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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

My Vagina Becomes Paralyzed During Sex

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My partner and I have been off and on for five years and been having difficulty with sex. Before, it was that it would always hurt because he’s fairly large, but now we’re past that, and it just doesn’t feel good—I completely can’t feel anything. I am both physically and sexually attracted to him, but it seems like my vagina becomes paralyzed when having sex with him. He just doesn’t hit all the right spots, and this is a major bump in the road in our relationship. What should I do?

There are two different things that could be happening here. One is that you could be experiencing what is sometimes called dyspareunia, or painful sex. Dyspareunia is an “umbrella term” for painful sex that can be caused by a number of different conditions; one is vaginismus, which is an involuntary spasm in the vaginal muscles that can make penetration of the vagina painful or impossible. When you say that your “vagina becomes paralyzed” during sex, this sounds to me like it may be vaginismus.

Vaginismus can be treated through physical therapy, counseling, and/or using tools such as vaginal dilators or PC muscle exercisers. I’d suggest consulting a health-care provider who is familiar with treating painful sex and will not just dismiss it as being “all in your head.” There are a couple of books that I usually recommend on this topic, When Sex Hurts and Healing Painful Sex.  If you read these before seeing a health care provider, you’ll be better able to advocate for yourself.

You also say “he just doesn’t hit all the right spots,” which makes me think that the issue may be one of sexual satisfaction rather than sexual functioning. Lack of sexual desire or lack of sexual arousal, even when you are attracted to a partner, are issues that many women deal with. Sometimes there are medical reasons for lack of desire or arousal, but this can also be caused by stress or relationship problems. Our sexual functioning is hugely impacted by our mental health. That being the case, it’s good to talk with your partner and/or a therapist about stress or relationship issues that could be affecting your level of sexual desire or arousal and work on these issues together.

You can also explore new types of sexual activity that are more arousing and fulfilling for you—for instance, if vaginal penetration is usually the “main event” when you have sex with your partner, why not focus instead on oral sex, mutual masturbation or using toys? There’s no rule that says that vaginal penetration must be included every time you have sex.

Laura Anne Stuart owns the Tool Shed, an erotic boutique on Milwaukee’s East Side. She has a master’s degree in public health and has worked as a sexuality educator for more than fifteen years. Want Laura to answer your questions in SEXPress? Send them to laura@shepex.com. Not all questions received will be answered in the column, and Laura cannot provide personal answers to questions that do not appear here. Questions sent to this address may be reproduced in this column, both in print and online, and may be edited for clarity and content.