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The Penetration Problem: What To Do When Sex Hurts

“It’s as if I’m sewn shut.”
“It feels like even a finger would be too much.”
“My partner can barely get inside me before it hurts too much to carry on.”

They don’t exactly read like the start of a raunchy bedtime book, do they?

What Do I Do About It?!

Humans are good at finding solutions. But, some problems have too many facets for there to be a simple solution, and no matter how much doctors might press horse pee on us (yes, really), or shrug their shoulders, it isn’t the answer we need. We’re as guilty as anyone preaching healthy living and top tips, because, ultimately, those things do matter. It does matter that you eat well and that you keep yourself clean, but you can stuff yourself with kale and apples till you’re blue in the face and it still won’t fix everything.

The human body is complicated, and it is closely tied to the psyche. Menopause is a key time in a woman’s life that often holds as much emotional and mental adjustment as it does physical. We understand that some changes in diet and supplementation can be helpful, but they won’t necessarily fix dryness or a waning libido.

So, today, we are going to do a little penetrative work and help decode why it is that penetration can be so painful, and what you can do about it.


Why is Penetration Painful?

There are several reasons why penetration is painful;

  • Thinning skin of the vagina due to hormonal changes means tearing and burning around the labia minora and majora. This means getting ‘through the gate’ is so painful you are forced to stop. As time goes on, inflammation can occur which intensifies the problem. This situation is also known as vaginal atrophy.
  • Muscular tightening, to the point of pain, otherwise known as vaginismus, can occur on it’s own, but can worsen as you experience more pain and anxiety.
  • It is very rare, but some women suffer from dyspareunia, which is a small vaginal opening.
  • Psychology - once pain takes hold, we can often exacerbate the situation by involuntary tensing causing a vicious cycle of pain that worsens over time.

So, how do I fix it?

Fortunately, there are ways to help your body and your brain overcome the stranglehold of penetrative pain.

  • Lube; while lube won’t fix the problem, it is absolutely necessary for enjoyable sex as your body begins to make less of its own natural lubricant. There are a lot of great brands out there, but coconut oil is also an easy, affordable, and safe option. Take a little longer to share the lube time, more play leads to greater relaxation and less tensing.
  • Therapy; be it in the traditional sense, the talking to your friends (or the women in our Sisterhood) or the journaling kind, is valuable. Exploring your own attitudes to menopause, sex, and pain is key to uncovering potential triggers or potential turn-ons that can help you avoid pain and find pleasure.
  • Self Love; when you’re in pain, it can be hard to have someone else (a partner) in the driving seat. Thankfully there is a solution to this - we can enjoy our own bodies in a variety of ways - from a steamy bubble bath to new toys and exploratory masturbation. You can discover your pleasure points at your own pace. This article looks at the plethora of sex toys available nowadays, many of which are not penetration-based, to help ease you back into penetrative sex and find new fun things you enjoy!
  • Meditation and relaxation; once the cycle of pain (and fear) begins, it can be hard to slow that train down. Meditating or finding techniques that allow you to let go of some of the mental attachment to your pain and discomfort can help reduce involuntary muscle tightening.
  • Estriol Cream; localized estriol cream delivers hormones to the vagina, helping to rejuvenate the cells and increase production of your own lubricant. This can help heal a lot of the pain and discomfort associated with vaginal atrophy. Silky Peach is a low-level, topical, estriol cream that can help reduce pain, discomfort, itching, and tearing, and is applied directly to the vagina.

Remember, penetration is your prerogative. There are plenty of other ways to be sexually intimate with a partner, from massage to oral sex, which can be a lot more comfortable and just as enjoyable. (And there are plenty of toys to help in that area too!)

Let go of the notion of penetration as the ‘home run’ of sex and intimacy, and allow yourself and your body some time to heal and to explore other possibilities. Here at Parlor Games, we’re here to answer any questions you might have and help you in your journey to a happier vagina!