The following article was recently published on The Guardian’s website, and discusses the issue that many women are suffering from which is experiencing pain during sex. It was written by Susannah Thraves, a TV journalist.
Like so many, I adore Fleabag. She’s outrageous, with a sexual animalism that I love to see in female characters on-screen. With Fleabag, Phoebe Waller-Bridge fearlessly draws out female desires that women have long buried under mounds of unwarranted shame. Now that her theatre run is enthralling London, I’m reminded that we’re in a time when female sexual enjoyment is finally celebrated. But there’s another side to women’s sexual experiences that is rarely represented on-screen – and yet it affects so many. What about women who experience pain during sex? It’s an angle that doesn’t fit in with steamy sex scenes in films – and it definitely wouldn’t have a place on shows such as Love Island.
But it is a topic that needs to be explored. Data on the subject of dyspareunia – pain during sex – is hard to gather. But it is thought to affect around 7.5% of sexually active women in the UK. Experts believe this condition is under-reported, and that the true figure could be even higher.
Dyspareunia is complicated by the fact that the condition is usually both physical and psychological – and so the problem will often not be one that can be seen on a scan. But sadly, out of embarrassment, many women also don’t want to disclose their symptoms, meaning that many suffer in silence because they feel that they are the only one. This feeling of isolation is common among women who encounter pain during sex. We are so used to experiencing discomfort that we tend to doubt ourselves – and the severity of our pain: “Is it really that bad?” we ask ourselves. “Maybe this is normal?” Many of us can relate to this – I know I have asked myself similar questions in the past. Then there are the discussions with friends that only ever seem to consolidate fears: everyone’s doing it and everyone’s loving it. On top of this, some men have a misconception that if their partners are in pain, then they are doing it “right” – especially if the guy has been dosed up on pornography since he hit puberty.
There are a whole range of female sexual dysfunctions, with one of the most well-known being vaginismus, where the vaginal muscles contract involuntarily. There are many reasons why women develop the condition, from the psychological, such as a fear of sex, to other gynaecological conditions, such as endometriosis. Patients with vaginismus often describe the feeling as like “hitting a brick wall” in both body and mind. Yet, thanks to lack of conversation, many don’t realise that the issue can be resolved. Dr Clare Gribbin, gynaecologist and psychosexual counsellor, told me: “Some sexual difficulties such as vaginismus can be completely resolved or improved given the right help through psychosexual counselling. The biggest challenges are the fear of disclosure and confidence to seek help, for some women, as well as access to funded psychosexual services.”
Pain can also have a huge impact on relationships. Some women would prefer to not be in a relationship, or to end a relationship with their partner, rather than discuss their issues. I spoke to women in their twenties who experience pain during sex, at an age when they feel expected to enjoy it. Because of the stigma attached, they don’t want to be named.
One woman who experiences acute pain during sex fears rejection from men because of her condition. She said, “everyone tells me that men who will treat me poorly because of my condition aren’t worth my time. But what no one can possibly understand is the fear of being rejected because of something beyond your control: because you are not a normal woman, you are incapable of providing a man with the one thing that we have been raised to believe is all he really wants. I can’t have sex, so how could anybody view me as a desirable partner?”
Another woman told me, “The media makes me feel I should really enjoy sex and should always be in the mood for it. It makes me worry that I struggle with it. There’s nothing in the media that makes me feel normal, to make me feel that it’s OK to not like sex that much.” Many women feel isolated in what they’re experiencing, even when they’re not alone; it’s just that we don’t see representations of women who find sex painful in the media, and this is an issue that is under-reported. In a world where help is available but underfunded and research is sparse, how refreshing would it be if we saw more representations of female sexual experiences that didn’t shy away from the intricacies involved and enabled much-needed conversations to take place?
Source: The Guardian
If you are suffering from any of the issues mentioned within the above article contact Woodbridge Therapy for professional and confidential help and advice.