When does sex stop being painful (and start being possible)?
September 17, 2006 8:14 PM   Subscribe

Did penetrative sex 'work' for you the first time? If not, how long was it before it did?

I'm asking this question so I can put my own (and my girlfriend's) experience into some context. We are both virgins (21 years old) who decided to start having sex a year ago. It simply didn't fit, and since then we've tried everything and it's still not fitting. Currently we can manage 2 fingers with some discomfort.

A friend of mine said that for him and his girlfriend they had the same problem, and it took them 6 months before they could manage penetration. A friend of my girlfriend's decided to have sex for the first time 3-4 months ago and they're still trying to get it to work. Although I can't vouch for them, I'm in a great relationship and with the exception of penetrative sex (we've pretty much come to expect that it's not going to work, although we do keep trying by inserting fingers gradually) we do enjoy a great sex life.

Although any help would be welcome, I'm mostly wanting to hear about other peoples' experiences to better understand mine. We know that what we're experiencing isn't normal, but how far from normal is it?

I understand that this is a personal question that some may not want to reply to publicly. If you want to email me, I'm at mefi.anonymous@gmail.com.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Wasn't there an almost identical question a few days ago?
posted by RustyBrooks at 9:52 PM on September 17, 2006

Buckets of lube.

Buckets and buckets of lube.
posted by Jairus at 9:52 PM on September 17, 2006

Yep. Worked the first time. Since then, it's not worked with several other women in various ways -- some too loose, some too tight.

There was a thread just a few days ago about painful penetrative sex, and the appropriate comment in there was about vaginismus. You might figure out ways to relax her before sex, and erm, well, ease into it a bit more, as it's not really that she's tight -- it's that she's squeezing it and doesn't know it for a variety of reasons.
posted by SpecialK at 9:54 PM on September 17, 2006

I second specialk: some women, especially ones who are quite new to penetrative sex, squeeze unconsciously.
Based on my experience with women I'd say it's not that uncommon.
The bright side is that you can change it. There's probably lots on the internet about vaginismus.
posted by jouke at 10:03 PM on September 17, 2006

I had one partner who was a virgin (I'm a hetero male) and it took a few times. The issue was basically breaking the hymen. Barring physical conditions which would require, I imagine, a gynecologist to diagnose and resolve, the vagina is extremely malleable.

Presuming you are not some sort of giant biological freak, "not fitting" might be an issue of the hymen still being partially or fully intact. I'm given to understand that the process of breaking frequently involves pain and blood (it certainly did in my one case of direct experience: things got easier rapidly after that). Frankly who you really need to hear from here is women.

But given what I've heard from women I've known well enough to talk to about this kind of thing this is way abnormal. After a year (!) you may be past the solving this at home point: your girlfriend may need to talk to a gynecologist about this.
posted by nanojath at 10:07 PM on September 17, 2006

Homerun, day one. But she was a sweet, bright girl with ginormous feet and a fierce libido. And it was 1969, and hell, everybody scored in 1969.

If you've been trying a year, and "it still doesn't fit," it's time to suck it up and seek professional help. It's really not supposed to be this difficult. If it were anything like as tough as it must seem to you, the human race would've lost out early to the sabertooth tigers.

Insanity is continuing to try what doesn't work, with the honest expectation of a different result. If you haven't figured it out in a year, you probably aren't going to by blind experimentation. You need to find doctors who look at both of you, and work with you. Not every OB/GYN for her is going to be as helpful as you need them to be, and you may need to ask for referrals to sex therapists once you know that her anatomy is OK, as is yours (you'll need to see a urologist).

Spend what it takes in time and money, and overcome embarrassment. Lube, even buckets of it, and understanding, even buckets of it, probably isn't going to solve the problem.
posted by paulsc at 10:10 PM on September 17, 2006 [3 favorites]

(in other news paulsc got laid 2 years before I was born. When you gonna start writing in your weblog again, man?)
posted by nanojath at 10:20 PM on September 17, 2006

I'll admit that while the penetration itself was extremely easy, sex didn't feel particularly good for the first month (and I'm a man). It was mostly psychological though, and after that it was excellent :) So.. even if you get the physical bit down, which can be troublesome in itself, there's a lot more to do it than doing the moves.
posted by wackybrit at 10:38 PM on September 17, 2006

Look up "vaginismus."

It's not easy to tell the particulars of why it didn't work out but extreme muscular contraction can hinder penetration. If you can get two fingers in, I suggest you do so, then pause, breathe, try to relax the vaginal walls and entry. If vaginismus is what's happening, it takes some muscle-education to learn exactly how to relax those muscles which you don't realize you're tensing in the first place. My own personal story of overcoming this ends happily but is too strange to tell here. Email me if you want to hear more. I couldn't possibly care less who you are.

If you are very large or she is very small, you might have some degree of problems. A woman has a certain width, but also a certain angle. If you can insert a narrow but straight object, then an angled entry isn't your problem.

My guess is that she just isn't comfortable with penetration yet and is experiencing some tension. I'm not familiar with all the reasons this happens, nor do I have a vagina, so I can't speak with a ton of knowledge. But in my humble experience, it can help to "exercise" or "stretch" the vagina with smaller objects. It can also take time. Someone who's never had sex might need several weeks to loosen up, heal, and ease into it.

If it is a matter of muscle tension, bear in mind that her state of mind has a lot to do with it. A glass of wine might help. A painful experience will only set you guys back. Go easy, go slow, don't spend all your sex time trying to solve this problem. Take a break and enjoy some oral sex.

Taking the pressure off can only help.
posted by scarabic at 10:51 PM on September 17, 2006

Your experience does not match mine, or that of anyone I have talked to in person about their first time (which, admittedly, is only around a dozen people). Awkwardness and false starts, yes indeed. Still unable to achieve penetration after more than a few tries, no.

As others have said, it sounds like doctor time. If your girlfriend is 21, she should be having gynecological exams yearly anyway. Now's the time to set one up. She can discuss this with the doc before or after the normal exam. It might be that there is a simple physical explanation, and it will be good to know. If the answer isn't simple, the doctor may have good ideas for a next step. If the doctor is unhelpful, try another one.

If you're in university, health services will be able to do the exam for a low cost. She can ask around among other female students to find out if any of the doctors on staff have especially good or bad bedside manner, since that makes a world of difference in gyn exams. Or, if the receptionist (or whoever makes the appointments) seems nice, she can tell her that she'd like to make an appointment with the doctor who is easiest to talk to. Also in most cases they will let you stipulate that you want to see a female doctor.

If you're not in university, or if your university is religious and would not give you frank sex advice, try your local Planned Parenthood for care or a referral to a doctor in your area.

Also, just wanted to say it sounds like you guys have a good attitude about this; keep up the other fun you're having!
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:43 PM on September 17, 2006

As others have said, it sounds like doctor time.

This reminds me... how do her annuals go? Has her gyno ever noted anything unusually small or tight or strangely angled about her vagina?
posted by scarabic at 11:47 PM on September 17, 2006

My experience has been like LobsterMitten's. The first few times were a little tricky and awkward with me and my partner both feeling "how do people DO this and enjoy it?" but it didn't take long for that to no longer be an issue, seriously a few times at most.
posted by jessamyn at 5:18 AM on September 18, 2006

Yep, same experience (I'm a male), and for a long time only two fingers would work. But one day, after a few months, we had a session involving lots of stimulation by me of her, then lots of lube, and I was able to get inside her - I wasn't especially hard at the time, and that seemed to help quite a lot.

She'd told me that she was worried about not being able to " do it". But once I was inside her, she relaxed a lot both physically and psychologically and it's been easier ever since.
posted by flutable at 5:53 AM on September 18, 2006

It might help if she comes first before you try penetration.

No, this isn't abnormal. (No, it didn't work for me, but it isn't relevant for me, either, so no biggie.)
posted by QIbHom at 6:49 AM on September 18, 2006

#1: Take her to the doctor.

#2: Be very patient. I'm sure it's not your fault but if the first few experiences are painful, even after it's become more physicall comfortable the gal might then have a mental block against it, pretty much expecting it to be painful instead of looking forward to it. Consider it a great investment of your time to take it very slow and careful and definitely, as everybody said above, don't do anything without lube.
posted by clairezulkey at 8:19 AM on September 18, 2006

Doctor, definitely. I dated a girl who had such trouble in this area that she eventually had to have a procedure to break/remove her hymen. This solved her problems (well, physical anyway, the embarrassment sure lingered), and the doctor apparently didn't think it was that unusual at all.
posted by Pufferish at 8:37 AM on September 18, 2006

It was like tab a wouldn't fit in slot b the first time or two but then we both relaxed and it worked out just fine!!
posted by MeetMegan at 9:03 AM on September 18, 2006

There are lots of things that could be causing this, and a freakish vagina isn't the only option. Stress can make the vaginal walls tighten up, and if you're both virgins then there's bound to be some nerves, especially on her end. Women are told the first time is painful; this might be freaking her out.Babies are meant to come out of that hole. A penis will fit and if you take your time with it things can be fabulous.

How much foreplay are you guys getting into? Take your time with it. Use lubricant as if it were a massage gel on her genitals, and don't even try to penetrate till she's made a happy. Women have the great gift of multiple orgasm, and if you pay attention to the clitoris. If you can get her really worked up - lots of manual and oral stimulation - it can go a long way towards relaxing the musculature inside the vagina.
posted by Jilder at 10:08 AM on September 18, 2006

*mutters something about ineffective 3am editing*

That's "if you pay attention to the clitoris you can often increase the receptiveness of the vagina as well".
posted by Jilder at 10:11 AM on September 18, 2006

My husband and I were both virgins in our mid 20's, and had a lot of difficulty with this. He simply did not fit, and attempting was painful and stressful. That made future attempts even worse, since I couldn't relax no matter how hard I tried. A couple weeks after the wedding we finally got it, after some slow and gentle buildup. It's completely fine now.
Emailed further details, but posting this for those who find the thread later and feel like they're freaks for not being able to do it (I did).
posted by jheiz at 11:12 AM on September 18, 2006

I never experienced pain or difficulty though I did lose my virginity to someone not extraordinarily well endowed, and after a few drinks. I honestly thought "hymens" were an old wives tale for a long time... either I just didn't notice a small amount of blood or I didn't have one (but many of my friends also had perfectly enjoyable first times - esp if you've fooled around extensively before, there's no reason penetrative sex should be all that enormous a leap).

I agree about talking to the doctor, but if relaxation turns out to be the main issue, has she tried alcohol? obviously don't overdo it, but if you want to knock down inhibitions and self-consciousness, it's a pretty effective solution.
posted by mdn at 11:31 AM on September 18, 2006

Being on top seemed to be a major key for smooth succes at my first time.
posted by chase at 3:54 PM on September 18, 2006

My first time hurt like hell. I was nervous. My bf was bigger than average. No problems penetrating, though. Sex kept hurting like hell for about six months no matter how much foreplay or lube was involved or what positions we tried. Having experience that much pain the first time, my muscles tensed up no matter how much I consciously tried to relax them. Then we tried smoking a joint beforehand. That did the trick. It still hurt, but my muscles relaxed enough so it started to feel good too. Things improved steadily from then on. So...seconding mdn's suggestion of alcohol, or somesuch.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 7:39 PM on September 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

Worked my very first time, but didn't work multiple times with my first real girlfriend, who was a virgin--it took about a month before it worked with her, and after that was never a problem for us. With another virgin, it worked fine the first time, but with another, very experienced woman, it still took 3-4 tries.

Think it's sort of luck of the draw.
posted by dmaterialized at 9:24 AM on September 20, 2006

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