Painful penetration: can donuts help? | URevolution

Painful penetration: can donuts help?

Featured Articles

When Emily started having painful penetration during sex, she wasn’t sure how to talk about it. Sex Like This: Episode 5- a podcast about when sex hurts.



How to listen to Painful penetration: can donuts help? Watch the video above (if the CC icon is not on your screen, tap the screen to make it appear), read the transcript below, or download the transcript.

Painful penetration: can donuts help?

Sex Like This Podcast | S1 E5 Love and Donuts

[Edited podcast transcript]

Emily

Like, we don’t talk about painful penetration, but yeah, “doggy style hurts sometimes. Yeah, that position that’s really freaky where I’m on my back, where you think that it looks attractive because my legs are over your shoulders? It doesn’t feel good. Painful penetration is… well… painful.” And they’re so grateful to know that, because no one’s ever said it before!

Nicole Edwards

There are over 7 billion people on the planet. And, most of us are looking for love. So if we couple off, you know, unless you’ve come up with a more interesting arrangement, that means there are theoretically about three and a half billion people in the world that could be the one for you. And counting. So, with all of these options, why do we always hear the same love stories? The cookie-cutter, storybook version of what it’s like to fall in love is told over and over again. Well, friends that stops here, you’re listening to Sex Like This, a podcast brought to you by Uncomfortable Revolution about sex and dating with a chronic illness or disability. I’m your host Health Journalist, Nicole Edwards.

Emily

My first boyfriend – I describe the relationship as if he picked me up and then spun me around for three months. You know, exhilarating and connected and fun, and then towards the end, you’re like, “I’m gonna vomit everywhere!”

Nicole Edwards

The first time Emily fell in love she was 27. She had been in a few romances before then. But, as she describes it, they were more friends that she was exploring dating and intimacy with than anything as hard-hitting as what you just heard her describe. She knew she was in love because of the way that she was able to talk to this person, to communicate with them…even when she wasn’t saying anything. They set a date to see each other again, the first day they met. And the next thing Emily knew they were driving around New York.

Emily

And we literally spent the next eight hours together playing around Coney Island. And I remember we were on the jungle gym, and we had our feet in the ocean because it wasn’t totally warm. And, we were laying down in the sand at one point, like staring at each other. And, I remember for the first time I felt this almost tangible tether between myself and another human being. Like, this person has my soul in their hand. And we hadn’t touched. We hadn’t kissed. It was as if every part of me – (sighs) – was just alive with this person. And then, when we kissed it was – oh gosh I don’t even remember the kiss, I just remember the moment before the kiss (Laughs) – because it was such a strong magnetism.

Nicole Edwards

Emily’s first love was a short one. He was L.A. bound when the two met, and Emily’s a Brooklynite, so they went their separate ways. But he helped solidify Emily’s belief that love doesn’t look the same for everyone. Not every marriage is a true romance and not every sustaining love ends with a dog and a white picket fence. Emily eventually moved on to have other significant relationships. And, during her next romance, she hit a real personal rough patch. The slump took a toll on her self-esteem and that naturally rippled out into her relationship too.

Emily

I was in a particularly stressful time in my life and relationship in my life. And I will tell you, this lovely guy who I was in that relationship with, he is so wonderful. He has such a big heart and I think that I’m – you know – an okay human being. But, we just were really triggering to one another in a bunch of different ways. And, as a result of that, in combination with some certain life factors, I just…I lost a lot of confidence around my self and my self-worth.

Nicole Edwards

And as the tension between her and her partner – and frankly, her and her inner self – started to increase, Emily felt the physical effects, especially during sex. But for Emily, this wasn’t an entirely new phenomenon.

Emily

The way that pain during sex presented itself earlier on in my sex life was very much along the lines of, “Well, penetration is supposed to be painful in the beginning,” you know? And then obviously, there’s the whole porn thing where that informs what positions are the most attractive and most desirable. And, there were a handful of positions that just weren’t comfortable. So what I got accustomed to doing was actually just working around them. And I wouldn’t talk about it. It wouldn’t come up. Painful penetration was something that only I lived with.


 

Read more: Dysmetropsia: Dating with Alice in Wonderland syndrome

 


You know, if a partner would put me in a position, I would just get out of it to avoid painful penetration. Because it was easier to just assert myself physically than to actually use words. With my first partner, it was the thing. I kind of just dodged positions that weren’t comfortable and didn’t say anything. Doggy style is uncomfortable for me so I would always position myself so it was never really an option. You know, to be honest, I just suppressed the fact that it even existed because I didn’t want it to be a pain-point in my sexual life. I’ve always been pretty outgoing and charismatic and confident. And this idea that I couldn’t do everything sexually – I didn’t even want to accept that as a reality. So I just kind of shoved it under the rug.

Nicole Edwards

But this time, the more Emily shoved painful penetration under the rug, the worse it got.

Emily

And as a result of that, sex became way more painful because stress really affects your body. And so I remember I was just so broken at the time I hated – I almost want to say I hated – who I was, and I was constantly disappointed in myself as a woman, as a person, as a partner, as a sexual, sexually desirable person. And I felt terrible because all he wanted to do in our relationship and in the bedroom – all we both wanted to do was know that we were doing a good job and that the other person was enjoying themselves. And when this, in particular, arose in the bedroom, I think I got to a point where I probably just cried for I just couldn’t fake it anymore because I was just so broken.


 

Read more: Aliens on a Spaceship: schizophrenia and sexual hallucinations

 


Nicole Edwards

According to the ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists), for three out of four women sexual penetration is painful at some point in their lifetimes. This happens to women for a whole host of reasons. Endometriosis can make sex painful. Hormonal shifts can cause changes that decrease the natural lubricant the body makes so that sex hurts more because of that.

Sexual penetration too soon after having a baby can be painful too. The list truly does go on and on. But, the pressure to perform – coupled with stereotypes about what good sex feels like and looks like and sounds like – it can really get in the way of couples figuring out the type of sex they actually do like versus what they think they’re supposed to like. And it can be tough for a penetrating partner too.

Emily

Because if I was in pain, he felt like it was his fault. And then I felt bad because he felt bad and then everything sexy goes down the drain.

Nicole Edwards

Emily knew she had to make a change, but she didn’t know-how. She would sometimes mention painful penetration to her doctor during her annual physical but even that kind of made her nervous

Emily

The fact that I had painful penetration (sex) for so long, and didn’t have the agency, and literally didn’t have the confidence to take initiative on my own. I brought it up once a year. I barely scraped the internet for answers, because the search results were just frightening. Like, literally when you don’t know what you’re looking for, and it’s around painful sex, you get everything that you don’t want to see in pictures. Which is really scary. Yeah, so finally, at the time when I mustered up the courage to insist on a second opinion with another doctor that misdiagnosed me, I just stopped trying.

Nicole Edwards

Well, she didn’t exactly stop trying. Emily just took matters into her own hands. She, along with her partner started to do some science experiments of their own. That’s where she came up with the prototype for Onut. Onut is a stack of squishy donut-shaped rings that a penetrating partner can wear during sex to control the depth of penetration. And, it helps both partners figure out what feels good, slowly but surely. Emily invented it in her house and started using it herself. Now, it’s a flourishing business.

Emily

You know, I have this crazy idea about Onut, too. You know, I figured if deep pain was the thing that made me feel disappointed in myself in every enormous, imaginable way. Maybe, if I could make sex a little bit less painful, I wouldn’t hate myself so much. And then my partner wouldn’t feel bad about it himself, and then we could have – at least, at the very least – an enjoyable sex life, even though our relationship was failing.

Image for Sex Like This podcast transcript about painful penetration. Graphic photo collage of a banana and donut laying on an orange and pink background.
Caption:

The way that pain during sex presented itself earlier on in my sex life was very much along the lines of, “Well, sex is supposed to be painful in the beginning,” you know?

Credit:

©mettus / Adobe Stock

 

Nicole Edwards

There’s more than a little irony to the fact that Emily’s relationship was falling apart as she was inventing something that would help improve the relationships of so many other people. And her partner at the time was willing to help her out, despite the fact that things weren’t working between them. This wearable donut gave them the opportunity to talk about the elephant in the room – painful penetration – in a new way.


 

Read moreErin goes to physical therapy for her vagina. This is what it’s like.

 


Emily

So what I did was I actually made him a part of the equation. Like, “Hey, I have this crazy idea that maybe if we adjust penetration depth, it won’t hurt.” And he was like, “cool.” You know, it didn’t place blame on him in any way. It was just like, okay, this pain – this physical thing – is actually a problem that’s outside of us now. It’s not in me, it’s not in him. It’s outside of us. How can we tackle this together? And all of a sudden, there was no judgment around it. We actually collaborated really healthily around the idea, and how to start prototyping, and how to test it out. I mean, again, we were in a failing relationship, but he was so on board with being the first user-tester of what is now Onut. You know, and it wasn’t pretty back then. Let me tell you.

Nicole Edwards

And now Emily’s wearable is being recommended by health professionals. So it’s really opened up a conversation between women and their doctors too.

Emily

Well, our medical education system does not equip gynecologists to actually provide the care that we are asking for. You know, the fact that it takes an average of six to ten years to get an endometriosis diagnosis is so wrong. Because one out of ten women – one out of ten! – have endometriosis. Why on earth does it take about ten years to get a diagnosis? What is missing in med school, that doctors can’t detect that earlier? And that’s just endo(metriosis).

There’s all different kinds of complications where there are no known causes that doctors aren’t incentivized to actually address. Pelvic pain, because it’s so compounding. The longer it takes to diagnosis it, the more compounding it gets with other factors. If you have a complication that causes pain somewhere, your muscles will contract somewhere else to compensate. And then over the course of years, that becomes habituated. And then over a longer time, your nervous system rehabituates to anticipate pain, and by the time you get the diagnosis, untangling all that is much more complicated.

Nicole Edwards

And as we know, the mind and body are connected. Onut helped Emily get her mind right as well.

Emily

I couldn’t talk about how penetration is painful during sex for the longest time because I didn’t know how, and I didn’t have the confidence, and I thought I would be rejected. Because I was rejecting myself. When I finally felt a sense of ownership, and realized the way that it allowed me to bond with my partner, I would bring it up from a place of confidence and say, “Oh my god, yeah, you know, in these positions it’s just too deep. Like there’s no way. I am in pain after penetration.”

It almost comes up with a sense of like, “yeah, this is kind of how it is.” But we don’t talk about it, but it’s like, “yeah, doggy style hurts sometimes. Yeah, that position that’s really freaky where I’m on my back where you think that it looks attractive, because my legs are over your shoulder? It doesn’t feel good.” And they’re so grateful to know that, because no one’s ever said it before!

And then imagine a situation where everything’s on the table, where you’re having sex with someone, and they know the thing that you don’t like. There are things that you don’t like, and you know theirs. And then you check-in, and you’re like, “Okay, cool. We’re both on the track to do the things that we both like and it’s working right now and it feels really good.” All of a sudden, you can leave your brain. You could shut that off and literally just be in your body. And you can feel your body, and you can feel your partner’s body, and not worry about how you’re doing. You can literally just feel. And that is what good sex is.

Nicole Edwards

Before we go, I want to tell you about Pandia Health. With Pandia Health you’ll never run out of birth control again because you can skip the trip to the pharmacy each month. They deliver. Whether you’re on the pill, the patch, or the ring, Pandia Health has an option for you. And as a little added bonus Pandia Health is the only women-founded and women-led reproductive health company specializing in birth control delivery. Enter code U Revolution for $5 off your next order. That’s the letter U Revolution for $5 off. Sex Like This is an Uncomfortable Revolution podcast hosted and produced by me, Nicole Edwards. Please get in touch if you want to share your story. You can email podcast@urevolution.com, or head over to our website sexlikethis.com for more amazing stories about dating and sex with a chronic illness or disability.

author-img
Article by
URevolution

UR is on a mission to change the way we talk about sensitive health topics, one awkward blogpost at a time. Posts by this author are from the Editors at UR.

×