Sex and pain: stories of women living without intimacy

One in ten women in Britain are experiencing pain when having sex — this is evidenced by the results of large scale studies involving more than 7,000 women.

The causes can be both physiological and psychological. We talked with four women, for whom sex is accompanied by pain.

“We had sex once a year”

34-year-old Natasha Kilby was experiencing pain when having sex with a regular partner. After a course of treatment the couple was married in December 2016.

“The problems began in University. Every time I thought about sex, I felt terrible, I didn’t want him to touch me”.

“In the end, I was diagnosed with a rare form of candidiasis. But by that time because of the pain I began to experience psychological problems.”

“I could have sex only after drinking heavily or using force forcing yourself to do it. All this upset my partner.”

“I had a feeling that our relationship is not real. For some time we have had sex only once a year. I didn’t want to get married as long as we do not solve this problem. I thought that can’t be a full wife because our sex life consisted of kissing on the cheek”.

“I started to attend the tutorials and they helped. Now our relationship is improving. The thought of children seemed unreal. Today, however, everything is much better.”

“I want to have sex, but can’t physically”

19-year-old Hannah Bradley has always experienced pain during sex.

“The sex was painful the first time three years ago. I went to the doctor, he suggested to change the contraceptive. Then I was treated with vaginismus, I underwent the procedure cauterization of the cervix, but this has not solved the problem.”

“Two months I spent in a course of psychosexual therapy. But I’m sure my problem is not emotional, but physical. Now they think I have scarring and narrowing of the vagina due to untreated sclerosing lichen”.

“It was very difficult to accept the fact that I couldn’t have sex. I could not talk normally with friends. It seemed to me that I don’t understand their life.”

“I was hurt, and I envied their experience. I don’t feel like it. Most people my age are sexually active, but I can’t. And I was still upset. My partner understands, but that upsets him too. I want sex but can’t do it physically.”

“I hope that the situation will soon improve, but no one knows what’s wrong with me. I’m still young and sex should be part of my life.”

“I blamed myself”

20-year-old Sarah (name changed) is unable to have sex due to a very severe pain. This was the reason for the breakup of her relationship with her boyfriend.

“Gradually, sexual intercourse became increasingly painful, and eventually the pain became so strong that sex was impossible. My vagina has shrunk to such an extent that any attempt of penetration was over in excruciating pain”.

“All of this coincided with the physiological and psychological symptoms of vaginismus, so I decided to go to the University clinic”.

“The nurse asked me every day to stretch the vagina with your fingers and look at the result after a couple of months. However, it was absolutely useless. After that, my confidence dropped even more.”

“Later my therapist suggested that the cause may be purely psychological: my brain associates sex with pain, so my body is doing everything possible to prevent this pain.”

“Because of this I often experienced anger, fear, anxiety, feel inferior, lonely, depressed. I’m afraid not only sex, but any form of intimacy. I lost all interest for anything.”

“All of this introduces much tension in my relationships, leading to daily quarrels, I always blame myself. I always thought that my relationship with my partner broke only my fault, because of my flawed body.”

“In the end had to admit that to live on, constantly on edge, experiencing a sense of guilt towards the partner for what deprive him of physical intimacy, I can’t.”

“I don’t know that I can help, but I’m getting used to the idea that I’ll have some time in this way to exist. And I don’t think this period of any relationship”.

“Psychological consequences more devastating than the physical — I’m very ashamed that I can’t have sex.”

“We need to understand the causes of disorders related to dyspareunia — painful intercourse. All of us know what erectile dysfunction is, however, hardly imagine how dyspareunia affects the health of women.”

“I’ve already lost all faith”

68-year-old Margaret (name changed) was not engaged with the husband sex for 16 years due to pain during intercourse.

“There is a connection between physical and emotional condition of the person. At first we had a lot of sex, and I never thought that could happen to me something like that.”

“Therapists are impatient, they don’t take me seriously. They say that a woman my age to expect pleasure from sex not worth it.”

“I’m humbled, but all this affects our relationship. My husband says that he doesn’t care whether we have sex or not, but it’s important to me, and I’m so frustrated. I feel like you lie to your husband, depriving him of a full sexual life”.

“Once I thought something could be improved, but now I just abandoned the idea that we ever again will have a normal sex life”.