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Is sex actually painful, or is that just a myth?

The answer depends on a number of factors.

If you own a hymen, the first time you have intercourse can hurt, especially if your hymen hasn’t yet fully torn ( sports and tampon usage wear down and thin the hymen over time). Bleeding is also a possibility, so don’t freak out. You may experience some residual pain and bleeding after your first time having intercourse, as a result of your hymen fully stretching. This is totally normal. It is also common to feel no pain when having intercourse for the first time, either from the natural wear down of your hymen or being born with a smaller one. Hymens come in many shapes and sizes, so pain levels vary widely among people with vaginas. If you do feel pain during your first time having intercourse, most people often describe it as a burning or stretching sensation. Soreness can also leave a mildly painful sensation a few days after.

A few other things can contribute to painful sex (sans tearing your hymen):

Painful Sex Contributors

Reproductive Tract Disorders

A wide variety of reproductive tract disorders may cause pain during sex, especially during deep penetration. This includes endometriosis, cystic fibroids, PCOS, etc. If you suspect you may have one of these conditions, please do not hesitate to speak to a gynecologist! They are the best suited individual to help you sort out possible solutions to painful sex.


Sexually transmitted infections, urinary tract infections, vaginitis, and injured vaginal canals cause inflammation in the pelvic region. Sex may aggravate these symptoms and cause burning and uncomfortable sensations during intercourse. That is why it's so important to practice safe sex (hello condom envelopes), and get tested for STIs if you have had unprotected sex.

Lack of foreplay

A lack of foreplay is perhaps the most common contributor to painful sex for people with vaginas. Lubrication is an essential aspect of any kind of penetration. Proper commitment to foreplay, which can include kissing, massaging, clitoral stimulation, etc., encourages your body to lubricate and prepare for intercourse. Regardless of your natural level of wetness during foreplay, lube can work wonders and make intercourse a smooth and less painful ordeal.

Foreplay also allows for the relaxation of vaginal muscles, that, when tensed, can cause pain during sex. Feeling unsure or stressed during penetration can worsen pain levels, so it's always important to keep an open line of communication between you and your partner to ensure maximum levels of pleasure.

How to prevent painful sex

The rundown on painful sex: when in doubt, talk to your OB. They will be able to best treat underlying conditions that may impact pleasure during sex. If you feel as though the pain is caused by a lack of foreplay or you’re worried about your first time, here are some tips.

Do some personal exploration

The best way to find out what you like and what you don't like, what hurts and what feels good, is by exploring your own body. Masturbation is a great way to figure out your boundaries, favorite positions and maneuvers, and what best helps prepare your body for intercourse.

Invest in toys

Toys can be a great way to initiate foreplay, and can help you not only feel pleasure during sex, since only about 25% of people with vaginas have reported orgasming from penetration alone, but can also help with lubrication and muscle relaxation, to ensure smooth sailing during intercourse.

Talk to your partner

If you are worried about having sex for the first time, talking to your sexual partner can help reduce levels of discomfort and pain. Your first time having sex does NOT have to suck. There is nothing wrong with asking for your partner to be gentle and thoughtful. Going slow and paying special attention to preparing for penetration can end in a better experience for both parties.

The pain may sound scary (which is totally valid–I feel you), but if at any point during sex it becomes so painful that you want to stop, do not hesitate to communicate this to your partner. You should never feel pressured to do something that hurts you and your amazing body!


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