Sex is Meant to be Pleasurable
Sex is meant to be pleasurable and satisfying, making love blissful, nurturing, and more. What if it is none of these things but a source of frustration or even misery, for the both woman and her lover? This has been my own story and is an increasingly common scenario, with Drs who specialize in women’s gynaecological health reporting it is on the increase, particularly in young women. If you fear making love more than look forward to it,
if your lover is at his wits end because he it hurts him to know he is causing you suffering you are not alone. Some studies say the rate of painful sex for women is as high as 30%. One US study has put the figure of women between the ages of 18-64 who have suffered from chronic painful sex, a condition known as vulvodynia, as high as 16%. The cause of vulvodynia is said to be unknown but has an important psychological link. This does NOT mean that it is all in your head though, the physical symptoms of stinging, itching and burning from mild to intense are very real.
There are Many reasons for Painful Sex
There are many reasons sex can be painful, most commonly it is due to emotional tension, vaginal dryness, infection, low libido, hormonal imbalances due to the pill or menopausal changes to the vaginal tissues. Prolonged and over enthusiastic forceful “porn” type thrusting. Even some medications affect lubrication, particularly anti depressants.
Focussing on emotional aspects underlying vaginal pain:
1. You’re saying yes to sex when you really mean no. This can be for a wide variety of reasons- you’re just not in the mood but feel compelled to go there because you think you should eg. for your lover’s satisfaction, because you believe it is more important than yours or because your believe there is something wrong with you if you don’t want to have sex. Or perhaps saying no is a difficulty for you in general, especially if you see it hurting another.
2. You’re angry with, or in fear of your partner and have closed your heart to him, the heart is a very powerful factor in a woman being able to open sexually and if you are carrying unresolved hurt vaginal pain can result.
3. You’re not connected with yourself sexually, you don’t yet know how, or don’t take the time to become fully aroused before penetration and override your body’s innate needs.
4. You have sex that you don’t enjoy, or continue to have sex long after it has ceased to be pleasurable.
5. You may have guilt about being sexual at all, or for having sex, self pleasuring or masturbation.
6. You have repeated experiences of failing to reach orgasm, or been “left hanging in midair’ whilst your partner was already “over the edge”.
7. Sex has become goal orientated, with your mind forcing your body to perform rather than following its natural desires.
8. You and your lover have ‘porn focussed performance sex’, with long periods of forceful thrusting and little intimacy.
9. You make love as a way of avoiding intimacy, or confrontation with your partner or covering up your anger.
10. You may be carrying some unhealed sexual abuse.
11. Even the experience of a caesarean section or difficult birth, a hysterectomy or an abortion can leave an impact on your sexual body.
12. Your pelvic floor muscles, the ones that hold your vagina, and the structures around it, such as your uterus, bladder and bowel in place have become weakened, allowing them to prolapse into your vagina, creating pain when they’re pressed against. This weakening can be caused by lack of use, childbirth, poor overall health and hormonal changes; generalized stress that causes you to chronically tense your pelvic floor which over time weakens it. Loss of pelvic floor tone affect 50% of women at some stage in their lives! It can be fixed by learning proper pelvic floor health, or more serious cases require surgery.
13. You may mistakenly believe you are not worthy of receiving pleasure. This is so not true, it is your birthright!
14. The cycle of pain can develop a feedback loop in your belief and nervous systems, taking on a life of its own. This doesn’t mean you’re crazy, you just haven’t learned how this pain cycle works and what to do about it.
15. Either you, or your partner fear your sexuality and its power.
Or perhaps your pain has turned into numbness. A woman’s vagina has an extraordinary capacity to tolerate pain by numbing it away. It does this to make giving birth more tolerable. The only challenge with this is that it numbs pleasure as well.
Tension in the Genitals
All of the above create tension in the genitals. This tension manifests itself most commonly through tightness/stiffness in the yoni (genitals) that never fully relaxes, even during intercourse. The feelings and emotions that are unacknowledged or expressed in this collect in the genitals as blocked energy and over time this is reflected as either numbness or as we are talking about here- physical pain.
There are many ways to support you with managing your pain, the first is believing that it is real, and not something that you need to ‘put up with’ in any shape or form. The next is believing that you are a sexual being that is capable of extra ordinary pleasure and that you want what you’re made for.
- Learn to relax your pelvic floor. Imagine your muscle between your legs as a triangle of chocolate melting in the warm sun. Literally feel the area letting go. Do this regularly so that you can do it during sex as well.
- Once your muscles have learned to relax start to tone them and make them healthier. In this case try identifying your pelvic floor muscles by standing with both feet facing inwards and squeezing the muscles between your legs as if trying not to pee. Once you’ve identified them squeeze and release them gently. Make sure you relax them fully by imagining the area melting like chocolate in the warm sun. Once this feels ok do the same but pull the muscles up higher inside you by imagining you’re sipping them up like a thickshake up a straw (sipping your breath in at the same time helps) and hold in for 1 second then release. Do 10 times, releasing fully in between each one. Over a few weeks build up to a 10sec hold.
In the bedroom:
- Take your time, breathe deeply into your heart, and into your genitals, allowing you to relax and open as much as possible.
- Have your partner use full body strokes before massaging the outside of your Yoni (genitals) well, making sure you have a ‘Yes’ for penetration.
- Try a variety of touches to help expand your body’s awareness rather than continually going over and over the same ground, as this helps to break the pain cycle in your brain.
- Use personal lubricant- there is no such thing as too much lube and it’s not a sign of failure to use it.
- Encourage your partner to go slow, look each other in the eyes, breathe together and build trust.
- Stop when you need to.
Outside the bedroom:
- Investigate any underlying medical causes with your Dr.
- Get medical or naturopathic support for your hormone levels.
- Find out if you can change your medication to one with less side effects.
- See a physiotherapist who specializes in pelvic floor management can help you relax and strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and also release muscle tension inside your vagina.
- Having some counselling to investigate what might be going on for you emotionally with your sense of self and in your relationship can help.
- Explore the idea of some sexual healing.
Communication is Critical
And of course talking to your partner about this, if you haven’t already ,so he can understand what is happening for you and more appropriately support you, as well as
having a chance to express his own fears and pain in a situation where to make love with you hurts you. Especially when it becomes chronic sexual pain is a situation where the solution will involve both of you. Learning how to have more energetic lovemaking with less thrusting and more flowing will help.
Express your Emotions
Allowing yourself to express the emotions that come up will help release the energy that is blocking in your vagina., which is also the area of your first, second and third chakras live- where your safety, sexuality, creativity and power centres reign. For me personally, as well as looking at all the areas above I have found that my pain was asking me to go deeper inside myself and connect to the power that lies underneath my sexual pleasure, my sense of my personal power and who I think and I am, to be the one in the drivers seat of my sexuality (and my life). When I am thrusting forward in my hips I am surrendering to power within, releasing all fear, resistance and pain.
A further option is to seek some training in sexual healing for both yourself and your partner with a practitioner you trust, which addresses both the psychological, emotional and energetic release of what you are holding in your body. This is something Annette is intimately familiar with herself and knows the power that sexual healing offers- read her story of healing sexual shame. Check out her Power of Yoni Workshop and Sexual Healing page.
If you would like to find out more about tantric sexual healing email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1800 623 262 to make an appt.
For more on Vulvodynia, physiotherapy for the pelvic floor and/or Naturopathic treatments check out Equilibria where I highly recommend Alyssa Tait