By AnonymousSex Columnist
Painful sex does not have to be a thing. People with vaginas have been told literally since the beginning of forever that their first encounter with penetrative sex will include blood, pain, and the popping of their "cherry." This myth is so old, it is truly is marvelous that it (and variations of it) continue to be taken as truth. It has been repackaged in various, era-appropriate language, and justified with flawed logic posing as medical fact. I am here to tell you that the idea that penetrative sex is painful and that your hymen will be broken by first-time penetration is a lie. I am probably not the first one to tell you this, as many sex educators have been shouting this idea from the rooftops for years, but I am here to drive the point home that painful sex is not a thing that one should have to endure (unless you are into that sort of thing). And if I am the first one to tell you this, then listen up! You've got some patriarchal indoctrination to unlearn. Let's start out with a common idea of what a sexual debut is like. People with vaginas are told, among other things, that their first time having their vagina penetrated will be painful, that they will bleed, that their hymen will be broken or perforated by the penetrating object, and that they will be especially "tight," and that this will be desirable. This image is considered "normal" or "okay," and young vagina-possessors many times approach the idea of their sexual debut with mixed feelings of excitement and fear. The idea that your partner's pleasure must come at the price of you experiencing pain and bleeding is not healthy nor is it conducive to a healthy sexual relationship.* You do not have to expect or endure a sexual debut that is painful. You do not have to expect or endure a sexual debut that causes you to bleed or your "cherry" to "pop." Here is why. Your hymen is a much more complicated piece of female anatomy than most people characterize it. While there are a small, small portion of the population that are born with hymens that are completely closed (imperforate hymens), the large majority of vagina owners have hymens that are flexible and more than able to accommodate objects of penetration. Hymens come in all different shapes and sizes and, for the most part, have already stretched to varying degrees by the time one decides to have penetrative sex. The crucial thing to remember that vaginas do not "pop" when they make their penetrative debut and vagina-possessors should not be in pain during penetrative sex if they have been properly warmed up and have communicated with their partner(s). It does not matter if it is one's first time; ALL vagina-possessors who have no other medical complications are capable of having pain-free penetrative sex. That being said, even if it is not your first time engaging in penetrative sex, vagina-possessors do not have to put up with pain either. For me, and for many of my friends, painful, uncomfortable, and unpleasurable penetrative sex was something that we put up with often. Despite the fact that I pride myself on being an assertive person, there was something about patriarchal notions of female sacrifice in the bedroom that was hard for me to shake. I encourage every vagina-possessor (that does not have underlying medical conditions) to look at painful penetrative sex as a problem with logistics that can be solved through communication, foreplay, or lube (or a combination of all three); it is not a fate they must subject themselves to as a vagina-possessor nor is it a sacrifice they must make for their partner's pleasure. There are many contributing factors to why penetration can be painful for a vagina-possessor. Anxiety, poor communication, not enough foreplay, the wrong kind of foreplay, not enough lubrication, long fingernails, mismatched penetrative object/vagina length, or the wrong position can all contribute to painful penetration. I encourage all partners to be clear to each other about what feels good AND what doesn't feel good.
Foreplay is essential to pleasurable penetration. Experiment with yourself and with your partner(s) to see what feels good. A fundamental part of foreplay is asking for enough time and attention to be properly warmed up before penetration. Not only does the right amount of time allow for vaginas to lubricate themselves for comfortable penetration, but it also lengthens the vagina and allows the cervix to sit higher up than it usually does. This ensures that there will be no cervix-bumping during penetration, which is a very painful and dangerous side effect of insufficient foreplay. If you find that even after adequate foreplay you are still in pain, there are two solutions. Sometimes vaginas will not produce enough natural lubricant to accommodate penetrating objects, which can happen even with adequate foreplay. If there is not enough lubrication, lube is always a good way to go. In general, you should already be using lube if you wearing condoms. But if you and your partner are not, lube is a great way to solve lack of lubrication or to add to the lubrication the vagina is already producing on its own. If, after foreplay, vagina-possessors still find their cervix being bumped by their partner's penetrative object, the size and length of the penetrative object should be changed. Some vagina-possessors simply have shorter vaginas, or their partners have extra long penetrative objects. In some cases, where the penetrative object's size can be changed, in the case of fingers, dildos, strap-ons, vibrators, etc. it would be worth it to consider using a shorter alternative. In the case of a penis, different positions can control how deep the penis penetrates, therefore alleviating the cervix bumping. Spooning and spooning variations are more shallow positions, while cowgirl and its variations allow the vagina-possessor to be in control of the depth of penetration. The key to all of these solutions is talking openly and honestly to your partner(s) about what works for you and what feels good. A thing to keep in mind is that there are few differences between a vagina-possessor who has had penetrative sex before and one who has not. The discourse we, as a society, have engaged in forever has been one that emphasizes the value of a vagina-possessor who has not had their vagina penetrated. This idea reinforces the importance of men and their ability to own and claim women. While the sensation of penetration may be new to some vagina-possessors who have yet had their sexual debut, and some hymens have not been stretched as much as others, there is certainly not a visual difference between vaginas that have been penetrated and vaginas that have not. Kegel muscle tone is behind the "tightness" of a vagina, not penetration status. Tightness is also a sign that the vagina is not properly aroused, not a sign that your partner(s) is properly attending to your foreplay needs. While many have heard this spiel before, it is important enough to say again, and important to emphasize that even vagina-possessors who consider themselves pros at penetrative sex can run into times when penetrative sex is painful. Pain is not a sign of penetrative sex inexperience. Pain is not something that vagina-possessors have to endure. Pain is a sign that there is something amiss, and if it cannot be solved by adjusting the variables I mentioned above, please, please, please go to your doctor and ask for help. Sex should be fun and should make you feel good. I encourage everyone to take charge of their pleasure, and sometimes that means addressing why there is none. *I am in no way saying that pain and sex are never supposed to interact. For some, pain and sex go hand in hand, especially in BDSM communities. However, there is a big difference between submitting consensually to having pain inflicted on you because it gives you pleasure, and enduring painful penetration because one has internalized patriarchal notions that female pleasure should not exist.