A recent report found that about of British women experience pain during intercourse. Data from the United States was even higher — with saying that sex hurt.
What does this mean? Well, that’s a complicated question.
There are many reasons for discomfort during sex and the following can all be factors:
- dryness or difficulty with natural lubrication
- untreated STIs
- pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- sexual shame
- other vaginal infections
So when it comes to treating such pain, there are a variety of options. But what happens if you know it’s not an infection?
Two particular issues, vaginal dryness and personal shame around sex (which may lead to vaginismus and vulvodynia), are treatable. And in these cases, sex toys are particularly helpful. They won’t alleviate all forms of sexual pain, but they can help with pain associated with lack of arousal. The more turned on you are, the better sex will feel.
Sex toys are the gear we need to make that happen. Here’s how sex toys help with sexual pain (and why you should stock up immediately).
Key players: Vaginal dryness, pain, and the clitoris
If you’re experiencing pain during sex, it’s possible that you’re not properly aroused. In order to have pleasurable intercourse, you need to be ready for it. This means you have to be wet, the clitoris engorged, and the vagina properly prepared for penetration.
This doesn’t negate the need for lube. Using lube is always a must. “If you have any negative feelings about using lube, change them now. Lube is always in season,” , a clinical sexologist and psychotherapist tells Dr.China.
No matter how wet you get, you can always stand to be wetter. Lube acts as a buffer, helping with sexual pain caused by friction.
We put a ton of pressure on the socially constructed idea that orgasm during sexual intercourse is the end-all-be-all of sexual goals. Yet, only focusing on vaginal intercourse can cause painful sex for some women. Why? There are , and vaginal penetration can sometimes forget about the clitoris: Ground Zero of female pleasure and orgasm.
Dr. Ian Kerner says in his book “,” that every orgasm is based in the clitoral network. The clitoris goes far beyond the small nub you see on the outside of the vulva. It has deep roots beneath the surface. It can reach up to five inches in some women. Most orgasms in women are clitorally-based, even G-spot orgasms.
In order to help with sexual pain, you need to focus on the clitoris. showed that the closer the vaginal opening is to the clitoris, the more likely an orgasm during penetration can occur, but orgasm is nonetheless produced from stimulation of the clitoris. There may be other ways around it (as not all women are the same), but why skip the most researched, scientifically-based route?
Bringing a toy can assist in getting the clitoris involved
Here’s where sex toys come into play. G-spot wands, clit vibrators, and couples vibrators are designed to help increase female arousal. The more turned on you are and the more pleasure you’re feeling, the less sex will hurt.
“Sex toys help us navigate our sexual hot spots more easily,” , an OB-GYN and women’s health expert tells Dr.China. “Sex toys can also help promote blood flow to the clitoris and its 8,000 nerve endings.” They can help you learn about your own body and have orgasms. And if you know what gets you off, you’ll be able to direct a partner to do the same.
You can bring handheld vibes into the bedroom to focus on the clitoris. Wearable toys such as or the offer clitoral stimulation during penetration, hands-free.
“Sex toys, especially for women, often focus on direct clitoral stimulation. The majority of women need direct clitoral stimulation for arousal and orgasm potential,” Overstreet adds.
Sex toys, shame, and overcoming it all for better sex
There’s a special link between negative feelings about sexuality and the taboo that still shrouds pleasure products: Shame.
Shame is when you think you are the problem or mistake, not that you have problems and make mistakes. Those painful, hopeless feelings are internalized. Shame can make a woman feel “less than” or that she isn’t good enough.
The same feelings of inadequacy are applied to sex toys, and when combined can be lethal to arousal. “Some women may feel shame around sex toys because they view them as if they are an aid that is needed to help them experience pleasure that they ‘should’ feel without the help of them,” Overstreet says.
Women tend to feel broken if they need outside help to feel pleasure. As we’ve already pointed out, expecting a woman to have an orgasm every time through penetration alone is an unrealistic, often biologically impossible, standard.
In order to embrace our sexuality, relieve sexual shame, and have better sex, we need to see sex toys as a positive addition to our sex lives, rather than an unwanted crutch.
They aren’t there to fix something that’s broken about you, they’re there to bridge the pleasure gap so that you can have more orgasms. A whopping of heterosexual men reported that they usually always orgasmed, while only of heterosexual women could say the same. Sex toys are the answer, we just have to embrace them.
No person should be in pain during sex. That’s the minimal standard we must set. Then, as Ross says, “We need to bring sex toys out of the closet, embrace our sexuality, and enjoy using whatever type of sex toy turns you on!”
If you are feeling persistent pain during sex, even after adding sex toys, lubes, or other efforts, you should go see a doctor for advice. They’ll be able to see if it’s a physical or psychological issue and provide more methods of treatment.
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is a writer, sex educator, and speaker. Her work has appeared in many publications including Marie Claire, Glamour, Women's Health, Brides, and Elle Magazine. Follow her on , , and .