OpEd: Sex and Pain

Woman with Real Breasts Looking Off into DistanceIf you judged the average person’s sex habits by what you see online, you’d think everyone is into pain, BDSM, and hog-tying their sex partners into elaborate rope configurations.  A while back, I was “roped” into a brief Twitter war with a guy who was trying to justify putting duct tape over a woman’s mouth during sex.  You can well imagine I went Irish war queen on his ass.

Personally, I don’t understand why anyone would want to associate pleasure with pain, even though I’ve heard some pretty wild concepts.  And I’m not talking about the fur-lined handcuffs, blindfolds, and feathers — although I’d never do the handcuffs or the blindfold.  Even without a fetish being involved, women put up with painful sex for a variety of reasons, and we don’t have to.  Ever.

One reason I did not go the official “sex educator” route was because I would not have been allowed to speak my mind on the sex habits I personally find to be dangerous or just plain stupid.  (Yes, I know…. two consenting adults, blah, blah, blah….)  Since the rise of 50 Shades of Grey, it has become politically incorrect to say anything critical about BDSM or bondage or a woman not being a doormat for an abusive man.  And plain ol’ sex is considered “vanilla” sex, not exciting or amazing, just vanilla.  However, I feel the need to speak out for those of us who like our sex to be solely pleasurable between partners who are on an equal basis, not one person in control nor one person made to be a slave or subservient caricature.

From my own holistic, Tantrik perspective, I would never enter a sexual experience with any attitude other than love, equality, and respect.

And yet, pain is apparently all over modern sex.  Personally, I believe the association of sex and pain is due to this patriarchal society that is based on hierarchy and competition at any cost.  The need for control or recognizing we are being controlled is incorporated into every aspect of our lives, our work, our economic status, our cultural/class status; and then hierarchy and the need for control or to relinquish all control crosses over into sex.

Pain is pain, not pleasure.  Women should not put up with painful sex, but often times, we do so as not to hurt the man’s feelings.  We endure all sorts of emotional pain throughout our lives, but sex should be 110% pleasure.  Women, you do not have to tolerate painful, unfulfilling sex.  Ever.

Sex should never hurt.  Except for some slight pain when the hymen is broken, sex should never be painful.  Even for an experienced woman, penetration can be painful if she is not lubricated enough.  Whether it’s your first time with a man or the hundredth, sex may need to be slow to take him in.  Just because you’ve been with him before doesn’t mean your body is automatically ready to be penetrated.  Being penetrated too quickly or without enough lube can be very, VERY painful.

Remember that the vulva needs to be massaged and stretched as part of the preparation for sex.  Another reason for spending time arousing the woman is that the vagina is only 3 to 3.5 inches long, but she expands up to 50% during arousal.  So if the man wants to get 5+ inches of his penis inside instead of just 3 inches, fully arousing a woman is time well spent.

The difference in penis size to vagina size can make for thrilling orgasms or a painful experience.  If the man has a large penis, extra time may need to be taken to avoid hurting the woman.  How much time?  This depends on the woman.  In this way, yes, the woman is always in control of the sex.  That’s just the way it goes, guys.

Once aroused, the woman’s erectile tissue will be fully infused with blood (just as the man’s erectile tissue fills with blood), and for the woman, when the man slowly slides inside the vagina, it is exquisite pressure and a sense of being absolutely full, as if he’s touched her soul.  Again, any man not willing to patiently await a woman’s full arousal doesn’t deserve to be anywhere near a vagina.

Encouraging pain to feel pleasure is just stupid — or even dangerous if your partner wants to try something like erotic axphxiation (choking to make orgasm “stronger”).  If you actually know the “how” of orgasm, you’d know that oxygen feeds orgasm intensity and duration, so cutting off your oxygen supply is actually not a good idea.  And about 1,000 people die per year from erotic axphyxiation.

Pain in the vagina, anus, or even in the pelvic floor or legs could be a sign of something very wrong.  If you experience pain or numbness in the legs during or after sex, this may be not only a neurological issue but also a respiratory issue.  Getting enough oxygen into your lungs, and ergo your body, is crucial for proper function of the body and especially for orgasm.  During sex, focus breathing down into your pelvic floor.  As you inhale, bring the air all the way down toward your genitals.  This will ensure that you are belly breathing and not breathing only in the upper chest.  Upper chest breathing doesn’t allow the body to get rid of as much carbon dioxide, so the body is not being fully oxygenated.  This can contribute to the tingling or numbness in the legs.  Also, being sedentary in your daily life or job can affect the nerves and bloodflow in the legs.

Moving around to the backside, anal sex should NEVER hurt.  Ever.  Whether fingers, a toy, or a penis, anal sex should only ever be pleasurable.  Men, please know, that male prostate stimulation is very healthy for you, and any anal stimulation should always be pleasurable.

With the possible exception of breaking the hymen, no part of sex should ever hurt.  Ever.  Never.

Yes, I know that fetishes like spanking and rope-tying have hit the mainstream, but it is still a power-play of control and inflicting pain on someone you supposedly care about.  Just because you interpret both pain and pleasure in the same area of the brain doesn’t mean you need to inflict pain to experience pleasure.  In fact, if you are, then you only experience sex on a physical level, and orgasm is a response of the subtle body, not just a “release” of the physical anatomy.

The rise of pain as a means of pleasure is more patriarchal bullshit that women are supposed to adopt as “normal” sex play.  Women are throttled by the neck, their breasts are slapped, their vulvas punched with a partner’s fist, and it makes me ill.  What’s worse is that young people see the images, gifs, videos, etc., online and think that abusive sex is normal, and IT. IS. NOT.

Once you understand the mechanism and response of orgasm, you will know that pain should never be anywhere near sex.  Any desire for pain during sex is a sign of other psychological and/or emotional issues that need to be resolved outside the bedroom.  I know this is not a popular sentiment, and that’s okay.  I want to be a voice for all those women (and men) who instinctively do not want pain-fetishized sex but feel pressured into accepting it because of this society that regularly features victimized women and abusive men as part of the mainstream culture.

Having lived in a patriarchal world and been affected by its brutality more times than I care to acknowledge, I will never allow an abusive person into my sex life.  Ever.





  1. So you would morally prohibit BDSM (which, more often than not, is just role play) on the grounds (among others) that it is controlling. Your controlling position is a demonstration that you don’t need ropes and chains to control others erotically. You just need moral and analysis and judgment, which is the preferred way of social control of patriarchy.

  2. As I said, I am speaking out for those of us who NOT subscribe to pseudo-violent and abusive sexual behaviour, which is in fact a part of patriarchy’s rape culture. I enter sexual experiences in love and respect. There is give and receive. Tantra is the cult of the feminine, so my holistic perspective is matriarchal — which may be why you oppose it so readily.

    And yes, in fact, me being in complete control of my personal sexual experience is the very definition of body autonomy as well as self-determination.

    Again, two consenting adults can do what they want. I’m speaking out against abusive sex becoming increasingly normative.

  3. A very interesting read ma’am. I hope men and women visit your site often. They’ll be better ppl and probably better lovers for having done so.

  4. Hi Trish,
    There may be things you don’t you like to do that can be encompassed in a sex act, that does not mean that other people who do like these things are wrong. The fact you don’t like doing them and you prefer your sex in a certain way is also okay.
    I hope that someday you can appreciate what others do is up to them, being consenting adults and all (blah blah blah).
    I agree, sex can be a loving, pleasurable union of two (or more) people, it can be fun, or it can be boring, but just as some people like to dip chocolate in Thai sweet chillie dipping sauce…others would think that weird. Different strokes……..

    I agree with you on two things. One is that it shouldn’t hurt. Pain is an indicator that you have or about to damage yourself and you should stop. Some people use this to heighten the senses. That doesn’t make it wrong.
    The other is that sex should not leave people feeling humiliated or degraded. Again, some people like that sort of thing so who am I to judge, I think the supposed enjoyment of this could be put down to past, maybe childhood, phsycological trauma. If someone finds themselves unwantingly on the recieving end of that sort of treatment they might need to reconsider their choice in partners.
    Oh yeah, violent porn is shit, but they are catering to a market where lots of people are treating others like shit, and not just in the realms of sexuality. Everytime I turn on the telly people are abusing one another, there are whole lotta angry people out there, it’s not nice, and it’s being glorified, but that’s a whole other argument.
    As always Trish I enjoy your writing, and be nice people. Stay safe.

  5. Trish, I can’t say strongly enough how much I appreciate this post. Images of sexualized violence are becoming too common. It is very disturbing and sad to me. Young women are being too often pressured into being the “cool girl” and accepting some painful and degrading sex. Any woman in that situation needs to ask herself, if a man is aroused by her pain and/or degradation, what kind of a man is she dealing with? There is a very disturbing meme I see on Tumblr and Pinterest: “Some call it domestic violence, we call it foreplay.” Wow. Really?!? And if I see one more supposed arty black and white photograph of a woman being choked, that’s supposed to sexy, I will just lose it. Enough! Why all the sudden is it glamorous and erotic to infuse violence into sex? This is just sad. And I love sex and beautiful erotic imagery. But it includes violence it turns my stomach.

  6. I agree with you completely on this blog, Trish! It seems that more porn sites are glorifying the ‘pain = pleasure’ concept; and the 50 Shades movie has added even more acceptance to the idea. I enjoy sensual images and sexy scenes like most folks, but I am not pleased with the increasing images of choking (for either partner) during sex. Sex should be pleasurable and exciting; but not life-threatening. Thank you again for opening up a great topic of discussion. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, so I am not trying to dictate how people conduct their sex lives. But, let’s just be sure to think about your actions and your influences before you try to inflict pain on your partners without consent. Now, go out there and be nice to each other, people!