynecologists, I'm assuming -- have any identified anything that might be causing you vulval or vaginal pain? have any of them been doctors who specialize in those pain conditions?

Are you having any other kinds of vulval or vaginal pain besides when attempting vaginal entry with a sex toy?

(And no, I'd say that theory is not sound. You are seeing a sex therapist? Is this talk-only therapy? Does s/he have any education and background in OB/GYN?)

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Cian
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Yes and no. I usually have discomfort with exams but not as much pain. I have gone to have the exams specifically because of the pain I have and my gynecologists always use the smallest speculum they have. According to them there is no anatomical reason why I should be having pain. As to what they may specialize in I really can't know, public health care providers usually aren't specialists per se. They prescribed me the numbing and membrane thickening gels to help. My initial diagnosis was suspected vulvodynia.

I also have pain after entry with the larger toy, it's very hard to describe though. It feels like a tearing, ripping or stinging pain. I don't bleed, though. My best guess it's because I instantly stop self-lubricating after experiencing pain, however I do apply lube in generous amounts.
BUT to make things slightly less straight forward, I have been able to have pain free penetration with the larger toy once with my partner, so I know it can be done, but I can't isolate the required conditions.

I only saw her once because I can't afford more appointments. It was talk-only.

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Heather
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So -- and forgive me if this comes out sounding stupid or dismissive, I don't intend either -- you are only having pain and discomfort when you use some toys but not others?

And you have had discomfort with exams, but no other times of discomfort, like with sitting, riding a bike, etc? And no physical cause can be found?

That all given, can I ask why you're not just sticking with the toys where you do NOT feel pain?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Cian
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I have insertion pain with everything. Fingers, toys, tampons, speculum, everything. Also continuing pain with both the toys, nowadays more seldom with the small toy but continuously with the other.

I don't have pain other times, no. And my doctors haven't found any anatomical reason as to why I may be experiencing pain.

Because the small toy, when not painful, also provides minimum stimulation. In short, I can barely feel it or I can't feel it at all. Also the larger toy is part of our strap-on, apparently the smallest that can be fitted on it. And it was one very expensive toy, I'd hate for it to go to waste, especially when I know I have been able to have pain free penetration with it before, although only once. I know it may sound stupid I want to continue using it.

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Heather
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I gotcha.

So, let me try asking a couple specific questions.

Let's talk about the things you have experienced pain with: when you go to use those things -- like a tampon or this toy -- do you feel the pain right away, like even when you're just starting to touch your vulva with those things, or only at a certain point?

(Mind, with toys, I'd say that, you know, you're right, good toys tend to be expensive and, of course, we can't return them. At the same time, it's often going to happen that a given toy isn't a good fit for people and you just ditch it. I know that blows, but it is how things go with toys sometimes. Now, obviously, this isn't just about that toy, so let's keep talking, but I felt like that needed to be said. Seeing multiple doctors when something is only or mostly about some one toy just strikes me as something where you'd kind of want to consider at what point you are spending more time and energy and money BECAUSE of the toy, which obviously doesn't have to be sued at all.)

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Cian
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It's not so much about being able to use one specific toy, but being able to enjoy penetration and intercourse. Currently I can't. So yes, I think it'd be a little unsound to be running from doctor to doctor simply because one toy is producing pain. [Smile]

With tampons I usually cannot insert at all because of the pain but just touching the vulva or even around the vaginal opening usually doesn't hurt. I find it a little hard to pinpoint what exactly is going on down there when I experience the pain, but usually it happens very close to the opening, but inside the vagina. (at this point the tampon insertion becomes impossible and usually pulling it back out feels painful as well.)
With the toy if I can ignore the insertion pain, there'll be a short space where I don't experience the pain and then the tearing-ripping-stinging-pain begins inside the vagina. Usually it's also accompanied by discomfort at the vaginal opening and pulling out is painful.

The time I didn't experience pain with the toy I was on top. Sadly that's my least favorite position.

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Heather
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You can't with that one toy, though, right? In other words, you haven't been trying other things and finding they're an issue, just this toy?

And with what you're saying about when the pain happens and positioning, am I getting it right that the pain isn't there when you are on top, with the toy, or standing, say, with something like a tampon (which I assume you also tried using a lubricant)?

I need to grab some lunch, but I do want to make sure we're on the same page with understanding that all our bodies don't work the same, and what works for one person may not for another. So, for instance, plenty of people, for so, so many reasons, may have limitations with sexual positions and that's just the way it goes. We accept those kinds of limitations and just work our sex lives with them as part of our sex lives.

There's a lot more to say about that, and again, I think we can probably still perhaps figure out some of what's going on here, even though it sounds most likely to be about something in your head influencing your body, so it may take a while for us to get at what that is. However, something else we also know when it comes to pain and the psychology of it is that if someone keeps doing things they associate with pain, they're likely to keep experiencing pain. So, for instance, the sex toy or the tampons, for now, may be problems no matter what, and things you need to ditch for a while.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Cian
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I don't generally experience pain with my small toy anymore, but I used to. So I figured it was a matter of practice.

The time I was on top with the toy I didn't experience pain until we switched positions because I don't enjoy being on top. However with the tampons I haven't yet found how I need to do it, I feel like I've tried everything but everything is equally painful. With fingers pain seems haphazard; It either happens or it doesn't.

I somehow don't really feel like accepting that I won't be able to have pain-free intercourse. Also my gynecologists and sex therapist advised not to take a "I will never have pain free penetration" outlook. Especially because I do get pleasure from internal stimulation (when it doesn't hurt and when I can feel it).

I understand to some extent, but at the same time I have been avoiding the toy and tampons and everything else because of fearing the pain and I don't feel like it's working for my benefit. I can't get over the fear of pain if I can't have pain free experiences, and I can't have pain free experiences if I don't actively seek experiences. Do you understand what I'm trying to get at? Not to sound like I'm trying to be stubborn about it either, you indubitably have more experience than I do and I value every advise you give me.

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Heather
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Just one thing to remember here: you're talking to someone with disability, one of which I have had since I was a kid, and which changes many, many things for me when it comes to how many other people can do them. So, that obviously informs and influences my views on things like this.

I don't think we have to choose here between an "I must be able to do this the way I want" and "I will never be able to." I think that sounds very black and white, and really ignores the sounder place in between.

You can't do certain things comfortably FOR NOW, with certain things. How about we just start there?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Cian
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I suppose I am greedy in wanting to have pain free intercourse in a position I generally like rather than pick one or the other.

That's how I've wanted to look at it. I can't currently have pain free penetration with the specific toy (or use tampons but that's not my main concern). I used to not be able to with the small toy either, or fingers, but overtime as painful experiences became less frequent and I gained more painless experiences I can now sometimes (and perhaps more often than not) have pain free stimulation with fingers or the small toy. I was hoping the same would apply to the larger toy.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to me, Heather. I wouldn't know where else to turn to anymore.

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Heather
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It's okay.

So, I have some suggestions, besides just starting in a less...well, Veruca Salt-y kind of place. [Smile] I understand feeling frustrated, but I think you can recognize that again a) the idea that anyone can have a body that can do everything, or everything exactly how they want just isn't sound, and b) feeling frustrated and demanding things your body can't deliver right now is only likely to make matters worse and also keep you feeling more crappy about them than you have to.

Want to hear them?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Cian
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Suggestions is what I'm here for. I only know so much (so little?) about these things after all.
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Heather
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Sorry for the wait, had to bust out a piece very quickly.

And okay! So, here's what I would suggest:

1) I know you're annoyed about it not working and it was so expensive, etc. but ditch the toy that is causing you pain for right now. Seriously, just put it away. Then, if you can, go and try to find another toy to insert that is a little larger than the last one you had that didn't cause pain, but smaller than this one, whether or not it fits in your harness. You can deal with that issue later with your partner, and replicate very similar stuff with fingers and hands or with him holding the new toy, if that winds up working for you. And think good thoughts about the new toy. Happy, not-associated-with-pain-of-the-last-one thoughts.

2) Be gentle with it and fingers, whatever it is you've got going on, and go slow, employing all the things you know, so far, have made it more likely things feel good instead of hurty. I would strongly advise just sticking to what does feel good and doesn't hurt for now, and only gradually adding something like the potential new toy to the mix a bit down the road.

3) Start keeping a journal of some sort to document what feels good and what doesn't, being as detailed as possible and writing when your memory is fresh. When things feel great, write about everything that was going on physically and in your head as much as you can. When they don't feel great or they are uncomfortable or hurt, write everything you can down then, too. This could turn out to be a VERY handy document for figuring out any psychological players yourself and also for bringing to GYN healthcare providers when you're working with them.

4) I would also strongly advise doing what you can to adopt a mindset about all of this that's really about being a partner with your body, rather than being at war. In other words, rather than focusing on all the things you want to do and can't, or that don't feel right, focus most on what DOES feel best and does not hurt. For example, you say being on top works much better, but it's not your fave position: since it's clearly your body's favorite, what can you shift in your head or the way you do that position to get on the side of your body with it? Know what I mean?

Remember, seriously, that a big part of our sexuality is what works for us, very uniquely. And sometimes what we fantasize about, or what's presented as ideal by friends, partners or the media just isn't for a given body at a given time. We are much more likely to cultivate sex lives we enjoy if we come at them from our own unique places -- including our limitations -- than if we try and conform. And sometimes what we fantasize would be most awesome isn't something we can do physically: that can be okay, our fantasy life doesn't have to, and often won't, match our actual sex life.

Sometimes, too, changing our minds in those ways can mean we are more open to explore things we or partners haven't even tried yet, where we might discover things we really like we wouldn't have otherwise.

How's all of that sounding as some starting places?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Cian
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Thank you so much, Heather! Yes, these sound like a very good place to get started. I suppose I also need to learn how to be patient with myself. [Smile]
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