This will be a short, but I believe, very important post:
One of the many awful results of inadequate, misinformed, or nonexistent sex education, is the prevalent issue of untreated sexual pain disorders.
Pain with intercourse (also called “dyspareunia”) is a very, very common and very, very treatable issue, in the vast majority of cases.
BUT we can only treat what we know about.
If someone believes that painful sex is “normal” or that it’s so “abnormal” that it’s too shameful to deal with, then they will probably not seek help, and continue to suffer, unnecessarily, and indefinitely.
(I know how common this is and how long it can go on because I see it firsthand in my work.)
Women, couples, really, are traumatized, for great lengths of time- often for years, because they were deprived of the critical piece of information that intercourse should be PLEASURABLE and definitely not painful.
This problem is troubling enough in its own right, but has ripple effects too:
It can harm the emotional relationship.
It can affect the mental health of one or both partners- generating depression, anxiety, or PTSD.
It distorts one of life’s greatest pleasures into a source of pain, shame, tension, and distress.
Sometimes, well meaning professionals (and nonprofessionals) will say things like: “Sometimes that’s just the way it is- there’s not much you can do about it,” “Just fake it til you make it,” or “You need to push past the pain to be there for your partner.” Sorry, but this is terrible advice.
Sexual pain can and should be treated by practitioners who have experience and training in this field. There are so many helpful options and interventions available – medical, physiological, technical, psychoeducational, relational, and often a combination.
If you’re suffering from painful sex, please know that this is NOT how it’s supposed to be, you should not have to continue like this. A good place to start is by speaking with your general doctor or gynecologist, but most frequently sex therapists and pelvic floor specialized physical therapists are most effective. And it can sometimes take more than one try to find the clinicians who are the right fit for you.
It can feel overwhelming to begin your treatment, and so while books are not a replacement for actual treatment, they can help you educate yourself as you begin and progress through your healing journey.*
No matter how long you have been suffering, it’s not too late to seek help- it can be life-changing and you deserve this.
To learn about how we can do a better job preparing the next generation for healthy adult sexuality, see this: Religious Parent's Guide to Healthy, Holy Sex Education
(*Two good titles on the subject are: Healing Painful Sex by Coady and Fish and When Sex Hurts by Goldstein and Pukall, but there are plenty more.)