We hear a lot from people terrified that first intercourse is going to be incredibly painful, and the image above has come up over and over again on virginity tweets (anyone know where it's from?).
That might be because sometimes first intercourse can be painful, but more likely because that idea has been reinforced in our culture and there's not nearly enough conversation about what people with vaginas (and their partners) can do to lessen or eliminate the pain.
Because, guess what, it doesn't necessarily have to hurt! It's just that most people are scared, or tense, or unprepared, or don't take generous amounts of time to relax the pelvic muscles through other kinds of sexual activity. And if it does really hurt, they might have a physical problem that needs to be addressed by a gynecologist. Either way, living with pain is not the answer.
So I was really happy that two stories crossed my radar recently about intercourse and pain:
The first story is from a woman who was diagnosed with vaginismus, a condition that makes intercourse painful or often impossible (you can find other stories about it on our blog here, here, here and here).
It broke up her marriage and caused her a lot of physical and emotional pain, but in this excerpt from xoJane's It Happened To Me: My Husband Divorced Me After Four Years Because I Was Still A Virgin, she describes how she dealt with it and eventually overcame it.
"I kept at it with the dilators, more determined than ever. I did kegels. I did meditation. I did everything. About a year after the divorce was final, I had sex for the first time. I had been dating a wonderful guy...with a smaller than average penis. I didn’t tell him I was a virgin, but I did tell him sex was difficult for me sometimes.
One night after several bottles of red wine and a lot of lube, it happened. In the two years since that first time, I’ve had sex on a regular basis. I fell in love with the guy with a below average penis and married him three-and-a-half months ago. He loves me for me. It still hurts at the beginning of sex almost every time. We still have to use lube almost every time. But, I guess we are doing it right because I’m five months pregnant."
The second story is from our friend Sa Belle Femme, about how she and her husband-to-be prepared for intercourse without pain. Here's an excerpt from Virgin Myths: Popping Her Cherry:
"If I hadn't spent so much time reading up on virginity and first-time coitus, I would have just accepted the cultural narrative that my wedding day sex would be painful. Instead, I was able to prepare for the first time Beau and I had coitus, to guarantee that our married sex would be awesome (or at least pain-free) the first time. Long story short, we used lots of lube, and I was on top so I could control both the angle and speed of entry."
She'll be writing in detail about her methods on her blog, including some info about a set of nifty dilators that worked wonders. They also talk about it in our film How To Lose Your Virginity.