Columns / Discourse / November 5, 2008

Sexiled: Ouch, that hurts

Sex is supposed to be fun and feel good… right? Well, as most women (and some men) found out the night they lost their virginity, it isn’t always. We all know about the problems hymens and “tight pussys” can cause for women, and for men… well, as my friend said of his experience losing his virginity to another virgin, “it felt like I was hitting my dick into a brick wall. Repeatedly.”

There are plenty of things you can do to make your first time less painful— masturbation, lube, and plenty of foreplay being a few good examples. But what if sex never gets less painful? Or what if it suddenly becomes painful, after having feel-good sex for years?

Here are a few of the top reasons for pain during sex, and what you can do about it.

For Women

Pain during sex is, unfortunately, fairly common for women. Most of my solutions require you to try different things while having sex. However, if sex is causing you extreme pain, stop having it. Talk with your doctor about vulvodynia (chronic vaginal pain) and vaginismus (the inability for your vagina to open up). Though more uncommon, they make sex extremely painful and should not be tolerated.

Yeast infections: they’re probably the most common cause of sudden, out of the blue painful sex. Although they often cause itchiness and pain even when you’re not having sex, sometimes they can remain symptomless until sex happens— then you really notice them!

Solution? Go see the gynecologist at the Knox Health Center to get it checked out, and pick up some over-the-counter creams.

Not enough lubrication: If you consistently feel pain during sex, and you don’t feel “wet” when you have it, this is probably your problem. Additionally, if you’ve recently started on birth control pills or other medications, this could be the reason for sudden pain. Extra foreplay can help, but sometimes you just need a little K-Y jelly or Astroglide.

Vaginal/vulva irritation: If your vagina is feeling itchy, or even swollen, after sex, this may be the culprit. Vaginal irritation is often caused by allergies, such as an allergy to latex, his come, the soap he washes his penis with, etc. It also can be caused by too much “rubbing”— by a penis, finger, vibrator, etc. on the vulva or in the vagina.

Solution? Trial and error. If you always use latex condoms, try having sex with non-latex ones. If he normally comes in you, have him come outside of you, or into a condom. Have him use your soap for a time, and try to have him or her thrust less with their penis, finger, or vibrator. If it’s painful when you pee, make sure s/he’s stroking the clit, not the urethra!

All three of these reasons have almost identical symptoms, so my advice would be to start from the most simple and move down. Try a little extra foreplay or lube first, and if that doesn’t help, drop in at the health center and get checked up for a yeast infection and/or STI’s (aka STD’s) which can also cause painful sex. If you find no answer there, start with the trial-and-error method to figure out if something is irritating your vulva or vagina, and if that doesn’t help, talk to your doctor or gyno once more.

For Men

Pain during sex is much less common for men, but the causes are often more serious.

A bent or fractured penis: If you are in pain every time you get an erection, this could be why. It’s most commonly caused by your partner coming down on you… and missing, hitting your penis with her body and bending/fracturing it. If it’s bad enough, you’ll notice right away because of intense pain and discoloration of your penis. But sometimes, it’s not as noticeable when it happens and you’ll only notice pain when you get an erection.

Solution? Go to the doctor, ASAP! If you don’t get it checked out fast enough, the healing process could cause scar tissue to form, causing chronic pain during sex that is difficult to treat (called Peyronie’s disease). Luckily, it only affects about 1 percent of men (and fractures/serious bending doesn’t often happen either), so you don’t have much to worry about.

Yeast infection: Yes, men get them too. If the tip of your penis is burning and itchy, get it checked out. Yeast infections are most common in uncircumcised men, and are easily treated.

Prostatitis- Does it hurt when you ejaculate? Does your penis burn when you pee? Do you have to urinate, a lot? Then you might have prostatitis, which sounds more scary than it actually is.

Solution? Go to the doctor, who will do some tests (including a digital rectal exam, hurray) and prescribe you with some antibiotics.

Remember, every now and then minor pain during sex is normal. For guys, sometimes boners hurt and balls ache. For women, deep pelvic thrusting can often cause pain, and sometimes sex hurts because we’re just not wet enough. But when pain is intense, frequent, or both, there’s a problem that needs to be looked into.

Christy Reuter


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