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Help me have better sex!
January 10, 2010 11:48 AM   Subscribe

My sex life is amazing up until we start to actually have sex. [NSFW inside]

Relevant Stuff:

Whenever my partner and I have sex, I

a) hurt
b) feel slight discomfort
c) feel pleasure, but it either causes a sensation overload or it's the pleasure-pain type that doesn't feel good in the long run.

We've only been with each other, so I don't know if he's too big/I'm too small, although there is a foot height difference. We've been trying for over a year now.

We've tried various positions, but the success of each seems to vary with each try.

We've tried stroking my breasts/"lady bits" during the act, but either the position doesn't allow it or it just doesn't feel good because my body goes, "well, this would normally feel good but there's something else weird/foreign/uncomfortable going on (the sex) and you need to address that first," and I get the "sensation overload" feeling.

We've also tried foreplay to the point where I orgasm before he even gets started, and that's become our regular routine. The extra wetness takes care of the pain issue, but I don't really like the "you do me, then I do you" feel of it. I don't mind if I can't have a vaginal orgasm, but I'd like to experience pleasure together and be able to have a clitoral orgasm during the act.

If lube suggestions are in order, I'm allergic to glycerin. We used to use it all the time and it didn't help much.

Just in case stuff, since I'm anonymous:

I've been to the OB/GYN a few times for regular check ups, and we only spoke of this (very) briefly. She asked if he was "really big," I said I wouldn't know. In an unrelated conversation she said that I had a "really tiny" uterus, so maybe that also = tiny vagina?

I don't have an issue with tampons, and I don't use penetrative toys. His fingers always hurt, and although mine don't I can't get myself to feel any vaginal pleasure when I'm by myself, either. It just feels like I'm poking a spongy thing. (I'm perfectly happy with the results of my alone time, just mentioned it in case it'd help with advice.)

So MeFi... what am I/are we/is he doing wrong?

Throwaway =
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This might be a stupid question, but are you lubricating well enough?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:56 AM on January 10, 2010

There are hundreds of different reasons this could be, some should not be worried about, some should be looked at immediately. Without being a doctor or knowing more about this, get thee to a doctor tomorrow to make sure it's not something serious.
posted by TheBones at 12:08 PM on January 10, 2010

I think you might want to get some penetrative toys. Also purchase some lube that isn't glycerin-based, and then experiment with them, when you're alone if you are shy at doing this with him. I'd suggest starting with a smaller-sized vibrator or dildo to see if you feel comfortable with that.

Because I think your problems stem back to being petite in the first place and then not becoming lubricated enough on top of that.

And now you are caught up in this vicious cycle where you are worrying about it, too, which certainly won't help.

So if you can experience some success with penetrative masturbation, where you orgasm either clitorally or vaginally while using your toy, that will go a long way toward easing your mind and assuring you that your body is capable of enjoying sex with your partner.

These kinds of issues are more common than you think, and it's great that you have a patient, understanding partner and are willing to explore your options to make sure you are sexually fulfilled too. Good for you! Relax, try some toys and see if that doesn't help.

Let's say, worst case scenario, you are still having problems. You go back to the doctor and when she says, "Is he big?" you now have a data point. You tried something smaller than your partner, used lube, and it still caused discomfort. You've ruled out the size issue anyway, and the lubrication, and she will still have a better idea how to proceed.
posted by misha at 12:12 PM on January 10, 2010

Gosh, that's a tough one. His fingers hurt, but yours don't.

I'm not an MD but I've been dealing with a similar issue for years so I've done some reading.
Some women tense up during sex/vaginal penetration. You can experience pain if you can't relax the muscles of your vagina. This becomes a self perpetuating issue if penetration always hurts. Some women with this condition get good results from physical therapy. I've never tried this treatment so I have no idea what it entails but when it comes to pain, sometimes treatment is worth embarrassment.

Alternatively, if there are any specific locations inside or at the entrance to your vagina that hurt when touched (by you or your partner) you may want to read a bit about Vulvodynia. It's kind of a catch all diagnosis for vulvar pain, but it's a place to start your research.

Best of luck.
posted by Iggley at 12:21 PM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Does he touch you during penetrative sex, or do you touch yourself? The latter seems more likely to result in the well-timed orgasm you're looking for since you know in your head, at the moment, what is working and what isn't, rather than his going through trial and error at a time that is already stressful for you.

Have you tried positions in which he only penetrates shallowly? Lying flat on your stomach straightened out, legs together, with him laying on top of you. Perhaps put a pillow under your hips for something to grind against, which is pleasant in a kind of dull, general way and won't lead to overload. Or lie on your back and he kneels in front of you, with your bottom lifted and in his lap.
While Cosmo might be heinous trash in general, the kama sutra section of their site might be helpful, I vaguely remember being articles of positions based on different types of couples, like her being really short or him being really "big."

Try to talk to your OBGYN again about this, if anything to talk about/rule out vaginismus.

I'm Not Your Therapist, as they say around here, but a lot of this could be more cerebral than physical. Do you build up tension emotionally, and romantically? Flirting, sexy talk, lots of making out? Do you fantasize even when you're with just yourself? (in the latter case, thinking sexy things makes a world of difference between feeling pleasure and giving yourself some sort of probing medical exam. ) Also, anxiety during sex about the pain, meeting expectations, all that, is a real mood killer. Like misha says, it's a nasty cycle. And no matter how much artificial lube you use, that doesn't mean your body is physically ready and in the mood and primed, so, now I wonder if that's even a bad idea. Your body isn't relaxed enough to allow him in, yet the slip and slide is ready and off he goes and yeah, I can imagine how that would be painful.

You say fingers plural; but, has he tried just one. Often one is enough. Try that for a while... Pperhaps out of expectation and porno hype and stuff, virgins think that more is better. "ZOMG I FIT THREE I WIN RIGHT??!"
posted by mostlybecky at 12:24 PM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

You don't mention what birth control (if any) you are using, but that can make a big difference. Some people are sensitive to latex, for example; many people have trouble with spermicides; and it isn't uncommon to have problems with one variety of birth control pills but not another. So if you have some flexibility in your options (ie aren't locked into one birth control option only for whatever reason), this may be worth experimenting with.

Lube, especially if you are using condoms, can really help with the initial "ouch" of entry. There are a lot of brands, many of which have no glycerine. Don't be shy about using it, even if you are pretty wet already.

When you do have penetrative sex, is he climbing on and hammering away until he comes? You might want to do a bit of a reboot on the mechanics of the sex, to reset both of your bodies' expectations. What if (with lube, and foreplay, etc) you get him inside you -- and then you guys just hang out and talk and cuddle, without moving your genitals at all. If he gets soft and slips out, that's ok -- he can always come later via hand or mouth, no big deal. And then after doing this a bunch of times, then maybe start moving just a tiny bit, but only as much as feels good. As it feels more comfortable, add more movement.

Sure, he might be a little frustrated in the meantime, but it's an investment in your pleasure, no? I'm thinking that your body needs more time and opportunity to simply get used to the mechanics of sex; doing more of what you are doing now is just going to give you more of the same (painful) results.
posted by Forktine at 12:25 PM on January 10, 2010

IANAEOLP (I Am Not An Expert On Lady Parts) so I cannot comment on much of this--however, for one small part of what might be an issue, I CAN tell you from experience that, in penetrative sex, size and comfort do have some correlation. And while it's genuinely adorable (really!) that you have no idea if he's tiny or enormous, let's help give you a sense so that when you talk to the doctor about this, you can at least answer? (Though this may not be necessary, as I'm concerned that you say his "fingers always hurt." That may be "you"? Or he may really be touching you wrong, and if it hurts, please speak up.)

The average woman's hand, from fingertip to top of the wrist, is about 6.7 inches. If his penis, when erect, is longer than your hand, if you don't have a crazy hand, it's on the large size! If you cannot wrap your hand all the way around it, it's most likely large. If you have crazy tiny or enormous hands (nothing personal!) it might be useful for you to be able to say to your doctor, "It about as long as two rolls of quarters stacked vertically" or "It's as wide as an iPhone" or "It's longer than the Time Warner remote control" or some odd universal measure.

I know this sounds bizarre--and penis size isn't at all relevant in this world BUT you can imagine that having intercourse with someone with a large to very large penis actually takes some work (for lack of a better word).

You could, of course, use a ruler. (And measure around with string, for circumference, and then measure the string.)

In addition, there are penis shapes, actually (pointy, curved, or with changes in circumference)--well, everyone finds different things "uncomfortable." Your mileage REALLY will vary.

I know: I seriously cannot believe that I have typed these things either. But I do think that one component of your new Our Bodies, Ourselves experience here should look at His Body Himself for at least one potential answer.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 12:36 PM on January 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

Side Note--lubes with glycerin aren't good for you, anyway. They can give you a yeast infection.
posted by 6:1 at 12:59 PM on January 10, 2010

Lube. Also, if the pain is on the outside/just inside -- ask if your OB/GYN will look for evidence of lichen sclerosus.
posted by media_itoku at 1:00 PM on January 10, 2010

be able to have a clitoral orgasm during the act

This is not possible for many, many, many women. I think a lot of women (me included) tend to think that mutual, simultaneous (or close-to-simultaneous) orgasms are some panacea of sex that we must acheive in order to be completely fulfilled.

The good news here is that you can have an orgasm and you and your partner can acheive it together! You are already ahead of many women already.
posted by peanut butter milkshake at 1:05 PM on January 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

Hit post early by mistake! I certainly didn't mean to sound like I was belittling your problems - I'm not!

I recommend reading a lot of Savage Love - here is one of many examples in which he helps to make us women feel better about not being able to orgasm during intercourse.

Also nthing lube (try loads of brands to find what you like, and don't be shy about using a lot of it - put a towel on the bed first though!) and nthing go back to your OB/GYN for this problem specifically - often if you mention something during a visit for something else or your annual, they may tend to brush it off if they are pressed for time or concentrating on other things (sucks, I know). If your visit is specifically for this problem, he or she has to address it directly.
posted by peanut butter milkshake at 1:11 PM on January 10, 2010

I'm sorry you're experiencing this. It sounds very frustrating.

You can't really get the depth and angle with your fingers that he can with his fingers. Does it hurt when he just puts them in the very beginning, just a little bit? Or is he doing something different with his fingers?

I think that you really deserve an OB/GYN who takes this problem seriously. There could be any number of problems going on that could affect your overall health. Even if this is not the case, you are really having trouble with it and that means it is important.

By the way, pain with sex--and not being taken seriously about it--is one of the classic ways that endometriosis presents itself. I am always skeptical when a gynecological problem is "all in your head"--too many female health issues are dismissed and ignored with that phrase, while male sexual problems are taken seriously and treated.

Some treatments for endo include progesterone-only birth control pills, the Mirena IUD, and surgery with a relatively short recovery (a few days before you're able to go back to normal activities).

FWIW, I have been tentatively diagnosed with endometriosis, and with some partners penetrative sex hurts, and with others it does not. It's an issue of length and "style". When I went to a doctor experienced in dealing with endo, he he poked me gently in a certain spot and I almost cried. Yet penetrative sex is not uniformly painful.
posted by kathrineg at 1:15 PM on January 10, 2010

I gotta say, initial entry is always ALWAYS uncomfortable for me and I have to be very specific with my partner to go slow so that I can relax, which often takes a little while, which makes it embarrassing, like you're killing the mood or something, but if your partner is patient and cares about you, it shouldn't be an issue. (Yay for run-on sentences!) The point is, you know how you go to your gyno and she tells you to relax and somehow you get more and more tense and then she says take a deep breath and exhale? That's the trick for me. Times about 10. It takes a while to get me seriously relaxed enough for the whole deal but once I get there, it's ok. If I'm ever rushed, it's just uncomfortable. It's all about deep breathing. And FWIW, I've never been able to orgasm during actual penetration but I still have a good time (eventually) and I can orgasm in other ways. Anyway, not sure if this will help, but some deep breathing might make things a little easier. Like yoga in the bedroom.

Good luck!
posted by cachondeo45 at 1:36 PM on January 10, 2010

Sounds like you're putting a lot of pressure on yourself.

The extra wetness takes care of the pain issue, but I don't really like the "you do me, then I do you" feel of it. I don't mind if I can't have a vaginal orgasm, but I'd like to experience pleasure together and be able to have a clitoral orgasm during the act.

Are you saying you don't experience pleasure when he's inside of you (even when fully lubricated post-orgasm)? If so, I understand your frustration. It's best when both partners are breathing funny at the same time! Some women can "go again" immediately; some are more like men in that their pleasure tends to drop off quickly after orgasm.

OTOH, I've had partners who routinely took longer than me to come. We settled into a kind of unspoken agreement: first me, then her. There was still plenty of spontaneity, but it still regularly meant I orgasmed, then kept up the energy & excitement while we chased hers. I wasn't faking excitement: closer to "translating an emotional & psychological idea into physical action". But, thanks to the limitations of my body's hydraulics, sometimes I chased with a rope rather than a pole.

Otherwise, I still think you're asking a lot out of your body... "Cum this way, not that way!!!"

I've been to the OB/GYN a few times for regular check ups, and we only spoke of this (very) briefly. She asked if he was "really big," I said I wouldn't know.

According to the studies I've seen, "average" is about 5.5"-6", measured when erect from the base of the penis (at the top edge) to the tip. Average circumference is about 5" (any part of the shaft below the glans).

His fingers always hurt, and although mine don't...

I've never seen fingers bigger than an average penis; certainly none approaching it's girth. That leads me to wonder if there isn't something going on psychologically. I'm not saying you're broken or mentally; just that you may have some apprehensions, fears, anger, whatever, that is getting into bed with you & the(any?) boyfriend.

That's a lot more common than you may think. I've known partners who were almost unenterable from vagismus (uncontrolled clenching of the vaginal muscles).

And if the sheets are in any way "crowded" with thoughts & worries, the best advice will come from an expert, not from the web. Ask a therapist for some help. It's what they're good at.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:28 PM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Dammit: vaginismus, not vagismus.

Also, an extraneous apostrophe in "it's".
posted by IAmBroom at 2:29 PM on January 10, 2010

You probably are having some physical problems (with size, lubrication or reaction to latext -- hormone-based birth control might also be affecting you). But you also probably have now a mental aspect to your problem. If you have had pain during intercourse, you will (conciously or unconciously) expect pain during intercourse, tense up, and then there will be pain/discomfort. It's a viscious cycle.

So in addition to dealing with physical causes and solutions, you may want to think about addressing mental issues: how to make intercourse sexy to you, where you associate vaginal penetration with pleasure and sexiness, not discomfort. Heterosexual erotica, such as that found in romance novels, is pretty good for trying to reset your mental associations.
posted by jb at 2:51 PM on January 10, 2010

I am unclear if this is the case, but if your GYN doesn't seem to be taking this seriously, find another who will. You deserve to be taken seriously.
posted by Silvertree at 3:08 PM on January 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

Your gyno can do a simple test to see if you may have vulvar vestibulitis, which is a form of vulvodynia where there is pain in certain places upon penetration/pressure. She can press on certain points with a swab and if it hurts, you probably have that problem and she can discuss possible treatment options.
posted by ishotjr at 4:34 PM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

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