This Week in Sex: Too Many Women Experience Painful Sex

A new study finds many women have some discomfort during intercourse; running for exercise can pay off in the bedroom; and one day, you might be able to control a vibrator by brain power alone.

If you do have pain all or some of the time, start by checking in with your gynecologist to make sure there is no underlying health issue like an infection. Shutterstock

This Week in Sex is a weekly summary of news and research related to sexual behavior, sexuality education, contraception, STIs, and more.

Well, Yeah: When Sex Hurts, Women Don’t Want to Have It

British researchers interviewed more than 6,000 sexually active women ages 16-to-74 to determine how many women experience pain during penile-vaginal sex and how that affected their lives and relationships.

According to results published in the January issue of BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 7.5 percent of surveyed women said they had experienced pain during sex within the last three months. Older women (ages 55 to 64) were most likely to have experienced pain (10.4 percent), followed by young women ages 16 to 24 (9.5 percent) and 25 to 34 (8 percent).

Not surprisingly, women who reported physical pain during sex were also more likely to report other forms of dissatisfaction with their sex lives. Most notably, 62 percent of women who’d experienced pain reported lacking desire for sex compared with 32 percent of women who didn’t experience pain. Those who’d had pain were also more likely to report lacking enjoyment from sex (40 percent compared to 10 percent), difficulty reaching climax (40 percent compared to 14 percent), no arousal (24 percent compared to 7 percent), and anxiety during sex (21 percent compared to 4 percent). These women were also more likely than their peers to be dissatisfied with their sex lives overall (31 percent to 10 percent).

Kirstin Mitchell, lead author on the study, told Teen Vogue that painful sex could stem from medical issues or it could be something else entirely. “For some, it may be that they do not feel confident or empowered to communicate to a partner what they like and dislike, and so they end up doing sexual activities that they don’t really enjoy—this then means they are not properly aroused and this can make sex painful. Others may feel anxious and tense up, causing sex to be painful, and this can lead to further anxiety in anticipation of pain.”

As we’ve said in the past, sex is not supposed to hurt, and there’s no reason to just live with the pain. If you do have pain all or some of the time, start by checking in with your gynecologist to make sure there is no underlying health issue like an infection.

Once you’ve ruled that out, here are some other things you can do to increase the chance of pain-free, pleasurable sex. You can try adding some lubricant (or changing the one you’re using) as vaginal dryness is one common cause of painful sex. Changing positions and trying new techniques can make a difference, so talk to your partner about what feels good and what doesn’t. Some women also find that adding vibration via a sex toy like a vibrating ring can help ease the pain and relax their muscles. Finally, think about any relationship or personal issues that might be preventing you from truly enjoying yourself, and consider talking to a therapist or counselor.

Running Is Good for Your Sex Life

Running is good for your body and mind, and it’s not news that it’s also good for your sex life. A recent article in Runner’s World explains the ways in which more miles may—though not always—translate into more (and better) nookie.

Running can boost energy and self-esteem, and that can translate into better performance in the bedroom. In a recent survey, 51 percent of runners said the sport made them feel strong and confident and 54 percent said the energy boost they got from running actually turned them on. As sex therapist Ian Kerner explained in the article, “They feel good in their bodies. They’re really able to translate that into sex where they feel free and comfortable and to a greater extent uninhibited.”

Running does good things not just for the body but for the brain as well. It increases endorphins and the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. All of these chemicals work together to make an athlete feel excitement, arousal, happiness, and well-being.

On the flip side, should you have sex right before a big race? Many athletes (particularly the men) worry that having sex the day before a big game or match might deplete their energy or mess with their mojo. But there’s no evidence that sex has a negative impact on athletic performance. Of course, a marathon lovemaking session right before you run an actual marathon might sap too much energy, but a nice quickie might be just what you need to run like the wind.

Would You Want a Mind-Controlled Vibrator?

French developers believe they have the key to a mind-controlled vibrator that people could make move just by thinking about it. Bluetooth-ready vibrators already exist but are most often operated via a remote control and/or a smartphone app.

For this initial round of experiments, the developers used sex toy maker Lovense’s Lush vibrator, which is a Bluetooth-enabled, remote-controlled bullet toy. The French team built on Lush’s programming, adding existing mind-control technology that uses electrodes attached to the head.

A video of test subjects shows that they were able to make the vibrator go with varying degrees of success. One got it to work on the first try but struggled with the second attempt, and another was only able to make it go slowly. The first test subject described the activity as “kind of exhausting.”

Lovense’s marketing suggested a mind-control vibrator could be used for “discreet public play, long-distance couples, even for people with physical disabilities.”

While all of this is true, we here at This Week in Sex are wondering if the electrodes, the extra effort, and the spotty results might be a turnoff and, if perhaps, a Bluetooth-enabled, smartphone-connected, remote-controlled vibrator is high-tech enough. Hell, the old version that just required two AA batteries worked just fine.