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Ever since losing my virginity, every time I have sex is excruciatingly painful. Help!
BY sarah jaffe
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Dear Miss Info,
I have been dating my wonderful boyfriend for nearly ten months. I was a complete and utter virgin when we started dating (ok, I'd given one guy a drunken handjob once, but other than that, I had done nothing besides kiss). My very experienced boyfriend has been absolutely spectacular at gently and lovingly teaching me about how wonderful the physical aspects of a relationship can be. We have slowly progressed from using our hands to using our mouths, until I decided I was ready to have sex with him last week. He has been incredibly kind and patient, and has always emphasized that he enjoys sexual activities as a way to show how much he loves me, not as the end-all be-all of the relationship.
Unfortunately, losing my virginity proved to be a truly horrible experience. Our first time was so incredibly painful that I ended up crying in the fetal position -- and that was just him penetrating me, without any movement. It took two or three more tries for me to be able to tolerate him moving at all, and even now, sex involves me trying to tolerate the pain long enough for him to come. To be clear, he feels horrible about the pain, he goes down on me until I get off each time we have sex, and I am the driving force behind why we are trying this at least once a day, in the hopes that it will start hurting less. I'm going to see my gyno soon, but how do I deal with the feelings of resentment that I am having? I am the one who initiates sex, and I am the one who is choosing to try again and again with the same results. I feel like I am failing as a woman since I am having so much pain, but I also feel angry at my boyfriend sometimes, for being able to get off while I am miserable. I am hoping that eventually the pain will stop being an issue, and thus the resentment will stop as well, but what do I do in the meantime?
—Oh, the Pain!
Dear Oh, the Pain!,
I hope by the time this week’s column goes to print you’ve already been to see your lady-doctor, but in case you have not, close your laptop and go to the gynecologist, go directly to the gynecologist, do not pass go, do not collect $200. If you’ve not been to see the doctor yet, and you’ve been having sex daily to try to break through the pain, stop it right now and keep the action clitoral until you go get a checkup and legitimate medical advice. Pain during intercourse can be symptomatic of several different issues, and yours sounds like it could very well be endometriosis, vaginosis, vaginitis, or vaginismus among other things, and continued attempts to hop on the good foot and do the bad thing won’t help – you’ll just inflame your sensitive bits further.
Since you don’t describe any other symptoms (a history of yeast infections or super-heinous period pain, strange discharges, discomfort during any other activities) and the odds are low that you’ve got any STDs (I’m assuming your “very experienced” boyfriend was tested and came back with a clean bill of health before you got down and dirty, right? Right?), my money’s on vaginismus or dyspareunia. These are conditions that are defined mostly by serious discomfort during intercourse, and that are absolutely treatable. Your doctor can advise better than I, but rest assured that happier days and better sex lie ahead.
But hey, on to the non-medical issue: your resentment of your body for not feeling pleasure, and toward your boyfriend for getting off when you can’t. Your frustration is understandable. There is a particular pain to learning that your body has been keeping a secret from you, and it’s easy to feel betrayed when it won’t do what you want it to. But please don’t let it make you feel like a failure as a woman: you wouldn’t let anyone else define you by your vagina, would you? You’d get angry if someone else suggested your worth lay in whether or not you could happily be penetrated by a penis, wouldn’t you?
Sex is awesome, but it’s not what makes you you. You’ve got a brain, interests, dreams, and love in your life. You have a partner who cares about you, and who wants to make you feel good. Don’t toss that aside. You’ll sort out the issues that are causing you physical pain quickly enough; don’t let the emotional pain eclipse it to the point where only sex can validate you (though that Peaches song is catchy, it’s not always perfect advice). Until you’ve got a hold on whatever’s ailing you and everything downstairs is on the up-and-up, don’t give yourself a reason to feel resentful.
You say your boyfriend feels terrible about the pain, so even if he’s getting off, it’s probably not great sex for him either (guilt makes a terrible aphrodisiac), and it’s not fair to either of you to push through something unpleasant out of sheer stubbornness. Take the pressure off! Use your hands, use your mouths, and level the playing field. Listen to your body and make sure you both get off in the ways that work for you at this moment. Hell, go out for a fabulous meal and a night out to just enjoy each other’s company! You can take another stab at penetration later, once you can both actually enjoy it. Otherwise, what’s the point? If you’re doing something that makes you feel like crap inside and out, your attempts to come together are going to pull you apart. Feel better, be patient with yourself, and go see your doctor this instant!
*Please write back and let Miss Info know the diagnosis!
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