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Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013

Using Dilators to Make Sex More Comfortable

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Every once in a while at Ye Olde Sex Toy Shoppe, there seems to be a distinct uptick in people coming in to ask about a specific topic. Recently, we’ve had quite a few folks seeking more information about using dilators to make vaginal penetration more comfortable. Some are sent by their health care providers, while others visit after frustrating, painful attempts at sex. The three most common situations in which dilators might be helpful are menopause, dyspareunia, and gender confirmation surgery for trans* women.   

I will never stop encouraging people to “think outside the box” when it comes to sex. We are socialized to think that “sex” means “penis-in-vagina penetration” and that everything else is some kind of foreplay, fetish or perversion. For many people, PIV sex is just not possible, and we would all benefit from expanding our sexual repertoires. At the same time, we can’t ignore the immense symbolic value of vaginal penetration and how central it is to our views of heterosexuality and woman-ness. The ability to experience vaginal penetration can be very important to some people’s identities and relationships.

Dilators are tools that can increase comfort with vaginal penetration. They usually come in a set that starts with a small dilator, sometimes no bigger than a pinkie finger, and includes other dilators that gradually increase in diameter and length. Some vibrate, and some do not. Most people use dilators at regular intervals outside of a sexual context, inserting a well-lubricated dilator vaginally and increasing the size of the dilator they are using as their bodies become accustomed to them. Using dilators allows people to experiment with penetration in a low-pressure environment without the worry of pleasing or disappointing a partner. Dilators also help make vaginal tissue elastic and increase blood flow to the vagina, which helps with lubrication. They’re like any other exercise tool, designed to make the body strong and resilient with consistent use.

If you or your partner are experiencing pain or tenderness during vaginal penetration, dilators can be a useful tool. No one should have to settle for pain during sex (unless, of course, pain is the sensation that you’re trying to achieve).

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.

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