I'm getting married and would like to have intercourse
August 8, 2014 5:46 PM   Subscribe

I'm getting married in a week, after dating for 9 years. My fiancé and I have a good sex life, but we've never had penetrative sex. Snowflakes inside.

My fiancé and I are both Muslim, late 20s, living in North America, raised in traditional but not super strict families. Neither of us are religious in the least, but we have a close relationship with our parents and extended kin. We were each other's first sexual partners.

We don't live together, but sleep over and have other forms of sex regularly (oral and manual, no anal). We've tried intercourse a few times, but it doesn't go in, and hurts like hell when he tries. I think I feel somewhat guilty about having premarital sex and somewhat paranoid about accidental pregnancy -- we use condoms, but there's always a risk, and I have mood swings when I'm on the pill, so I'm not. My body clamps up, and he's afraid to push the issue (heh). He's been extremely understanding and patient, and is confident that it's purely psychological and that I'll open up after marriage no longer makes it taboo, but I don't think it's that simple.

I don't use tampons (I've tried, and really dislike them), so I'm not used to things being in there. I can insert 2-3 fingers when I'm very aroused and sort of like how it feels. However, when he tries putting his penis in, the arousal disappears immediately.

I masturbate every other day, and have slightly better orgasms, on average, with myself than with my fiancé. So I think part of the difficulty is that I don't think intercourse will be pleasurable, and therefore am not willing to endure the pain when there's an easier, pregnancy-risk-free, more pleasurable alternative. (I'm generally nervous about bodily injury and stay away from anything physically adventurous.) Will cutting down on masturbation, using tampons, and, I don't know, trying to take more physical risks, help? Just desperately looking for suggestions here, especially if you've had similar experiences.

(I'm willing to go to a gyn to check on the possibility of vaginisumus, but I dread gyn visits, and don't think it's a purely physical issue anyway. I've tried therapy, but the therapists I've seen don't seem to appreciate the cultural baggage involved. Perhaps a sex therapist would be better?)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (46 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You don't mention lube at all so I will on the off chance you're not using any (or much). Lube is so important especially with condoms. Seriously just put a lot on the both of you. When you think, "Oh, that's enough." then put a bit more on just to be sure.

It could be you have this covered, but it's important enough to warrant a mention.
posted by ODiV at 5:57 PM on August 8, 2014 [11 favorites]

Perhaps try a dildo with your partner (or even alone)? Go small at first and work your way up. Something to try...
posted by MeatheadBrokeMyChair at 6:07 PM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

My thoughts are that there are a few things going on here: lack of experience, anxiety about pain, and anxiety about pregnancy. If you're aware that it might hurt and that you might get pregnant (which I am guessing you don't want to be right now), then of course your body will tighten up and try to prevent what's happening. Not having a lot of penetration experience will make it more difficult too, since it'll seem very foreign and unknown. This may not be what's happening, but it very well could be, and it's something to explore.

My suggestion is to masturbate more, actually, and incorporate penetration more frequently to see if there's some way you like it. Go slowly and maybe talk to your partner and let him know that you need to ease into it and he needs to not bug you until you tell him you're ready. I'm assuming he wants this to be fun for you too, so maybe see if you're up for him penetrating you with his fingers or a toy in the meantime. That might help you ease into it too, if the threat of pregnancy is an issue. It's also a way to involve him and work up to the PIV sex.

Look into your birth control options, since if you're not as worried you'll feel more relaxed, and talk to a therapist if it's all too overwhelming. They are great for listening to your plans and making helpful suggestions you might not have thought of, in addition to letting you have a safe space to talk. Gynos and other doctors will also talk to you with your clothes on if you want to run your concerns by them-- it's not a big deal, they don't want to freak you out with a physical exam if they don't have to.

You might just be someone who doesn't like penetration, and there's nothing wrong with that. But since you'd like to try, I think you should go slow and explore all the options.

Good luck! Congrats on your marriage!
posted by blnkfrnk at 6:08 PM on August 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

Vaginismus isn't a purely physical issue, and dreading gynecological exams is a pretty good clue that you struggle with it. The most effective treatment is to experiment some with dilators, keeping that experience very low-pressure and free from expectation. Be patient and gentle with yourself. Please memail me if you'd like to talk specifics more - I do have some personal experience in this arena.
posted by rabbitbookworm at 6:10 PM on August 8, 2014 [10 favorites]

Have you tried being on top?
posted by sentientsock at 6:16 PM on August 8, 2014

1000x lube. And relax. (I know that's easier said than done.)
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:18 PM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

I recommend giving up masturbation entirely once you're married. A good sex life goes a long way toward a happy marriage, and it's better to have your focus on your partner rather than your own hand. I know this is a weird suggestion, but consider it.

Maybe spend a couple weeks playing around and seeing what happens, if your fiance is OK with approaching this in a leisurely way. Try being on top so you have control, and don't be too focused on achieving penetration, maybe just a little bit or maybe not at all, you're both having fun anyway.

If you still have trouble after a while, see a doc. I think your kind of difficulty is not that uncommon. Pretty sure there's a flowchart of ideas to follow out there somewhere.
posted by mattu at 6:20 PM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

The thing about masturbating less is for dudes. Women should do it as much as possible.

I don't see the part in your post where it sounds like you want to have sex. And that's okay. If you feel like it's too risky and uncomfortable you don't have to do it. You have to really want it if you want to pursue this, because the only way to fix it is to have things in there even more. Which will be no fun.
posted by bleep at 6:22 PM on August 8, 2014 [27 favorites]

If lube doesn't help with the pain then definitely see a doctor.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:29 PM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Try a silicone-based lube, and oh my god please do not use oil as lubricant if you are using latex condoms, as it will cause the condom to break. What a terrible suggestion.

As for finally doing the do, have you tried masturbating with a vibrator? You might consider using the vibrator until you are really exhausted and relaxed from multiple orgasms, which may facilitate penetration. Let him start off with his fingers. Don't even make PiV sex your goal for the first time you try this. Leave that for like, try #5 or 6.
posted by elizardbits at 6:31 PM on August 8, 2014 [20 favorites]

This comes up fairly frequently on reddit's sex discussion forum. They have a pretty good FAQ about it. Here's the relevant bit:
Vaginismus is a condition we talk a lot about in /r/sex, as many people with the condition come to us for help. It is basically the name for what is happening in what I described above, but it happens at a more serious degree. You need to see a sex therapist and/or doctor who specializes in sexual pain (like a urogynaecologist). Unfortunately, many doctors (including some gynaecologists )are beyond clueless when it comes to sexual pain like this, where they can’t physically see any symptoms or signs of a problem. Vaginismus often feels like knives are being inserted into the vagina. The pain is usually around the opening of the vagina and it hurts for anything to be inserted. Again, the degree of the condition varies, with some women not able to get even a pinkie finger inside, while others can comfortable take 1 or 2 fingers in but no more.
Other conditions like vulvodynia (pain when any part of the vulva and vaginal opening is touched), cystitis, endometriosis, STIs and other infections, etc can also cause sexual pain. So make sure you get checked out by a doctor if you’re experiencing pain, especially if you’ve been engaging in a lot of foreplay, are using lube, and are feeling as though you’re sexually aroused and really wanting penetration.
So, see a doctor or a sex therapist!
posted by Renegade Duck at 6:32 PM on August 8, 2014 [5 favorites]

I don't see the part in your post where it sounds like you want to have sex. And that's okay.

While true if it turns out to be the case OP should really figure that out before the wedding so she and her fiance can decide if they want to go through with it. Since the fiance may not be on the same page.

OP: Lube, lube, lube. Not oil. Once you think you've used enough lube use some more.

If that doesn't work you should see a doctor.
posted by Justinian at 6:36 PM on August 8, 2014

I unfortunately have a lot of experience in this area. I'm recently married and still haven't managed to have intercourse, despite being diagnosed with vulvodyina and vaginismus seven years ago.

It sounds like vaginismus may be an issue, especially since you don't like tampons. I was the same way. Dilators are a good idea. I really recommend the Amielle Comfort brand. Don't buy the wax ones; they're cheaper until you melt them have and have to buy a new set! The advice I received is to get all the way up to the size you need by yourself, then do it all again with your partner present but with you totally in control, then do it all again with both partners' hands on the dilator.

Always use lube, including with the dilators. I recommend getting a bunch of samples from a nice female friendly sex store (probably online is easiest eg Babeland or Good Vibrations). My favourite is Hathor Aphrodesia.

Pelvic floor physiotherapists exist and I find mine incredibly helpful. I got her name from my gynecologist.

There's some evidence that diazepam applied locally can help. I did notice it relaxed me about as much as a good physio session but it's kind of messy. You cheaply experiment with crushed up pills mixed with some lube if your doctor agrees.

If anything, I would think frequent orgasms would help you relax and get in the mood. However, I sadly have no direct experience here.

There are lots of books out there if you'd like. Three I'd recommend are Ending Female Pain, A Headache in the Pelvis and Heal Pelvic Pain.

Please get in touch if you have more questions.
posted by carolr at 7:10 PM on August 8, 2014 [9 favorites]

Try a silicone based lube and being on top. It might just be that he's a bit bigger and you're a bit smaller and you're both gonna have to put in the "practice" so to speak of getting used to it. Moreso of the size not necessarily the act. I think it's more nerves and expectation and possibly that you're afraid? But go slow, drop the notion that you're doing anything wrong or that he'll be upset or any of that stuff. Any hangups when it comes to sex will definitely stop any sort of progression into happy sexy time. It should be enjoyable and fun and not at all what you've described so far. You seem to be feeling pressure and anxiety and that does not cause arousal.

Have him wait during the beginning stages of the act until you are *completely* ready to even ~try~. At that point you should be in control and say when you're ready, maybe having him pleasure you until you think it's time to try being penetrated. At that point have copious amounts of lube and try being on top. That way you can control the act and it helps if you go really really really slow and ease yourself onto him, taking as much time as you need. If it doesn't work the first few times, that's ok. Just laugh about it. You should be having fun! Good luck.
posted by lunastellasol at 7:13 PM on August 8, 2014

"...when there's an easier, pregnancy-risk-free, more pleasurable alternative."

I think you reveal the underlying problem right there. Call and pre-screen for gynecologists that will put IUDs in virgins, go to one that will, and get one. Then try sex that is >99.9% pregnancy risk free.
posted by sanderman at 7:20 PM on August 8, 2014 [8 favorites]

We have similar cultural hang ups. Its worth mentioning that while you say you're not religious one of the first things you mention is being muslim although you could have told the same story without mentioning that.

It always hurts a bit for me but I still get upset if we don't have sex often enough. I think you'll be better after marriage when you feel like "oh I'm supposed to have sex now, like something would be wrong otherwise"

Congrats and enjoy the guilt free sex to come!
posted by cacao at 7:20 PM on August 8, 2014

Seconding an IUD, if you think fear of pregnancy is playing into it. Plus you don't have to futz with condoms and can go back and forth between penetrative and non-penetrative sex more easily.

Another suggestion, if you decide to get a vibrator, try one of those rabbit style ones that stimulate your clit at the same time, as a way of piggybacking off of a more familiar sensation.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 7:24 PM on August 8, 2014

Call and pre-screen for gynecologists that will put IUDs in virgins, go to one that will, and get one. Then try sex that is >99.9% pregnancy risk free.

IUDs are awesomesauce for birth control but if you get one please immediately start proactively taking an iron supplement at the same time lest you get anemia like I did.

You may also get worse period cramps with an IUD. If you do, ask your doctor to prescribe you the NSAID etodolac -- I was prescribed it for an unrelated condition but was happily surprised by my period cramps going from crippling (as in completely bedridden for three days a month) to nonexistent (as in I don't even realize that my period has started until blood clots fall out in the shower).
posted by Jacqueline at 8:02 PM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

It doesn't have to be vaginismus; it could also be a retroverted uterus. I had the same trouble as you and in my case it was retroverted uterus. (This is probably also why I had issues with tampons too!) Different positions help a lot (e.g., if I face down). We were also very concerned about preventing pregnancy, so we used to use the pill + a condom, but now I have an IUD (Mirena, which seems very safe--many people find it doesn't cause the mood swings that the pill does for them). If you can't talk to your doctor before next week, please do at some point.

Also, please remember that you don't have to choose between masturbating/using toys and penetrative sex: you probably can do both, since most women are multi-orgasmic.
posted by kutsushita nyanko at 8:02 PM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you can only comfortably get 2 fingers in by yourself, and you dread GYN visits, I think getting an IUD placed would be very difficult, if not impossible. I think it's a great idea for the future time when you have tried some of the other suggestions here and think you are ready to have PIV sex.

I suggest that you discuss with your husband your plans for your wedding night and discuss ideas for something special and exciting that isn't PIV sex. You're getting married in a week, you're not going to have time to implement the good ideas being suggested here, and you deserve to have a great first experience with sex - which will help motivate you to keep working on having a great sex life with your husband (particularly important since you fear pain). Make sure that on the night that the cultural and social expectations are the highest, you already have a plan in mind that isn't going to put huge pressure on you and have the potential to end in disappointment.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:03 PM on August 8, 2014 [20 favorites]

...and you dread GYN visits, I think getting an IUD placed would be very difficult, if not impossible.

Yeah, given your issues, if you decide to get an IUD you should ask for a single-serving prescription for valium for when you get it inserted. Insertion is NOT FUN. But it's a few minutes of NOT FUNness in exchange 10 years of the most effective birth control that exists. IMO, it's worth it.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:25 PM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

Don't feel like everything has to change on your wedding night. Married life isn't really all that different, especially after being together for that long. One thing that might be a change for the better is a relief of the anxiety of the consequences of penetrative sex. Condoms may be making your issue worse, I know I find them uncomfortable (I'm a girl, too).

You say you are able to put fingers in. I think he should try some fingers. Well lubricated and with nails trimmed. I had troubles with sexual anxiety induced vaginismus when I was younger. You may not feel comfortable using a dildo but it helped me a great deal. Get one that has a smooth outside, like this one. This shop is very discrete and the box that arrives in the mail doesn't indicate at all what is inside.

As far as masturbation being better than partner sex, well, I hate to be a negative Nancy but it's totally my experience. I've never had a partner who was able to bring me to orgasm, even though it's easy enough by myself. If you are enjoying sex with him, count your blessings and try not to think about it too much.
posted by Foam Pants at 8:33 PM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

I recommend giving up masturbation entirely once you're married. A good sex life goes a long way toward a happy marriage, and it's better to have your focus on your partner rather than your own hand. I know this is a weird suggestion, but consider it.

Whereas I am a firm believer that everybody's primary sexual relationship should be with themselves.

Anyway, I think all this chatter about IUDs is very premature. If you dislike GYN visits, the IUD thing is going to be unnecessarily difficult. I think you should probably have a consult, though, because you are sexually active and regular sexual health care is responsible maintenance, and because there could be any number of issues here, some of them physical. You need not go straight to vaginismus and dilators; it could be something very simple to address like an inflexible hymen.

This is a great article on first intercourse, which does a very no-nonsense job of addressing pain, bleeding and ideas of virginity.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:47 PM on August 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

Do you orgasm from oral sex? Or do you feel comfortable masturbating yourself to orgasm with your partner? It might be worth trying to have an orgasm and then trying penetration.
posted by sockermom at 9:07 PM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

Well, if you're happy without penetrative play, that's okay! But if you want to figure out how your body works with that sort of play, absolutely do that on your own for now. There's no reason your fiancé needs to be present or (worse yet) involved, because it will put a lot of pressure on you that you don't need at the moment, and that it sounds like is coming coupled with pregnancy fears and other kinds of guilt. Plus, well, I know you love your fiancé, but this isn't about him—It's your body, and you'd probably like to understand it! It sounds like you want to figure out whether this is a physical issue or a purely psychological one (both valid, btw), and you can't do that when your fiancé is mixed up in your experimentation.

Rather than thinking of this as goal-oriented, or as about him, frame it as another way. You're just coming into your sexual peak, and like many women you're still figuring out your own body. Your body is cool! I does cool things! It sounds like you already know what a lot of them are, but there are all these different sensations and experiences you haven't had with it yet, and this is one of them, and you might as well try it out to see if you like it. Not for anyone else — for you. Maybe there's a hump of "eh, that doesn't particularly do it for me" while you feel it out, maybe it feels good in a new way, maybe in the end you decide that it's not your cup of tea, but it's worth giving it a decent run and seeing if you enjoy it once you're comfortable with it. You don't have to pressure yourself, you don't have to cause yourself pain — just try, see what feels good, see what feels okay, reward yourself in the process, try to discover every weird thing your body likes or dislikes or what tickles. Be curious. Maybe you'll decide that you don't like penetrative stuff in the end, and that's cool, but at least you'll understand more about your body and your sexual responses.

If you haven't, read up on the clitoris (it looks like a penguin!) and realize that it's all over up in there in a way many people don't realize, and that some women's anatomies are wired in such a way that you get different kinds of pleasure from rubbing up against different bits of it, including from internally. Most women don't orgasm by penetration alone, but you don't have to—that's what hands are for, and for some people the dual kind of stimulation is good. Get some good toys in all different sizes, tons of lube, and just play around. It's your body, and you own it and everything it can and can't do, everything it likes and doesn't like, every weird nerve that's misconnected and every funny quirk of every squishy bit. Have fun with it. Take it out for a test drive.
posted by you're a kitty! at 10:54 PM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

No one has mentioned that it's fairly normal for intercourse to hurt the first time for women, and even for men or so I've Benn told. It gets better, quickly, but a small amount of pain is normal and ok, even if you're aroused and using lube and everything. It should go away pretty soon but even people who've been having sex for years occasionally screw up and rush it and experience a small amount of pain right at the beginning. It's not normal if the pain is bad or continues more than a short time though.
posted by fshgrl at 11:11 PM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Break your problem down into components.

First, birth control: I could not tolerate hormones so ended up with a diaphragm. You might consider it. Condoms are a pain, and if you are STD free and monogamous, unnecessary. A side benefit in your case is that learning to use a diaphragm means getting used to putting something gently into your body, so that it becomes routine.

Second, pain. You do need a checkup to rule out something like undiagnosed low-level infections (yeast, etc.) that can cause pain during sex. Also to discuss birth control if you are going to change your method.

Third, fear/reluctance. This is something you can work on with him and separately. I'm going to make an odd suggestion for solo work, that you look at some male porn. Not hardcore stuff, maybe not even sex so much as cheesecake. The idea is to get used to the idea of a male body as part of your sexual desire and activity. It also makes penises less alien if you see them in various stages of arousal and relaxation, without the pressure of having to do something about one that's in front of you right then. You need to be able to objectify your partner a bit, see him as an object of lust a little more. Women are often denied the chance to develop a personal idea of what we physically find sexy about men, and that can inhibit us.
posted by emjaybee at 12:06 AM on August 9, 2014

Also OP - has your gym ever said anything about having an abnormal hymen (septate, or microimperforate)? I couldn't use tampons either without a lot of pain. It took several attempts at sex to break my hymen because it was tougher and the hole was smaller (and this was after a minor surgery, although it wasn't done properly).

If this seems at all to ring true, please me-mail me. Otherwise, everyone else is offering great advice.
posted by Paper rabies at 12:53 AM on August 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Another thing to consider along with all this other good advice is a mild latex allergy. It can present as pain and discomfort on contact, particularly in mucous membrane areas like your vagina. I say mild because it can be a low enough allergy that it doesn't really play up anywhere else because your skin barrier is protecting you there (so maybe you can wear gloves OK but not put them in your mouth). When you're already feeling anxious etc that little bit of extra discomfort can just be too much. Now this is fairly unlikely to be your problem but latex-free condoms might be worth a go just once if you haven't already tried that because it's an easy thing to do. Try it with your fingers or something if you don't want to include all the extra worries of your fiancé being there.

I also totally agree with the recommendations of lube. Not just lots of it but really good stuff, there is some pretty horrible lube being sold out there for some reason. I've been having sex happily for 20 years and pretty much always needed additional lube, there's nothing wrong with it. Personally I bought a bunch of very small samples from Amazon to try out. It wasn't expensive, they arrived in normal Amazon packaging, I didn't have to talk to anyone to do it, there are plenty of reviews to read, totally easy. I didn't like the silicone ones in the end but both my husband and I do really really like Sylk, and that tiny bottle lasts a long time. I'm actually slightly allergic to kiwifruit but the allergen is not present in this product so that's not an issue. I think trying more than one is a good idea because clearly people's preferences vary, but put this one at or near the top of your list to try. If nothing else you can use lube while masturbating for a different feel, so it won't be a wasted effort regardless of what happens with your fiancé.
posted by shelleycat at 1:16 AM on August 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

I was also going to recommend Ending Female Pain by Isa Herrera but Carolr beat me to it!

Aside from possible vaginismus etc, I can confirm that my first few times hurt and it took awhile longer to get into the groove of things. 15 years later I still tend to be 'tight' and orgasming before penetration and lots and lots of lube go a long way.

I didn't think anxiety was a huge part of it, but I had a surprisingly great time trying to get pregnant! So being married may help, and talking to your doctor and finding BC that puts your mind at ease may help. I can't take hormonal BC either, but there's lots of options.

Random thought: you're not allergic or sensitive to latex are you??? 'Cause that'll do it too...
posted by jrobin276 at 2:01 AM on August 9, 2014

Oh yeah... I have never orgasmed from penetrative sex. I pretty much have to orgasm to get anything in there anyway. Not stereotypical sex, sure... but I have plenty of fun and it works!
posted by jrobin276 at 2:04 AM on August 9, 2014

I think in your situation condoms not best birth control with the faffing and interruption if there is a level of anxiety there. Partner sounds great :) so I'm sure you'll pass through this.
posted by tanktop at 3:27 AM on August 9, 2014

I can insert 2-3 fingers when I'm very aroused and sort of like how it feels. However, when he tries putting his penis in, the arousal disappears immediately.

I agree with other posters that it sounds like your main problem might be anxiety or fear about getting pregnant. I also absolutely dread gynecologist visits like you do, to the point of visibly shaking while sitting in the waiting room, but I went and got an IUD placed just so I wouldn't have to worry about pregnancy at all for 12 years (I have the copper IUD). If you do decide to go this route, I highly recommend going to a Planned Parenthood, they have experienced people who will place IUDs for women who have never been pregnant.

If you don't want to get an IUD, have you thought about "doubling up" on birth control for more peace of mind? There are lots of options of birth control methods that can be used in conjunction with condoms -- the pill and basically every other form of hormonal birth control, sponge, diaphragm, etc.
posted by Librarypt at 5:29 AM on August 9, 2014

Try almond oil

NO. Do not do this if you are using latex condoms. At all. Ever. Oils and oil-based lubes will degrade the condom, rendering it less effective at best and having it break at worst. No no no no no.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:13 AM on August 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

You have received a lot of good recommendations above and it seems you are on the right track yourself with the considerations of seeing a doctor and sex therapist. The recommendations for lube are spot on. You can't have too much. Masturbation is so important, you have to know yourself before you can communicate those needs.

As you can see, you are not alone in this problem, many of us have struggled with painful intercourse. For me, it took a lot of work and a lot of physical therapy to get to a place where I live largely symptom free, thanks to the techniques I learned. I say this because I want you to know that it can and does get better. Pelvic floor therapy itself can be awkward, but the pay off is worth it.

And while there can be psychological component, vulvodynia/vaginismus (if this what you are experiencing) is a physical issue that needs to be addressed as such. Like you, I am lucky enough to have a partner that is easy to communicate with and was able to work through this with me and our sex life now includes regular penetrative sex without issue. Be patient with yourself, be patient with each other and remember you are signing up for a lifetime together, so you have plenty of time to work this out.

It can get better.
posted by Hopeful and Cynical at 8:51 AM on August 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I’m a guy and I was in a relationship that was like this. I have been in therapy for anxiety so I also knew that my role was to be gentle and patient and have faith. From my perspective, one day we had a house party and after everyone left, my partner and I made out, then I picked her up, carried her to the bedroom and everything just worked. Woowee!

That’s neither here nor there, but the important part for you to know is that we never had a problem after that and we ended up having a heckofalot of fun from there on out.

I suspect that from my partner's perspective, she girltalked with friends, learned more about her body and learned more about her psychology and anxiety. She did the difficult work and I just had to be patient, loving and playful.

Self-diagnosis is never a great idea, but you could very well be right that this is temporary anxiety. For instance, the finger play is a good sign.

I don’t think that the state of being married will fully end the anxiety. You and your partner need to have a reality-check so that he doesn’t make things worse with an unrealistic expectation that marriage will magically fix what’s happening here. Explaining away something that will actually take time and work will probably add to any anxiety on your part. Weddings are stressful enough as it is! Your partner is setting you both up for a disappointment on your wedding night if you two don't discuss the idea that marriage itself will not change something that is medical or psychological in origin.

Plan on having the fun that you know you already can have on your wedding night and someday you will be able to celebrate two anniversaries -- including the nice surprise one when everything just one day clicked because of all the patient, loving work that you did together over time.

You’re right that baby steps are exactly the way that anxiety can be overcome.

Going to the GYN despite your anxiety about going to the GYN is exactly the kind of safe, structured baby step that you can start with to start the process of overcoming your anxiety. If you have other anxiety/stress symptoms in your life, you may want to consider going to therapy.

The GYN can talk to you about low-hormone or no-hormone birth control. Condoms are great (and the anticipation of putting one on or the fun of trying new brands is really underrated) but at the end of the day, when you’re in a monogamous, trusting and STI-tested relationship, the transition from play to PIV sex is a lot more natural and easy when you have a form of birth control that you don’t have to fumble around with in the moment.

There are kegel exercises that help with this kind of thing and a medical consult can help you learn what works.

In the meantime, enjoy the sex that you’re already having. Good times! It sounds like you two are very compatible in bed. Communicating and navigating all the stuff you already do is the difficult, relationship part and penises and vaginas are pretty self-explanatory once you get past the initial anxiety about them. Congrats on your wedding. Have fun!
posted by Skwirl at 9:57 AM on August 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Some gynecologists should probably be taken out and shot. Some are really dreadfully bad about so called bedside manner under circumstances where being sensitive and considerate matter a whole lot to the patient. So it is possible that you simply have had a string of assholes for gynecologists. If you have never had a female gynecologist, let me strongly recommend you look for one. There are some good male gynecologists out there. They are not all terrible. But the gynecologists where I wanted to hit them for how they treated me were all men (I think every last one of them was a white male -- I have had some very good Hispanic male gynecologists). Just to be clear: I am not talking people who were merely rude and made me feel uncomfortable naked around them. I am talking jerks who left me in physical pain because of how they examined me.

The other thing I will suggest is that a great many women do not reach orgasm from penetrative sex. There can still be benefits to her to having penetrative sex. Even when I was unable to have orgasms with a partner when I was younger, it was meaningful to me to have penetrative sex and feel like I had been touched all over. So I will suggest you lower the bar a bit and, instead of trying to enjoy penetrative sex from the get go, just focus on trying to make it as unthreatening and comfortable as possible.

And, yeah, look into those suggestions of lube, is your hymen maybe still intact, etc.
posted by Michele in California at 11:28 AM on August 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

You didn't mention vibrators. Do you have a vibrator? Something like this is great for external stimulation and could be used for penetrative play too. Get used to using it on yourself and feel really comfortable with it, then get your partner to use it on you (externally) and just relax and enjoy.

I bet you have a million things to worry about with your wedding coming up, so maybe just make it your goal to have pleasant relaxing sex of the type that you are used to for now. Congrats on your wedding, and may you have many happy years together to enjoy all sorts of great sex!
posted by beandip at 11:41 AM on August 9, 2014

This definitely sounds like vaginismus. The fact that you say you can get a couple of fingers in but not your partner's penis, and the fact that your arousal disappears is further evidence of that. Therapists who don't know about this are completely useless, can be extremely dismissive and ask inappropriate and unhelpful questions, and make you feel even worse, especially when you add in the cultural issues that they don't understand.

If you have the money and the time, the Women's Therapy Center may be the way to go. There's a couple who was featured on TLC which also had the issue of being Muslim Americans and the woman not being able to let go of the cultural baggage surrounding sex.
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 2:23 PM on August 9, 2014

Oh and seconding the fact that some gynos should be shot. I had a male gyno laugh in my face about not being able to get the speculum in. Disgusting. Be very, very careful about who you go to see.
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 2:25 PM on August 9, 2014

If you have never had a female gynecologist, let me strongly recommend you look for one.

Whereas all the asshole Ob/Gyns that I've had have been women. So I think it's just a matter of trying different ones out.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:40 PM on August 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

What if I don’t enjoy it? What if I can’t feel anything inside? It’s perfectly normal to worry if sex will be pleasurable. The fact is only 20% (or less) women can achieve orgasm through penetration sex. This doesn’t stop women from wanting sex because it’s fun and we feel connected to our partners.

Bravo that you have explored your body through masturbation and can put 2-3 fingers inside your vagina. I suggest watching heterosexual porn when you masturbate. Try imagining he’s inside you and how pleasurable it will feel like. Don’t be afraid to moan as loud as possible. Practice Kegel exercise and use a dildo. Lubrication and manual stimulation of clitoris helps a lot during insertion. I recommend reading this article and then this one.
posted by liltiger at 4:57 PM on August 9, 2014

While I would generally recommend getting an IUD and I was very happy with my Mirena for 10 years, I would strongly advise against getting an IUD before you have put this issue well behind you! The insertion can be quite painful, especially when you've not given birth to a child before, and might make things worse for you at this stage. Don't consider it until penetration is firmly associated with pleasure in your mind, not pain.

Kegel exercises, practicing with dildos and lots of lube are great advice. Also, regardless of what exactly your issue might be, there's a good forum to support you in finding the right answers for you at vaginismus.com.
posted by apolune at 12:39 AM on August 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

The thing about masturbating less is for dudes. Women should do it as much as possible.

Completely disagreed! It works wonders for women, too, as someone who used to prefer myself to my partners. My sexual interest in others ramped way up when I stopped masturbating.
posted by htid at 10:57 PM on August 10, 2014

A bit late, but I wanted to point on that while some women seem to have an easier time being penetrated after they orgasm, it is the opposite for me. I'm either weird or just the first one to mention it, but while I'm still somewhat aroused after my first orgasm, my vagina becomes pretty tight and it can sometimes even hurt to be penetrated.

Just a thought if you were trying to do PIV after your orgasm.
posted by LoonyLovegood at 2:56 AM on August 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you need a rec for a pelvic physical therapist in the bay area of CA, please memail me.
posted by freezer cake at 3:33 PM on August 11, 2014

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