Your cart

Subtotal £0.00 GBP
Tax included and shipping calculated at checkout

Painful Penetration: Why It Happens And What To Do

Painful Penetration: Why It Happens And What To Do

Have you ever been having sex and all of a sudden it hurts? Or maybe you’ve never had penetrative sex because it’s always caused unbearable pain. Well, you’re not alone— seventy five percent of people with a vulva experience painful penetration at some point in their life, and while it’s common, this is no reason to sweep it under the rug. Finding penetration painful can be a sign of an underlying condition, or call for you to find new ways to enjoy sex. This article will reveal six things that could be causing your pain and how to make sex more enjoyable. 

Is it normal to have pain with penetration?

If you grew up consuming mainstream media, it’s likely you (like most people) have been victim to the common misconception that it’s normal for penetration to be painful. While many people do experience pain with penetration, penetration should not be painful and it’s not normal for penetration to hurt, says Emerson Karsh, Kink Educator.  

What causes pain during penetration?

Here are six possible causes of painful penetration: 

  • Lack of arousal. One reason you could be experiencing pain with penetration is if you try to have penetrative sex before you’re fully aroused. Aubri Lancaster, Sex Educator, told Zumio that trying to have penetrative sex when you’re not fully aroused is “like pushing through a collapsed tunnel— it’s not going to work and it might hurt.” 

  • This is because “when a person with a vagina is fully aroused there is something called vaginal tenting that occurs where the cervix pulls up, the walls of the vagina start to relax and lubricate and allow more comfortable penetration” says Lancaster. So having penetrative sex before vaginal tenting occurs causes pain. 

  • Being intersex. A question that people often don’t consider when they experience pain with penetration is if they are intersex. Lancaster says “there is 1% of the population that is intersex and a large number of those people have genital differences.” 

  • These gential difference can cause pain with penetration if, for example, a person’s vagina is not as large as they expect it to be, the vagina has developed so it doesn’t produce as much lubrication, or if there isn’t enough space for the muscles to relax and open, Lancaster explains. 

  • Pelvic floor muscle spasm or vaginismus. Pelvic floor muscle spasm (PFMS) is a condition where the pelvic floor muscles, which are the muscles surrounding the vagina, are constantly tight and cause vaginal pain, says Dr. Jen Gunter in her book The Vagina Bible. Vaginismus is a type of PFMS that occurs when the muscles contract only in anticipation of penetration or insertion, writes Dr. Gunter. 

  • Vaginal Infection. A yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis, and trichomoniasis are some vaginal infections that could be the culprit. However, if a vaingal infection is what’s causing your pain, then you’ll probably notice that you’re not just in pain when you have penetrative sex, but at other times too, Dr. Gunter writes.

  • Low estrogen. If you are breastfeeding, perimenopausal, menopausal, are taking testosterone, or are below your natural body weight and no longer getting your period, you might have low estrogen and this could be causing painful penetration. When your body has low estrogen, typically there is less lubrication and the vaginal walls thin, both of which can lead to painful penetration. 

  • Vulvodynia or vestibulodynia. Vulvodynia is a condition where there is widespread pain anywhere on the vulva. Vestibulodynia is a type of vulvodynia in which the pain is central to the vestibule, according to Dr. Gunter. These conditions are caused by nerve pain and people with vulvodynia typically describe the pain as a burning sensation. 

  • While these are all common causes of painful penetration, there are other factors and conditions that can make penetration hurt, so if you’re experiencing pain, the best thing to do is see a medical provider. 

    How to make penetration less painful

    If you find that penetration is painful, there’s no need to panic— there are lots of different ways to manage your pain and make sex enjoyable. Here are seven ways to make penetration less painful. 

    1. See a medical provider

    If you find that penetration hurts, the first step is consulting your doctor and finding the source of your pain, Karsh tells Zumio. There are many different reasons that penetration could be painful and a doctor can help you determine the cause and the best treatment. 

    2. Be sure you’re fully aroused

    If you think your pain is stemming from having penetrative sex before you’re fully aroused, slow down and take more time to get turned on. It’s normal for it to take 20 minutes or more of kissing, touching, oral, or whatever you enjoy, for your body to reach a state of arousal that is ready for penetration. Incorporating clitoral stimulators, like Zumio’s pin-point precision can help create wetness and increase blood flow.

    3. Try different kinds of penetration

    Vaginal penetration isn’t the only type of penetration there is to enjoy. If penetration really turns you on, but it hurts, you can try oral or anal penetration instead (just be sure you do your research beforehand). There are also different types of sex toys you can use on a penis, like masturbation sleeves or fleshslights, that mimic the sensation of vaginal penetration, if that’s something your partner is excited about, but doesn’t work for you. 

    4. Find alternatives to penetration

    Reguardless of what is causing of your pain, finding alternatives to penetration is usually the best way to make sex less painful. Instead of penetration, you can try things like outercourse, dry humping, oral sex, or giving some love and attention to your clitoris with a finger, vibrator, or toy. If you have an infection or vulvodynia, any gential stimulation might be painful, and if this is the case, you can try things like sensation play or exploring other erogenous zones like the lower back, neck, ears, inner thighs, or even the top of the head.

    5. Use lube or topical creams

    If the source of your pain is low estrogen, lube can help with dryness and also prevent possible tears to your vaginal wall. There are topical creams you can apply to your vulva that will provide localized estrogen to increase lubrication and decrease the thinning of the vaginal walls.  

    6. Try dilators  

    One of the most common ways people treat vaginismus and PFMS is with dilators. Dilators are used in the comfort of your own home by inserting them in your vagina to desensitize the nerves and muscles. Working with a pelvic floor physical therapist or even psychologist can also help ease the pain of vaginismus and PFMS. 

    7. Ask yourself if you really enjoy penetration

    You don’t have to have pentrative sex or even try to make penetration feel better if you don’t want to. Many people feel pressure to have penetrative sex because they’ve learned it is the “ultimate” or only “real” kind of sex, says Lancaster. Sometimes this leads to people embarking on emotionally exhausting journies to try to “fix” their body instead of learning ways to enjoy sex that doesn’t include penetration. Lancaster encourages people to consider if they really enjoy penetration or if they’re only trying to like it because they feel like they have to.



    This website contains adult material and is only suitable for those 18 years or older. Click enter if you are at least 18 years of age