Penetrative vaginal sex is not supposed to hurt, but studies show that 8-22 % experience pain (a single study only focused on trans men showed that 10 % of this group experiences pain). The pains are subjective and can be acute or more chronic, as well as primary (always present) or secondary.
This article was written by Helle B. Krogh, doctor, PhD student at Sexological Clinic where she's working on examining the link between
psychiatric disorders and sexual life, and co-founder of Normkritiske Læger (Normcritical Doctors).
Pain in the vagina as a result of penetration from sextoys, a finger or a penis (also known under the term painful intercourse) can all be characterized with the term dyspareunia. Dyspareunia describes the persistent and recurring pains in the attempt to have or during the actual penetration. The pain can feel different depending on the placement; it can feel like burning, stinging, a sharp digging or "thrusting-pains", and they can be chronic or a kind of situational pain. The pain can be located at the entrance, along the vagina or at the very bottom - depending on placement, the cause for the pains can be different and both physical and mental factors play a part. The pain can stem from the vagina or the vulva, but can also be related to other organs related to the lower abdomen, like the colon or the muscles in the pelvic floor. Physical reasons for the pain can be things like infections, little cuts and tears, scar tissue, hormonal changes, birth trauma, ovarian cysts, uterine prolapse or diseases like endometriosis and lichen sclerosus, just to name a few. People with vulvas who experience dyspareunia often have an overactive pelvic floor musculature, which might be one of multiple factors creating the pains. If you have always experienced pain during penetration, it might be due to a congenital issue, like a thick mucous membrane at the entrance of the vagina, or other anatomical factors. Psychologically speaking, the pain might stem from a fear of being penetrated, maybe if you have previously experienced pain from penetration, like a transgressive sexual experience, or it might be connected to a certain mental disorder, like people with vulvas with depression, who as a group experience more pain during penetrative sex than other.
Pain during penetration can affect you sexual life and desire, and it can lead to avoidant behavior or cause other sexual dysfunctions, like a reduced ability to achieve orgasm or get wet. Vaginal pain should never be accepted, and if you experience any sort of pain, both acute or chronic pain during penetration, you should consult your doctor or a gynecologist to figure out the reason behind it.
Hvad is Normkritiske Læger (Normcritical Doctors)?
Normkritiske Læger (@normkritiskelaeger) is an association of doctors and other healthcare professionals working against discrimination in the healthcare field, taking a zero-tolerance stance against sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, fat phobia and ableism in the healthcare system.
You can also read another article written by Normkritiske Læger about "the myth of the virginity - from a medical perspective" here