Q&A: Reducing Pain During First Time Sex

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QUESTION: Soon I am going to have sex for the first time and I have heard that it hurts for women, which scares me. What can you suggest for it to not hurt me?

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A woman’s first experience, or first several experiences, with vaginal intercourse are sometimes uncomfortable and, occasionally, may even be painful.

If a woman has never before had vaginal penetration such as with her own or a partner’s fingers, a sex toy or even a tampon, then her vaginal entrance may be largely covered by her hymen. When the hymen – which is a thin area of tissue that is filled with tiny blood vessels – tears, a woman may or may not notice vaginal bleeding, and she may or may not feel discomfort or pain.

Lack of Information

The tearing of the hymen is not the only reason why a woman may feel discomfort or pain when she first starts having sex. Often times, women may experience uncomfortable sex due to a lack of information about sex.

For example, by the time women first start having sex, they may have never learned that using a personal lubricant can make sex more comfortable or pleasurable. Or else they may not have learned that spending more time in foreplay before starting penetration can help a woman’s body to create more natural vaginal lubrication, which can also make sex feel more comfortable and pleasurable.

Ready To Have Sex?

And while many adults often encourage young women and men to wait to have sex until they are older, until they are married or until they are in love, adults may not spend enough time talking to young women and men about some of the benefits of waiting until they are feeling ready to have sex.

For example, when two people feel uncomfortable with each other and unsure how to talk to each other about sex, then the sex itself is perhaps less likely to feel comfortable or pleasurable. However, when two people feel comfortable talking to each other about sex, and have spent time considering the emotional and physical risks of having sex – and how they plan to deal with such risks – then they are better situated to experienced more relaxed, pleasurable, comfortable sex.

Feeling Comfortable: Physically and Emotionally

Before you begin having sex, you might consider ways that you can feel not just physically comfortable (such as through the use of a lubricant or taking your time to begin with gentle penetration), but also ways that you can feel emotionally comfortable with your sexual choices.

You and your partner might ask each other about how having sex with affect your relationship, or your expectations for exclusivity, or your plans for reducing the risk of pregnancy or infection.

Recommended Reading

You can learn more about having sex and how to make it more comfortable by reading S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-To-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College by Heather Corinna.

Dr. Debby Herbenick (M.P.H., Ph.D.)

is a sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, Associate Director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University and author of several books including Sex Made Easy and Because It Feels Good: A Woman's Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction.
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