You Don’t Need Penetration to Have Sex, Am I Right?

Once again for all you gals in the back.


A sentence I have struggled with for most of my adult life, but finally as Pelvic Pain Awareness comes to a close, I am opening up about this very intimate subject to remind many women and people with uteruses out there that painful penetration is very common and something that many of us have experienced.

I have always struggled with pelvic pain and this has made sexual intercourse hard for me, pardon the pun. My vagina is a sensitive soul who is always pissed off from dealing with pain so the last thing she often wants is anything going inside. This is something I have struggled greatly with and to accept. When I first started having penetrative sex, I was 18 and very insecure. I had just recovered from anorexia and knew very little about being a sexual being. I had no connection to my body, I felt nothing for it, except anger that after recovering from anorexia I now had a mystery pelvic pain that no one knew or seemed to care about investigating.

You Don’t Need Penetration to Have Sex, Am I Right?

When I experienced pain with sex I went to my doctors, who unfortunately told me this was normal. THIS IS NOT NORMAL. A recent survey found that 1 in 3 women find penetrative sex painful. That’s a lot of women and people with uteruses who are finding pain in the most pleasurable thing we are meant to enjoy. I think that the great emphasis on society to place penetration on sexual completion is why that often women and those AFAB feel that they can’t talk about painful intercourse, or that it’s normal or something they just have to live with. The feelings of inadequacy, of brokenness are something I too felt. It’s hard to feel like a wonderful empowered sexual badass when you can’t even have sex. But this is the mindset and narrative we have to change.

My heart breaks for those in support groups who share how at odds they feel with themselves as they cannot have penetrative sex, those whose partners have left them or who have left their partners as they don’t feel whole not being able to consummate this act. There is so much pressure and emphasis put on sex. From as a teenager being warned not to have it, to when your married being constantly asked if you’re having it (ie. WHERE’S THE GRAND BABIES AT?). This pressure for someone who is already undergoing pelvic pain is immense. Imagine how much you already are upset at your body for causing you pain and now it denies you this pleasure?

It’s a tough circle, one of fear, blame, rejection and some more blame thrown in. But IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY! When people talk or ask how they will ever be able to date when they can’t have penetrative sex I always pipe up. I have been with my partner for 8 years and we are getting married next year. He knows the deal, sometimes my V is playing ball and sometimes it is not & that’s cool. He loves me, not my ability to be a love machine. This is why the conversation needs to be rewritten. Sex does not equal intimacy and intimacy does not equal sex. Things such as gentle baths, sensual massages, spooning, oral, exploring the vast variety of couple’s sex toys that often take the focus off penetration. There is so much that you can do together that does not put pressure on either of you or will not result in your pain. You DESERVE a beautiful sex life no matter what, you DESERVE pain-free pleasure and should not suffer for anyone else’s pleasure. Your body is important, your joy is important, and your orgasm is important, but that’s a whole other story.

You Don’t Need Penetration to Have Sex, Am I Right?

What I’m trying to say here is that this Pelvic Pain Awareness month, you owe it to yourself to find your pleasure, whether that be with a significant other, a whole group of people, someone you swiped right to or with yourself. If you find penetrative sex painful then there are ways to help ease this. Ask for a referral to see a pelvic floor physiotherapist who will assess your pelvic floor muscles. Many conditions can cause these muscles to be overactive which means they are too tight for penetration. Conditions such as Vaginismus, Pelvic Floor Dysfunction, Endometriosis, Interstitial Cystitis and Vulvodynia, to name a few. Your pelvic floor physiotherapist will be able to explore internal physio that can help relax those muscles and will train you how to use dilators, which you will be able to use to slowly stretch these muscles.

There are also many products now out there that can help you, the OhNut is an amazing invention that was created by a woman who experienced pain during sex. It works as an amazing cushion between the penis and vagina and allows you to take sex and penetration at your pace. There are also lots of helpful products from Dame Products, such as specialist pillows that help you get the right angle and lots of sex toys that will help your V get in the mood.

My message to anyone out there, who is suffering pain during penetrative sex is to talk to someone. Go see a doctor & if they tell you it’s normal, go see another doctor. If you are concerned, visit your local sexual health clinic as they will often see people who are suffering from something similar. If it is impacting on your mental health, ask to be referred to see a CBT councillor. NEVER suffer this pain in silence or think that you are to blame in any way. You are not alone in this and there are lots of others in your situation out there. There are fantastic communities in Instagram who are here to listen, to advise and educate you on these issues and how you can help yourself. But at the end of the day remember that even if your body can’t have penetration right now, that doesn’t define you or your sexuality. You are a beautiful, wonderful, sexual being and you deserve happiness, support and plenty and plenty of pleasure.

You Don’t Need Penetration to Have Sex, Am I Right?Hi, I'm Sarah Rose a gal in her late twenties from Belfast, who has suffered pelvic pain for ten years. I decided to start the conversation regarding pelvic pain after suffering in silence for so long and created my Instagram @mypelvicpain & blog 4 weeks ago. I've been overwhelmed by the love and strength of so many amazing people who are going through this. Together we can raise awareness & support one another through anything. You are not alone and I believe you, your pain is real.