Helloooooo, Sparklers! Before you read any further, a word of warning: this is a very specific letter about a sex-related problem (including references to the act colloquially known as “going downtown”.) If you don’t think you can handle some straightforward talk about ladyparts and the HND, now’s your chance to make a screaming beeline for the door.
This may be a little… detailed? open? straightforward? for some Sparklers but I really trust your advice. Me and my boyfriend have been together for many months now. At the start of the summer we had sex for the first time. It was not my first time having sex, but it still hurt pretty badly. It took another few weeks before we were active again and still, it hurt terribly. I asked a bunch of my friends and they said after the first time or two it stopped hurting as much and they began to enjoy it so I persisted…. but it never got any better. It’s not just sex though. Touching is generally an enjoyable experience but when it comes to *ahem* oral *ahem* it’s too much for me to handle and it becomes painful because there’s just too much sensation.
Before I was with my boyfriend I had a casual fling with another boy and although sex was always painful with him as well, I continued to have it because I was trying to break myself in I guess? I just wanted my body to get past that uncomfortable adjustment phase.
My boyfriend feels unwanted and it’s beginning to hurt his self-esteem that I always turn him down. I enjoy intimacy up until a certain point, so we always get really into it, and then I tone things down and he gets frustrated. I’m basically being a ginormous tease. But I just don’t know what to do. He really cares about me and it’s not just about getting off for him, he’s very giving when we’re intimate—which is something I should enjoy but simply cannot! I’ve tried to explain it to him, but he just thinks he’s doing something wrong: that he’s “not good”, I’m not attracted to him, etc. I’m crazy about him and none of that is true and it’s very upsetting! Is there any way I can help the situation?! Something I can do to prove to him that he shouldn’t believe those horrible things? Or ideally something I can do so that I don’t want to cry every time I’m touched for too long or too hard?
Yes! Yes, there is! And depending upon where you live, Sparkler, you might already have figured it out—because about halfway through your letter, Auntie started shouting, “OHMIGOD! GO TO THE DOCTOR!” loud enough to be heard at least three states away.
And to all of you dear, sweet readers, please let this be a public service announcement from the Department of Taking Care of Your Parts: with the possible exception of your first couple times, sex should not be painful. If it hurts, something is wrong—and that might be a medical condition that needs to be treated, or it might be an unskilled partner who needs to be educated, but regardless, sex should not hurt.
Which is why right now, you should make an immediate trek to the office of your friendly neighborhood gyno, so that you can be fully checked out for anything that might be causing problems. This is non-optional, okay? If you’re sexually active, you should be getting a pelvic exam and STI screening every year, anyway—and in this case, you should start out by telling your doctor, with as much detail as possible, that you’re experiencing pain during sex. Go on, go make your appointment. We’ll wait.
…Okay! And now that you’re back from the gyno (you did go, right?), there’s just one more thing:
Even if there’s something going on with your body, it’s still probably not the whole problem.
Which is where we get into squicky territory, but it nevertheless needs to be said: when two inexperienced people do the HND, they can sometimes make mistakes that make things difficult, painful, or just not much fun. Trying to do the deed without proper lubrication is a common one; failing to understand the nature of a lady’s ladybusiness is another, which is especially problematic when (as you seem to) the lady in question doesn’t know her own body particularly well. And when you mention your issue with oral sex (that it feels like “too much sensation”), all kinds of red flags go up—because it’s the extremely common result of an unskilled, overenthusiastic partner going downtown too fast, too hard, too soon, so that all your very, very sensitive parts become overstimulated and uncomfortable.
Which is natural, normal, and not anyone’s fault, but which also can only be fixed by some straightforward instruction to the guy in question to stop jackhammering around down there.
So if what you say is true, that you do enjoy certain types of touching but can’t enjoy yourself when your boyfriend is touching you “too hard” or “too long,” then your body is not the problem. It’s that he needs to stop touching it that way. And if you don’t know what way he should touch you instead, then now is the time to do some research into your own sexuality. Figure out on your own what, if anything, you do find pleasurable. (We’ve done a post on this subject before; if you want additional deets, Scarleteen is a great site that deals with all of this stuff in-depth.) If sex is painful, take it off the table for now and focus on gentler activities you both enjoy. Demonstrate to your boyfriend what feels good to you, instead of making him play impossible guessing games about how to stimulate body parts he doesn’t even have—and when it’s your turn, encourage him to communicate with you, too.
Because enjoying yourself requires the self-awareness to know what you like, and being “good” at the HND is about adjusting your technique to your partner’s tastes, not the other way around. And in a healthy relationship, you should be able to be comfortable, be giving, and be able to say, “No, not like that; like this” without anybody getting his feelings hurt… and be having a lot more fun as a result.