Intimacy can be wildly frustrating at times, especially for a woman. Society and culture make it seem like sex should be naturally desirable and enjoyable. And for many of us, we used to have so much desire and strong sex drives, then we got married or experienced some discomfort and BAM! We no longer really enjoy this.
I mean its fun, it’s enjoyable, but it’s a lot of work and it’s painful or at least not all that comfortable.
So what’s happened? Why don’t we really enjoy intimacy? Well, often this has to do with pain, tension, and expectations.
But first, Anatomy!
I want to put it out there and say the penetrative sex rarely results in orgasms for women. We’re just not physiologically made to be aroused through the vaginal canal. Our clitoris is the main player for women’s arousal and orgasm. Our clitoris, although internally quite large, externally only represents a small piece of our vulva. It’s that pea-sized bulb at the top of our vulva that can spark pure joy and elation. Sure we have erogenous zones elsewhere that can help build arousal, but the clitoris is ultimately what will help us get to orgasm.
During penetrative sex, its physiologically difficult to stimulate the clitoris, unless you intentionally touch it with fingers or toys. In fact, nearly 82% of women cannot orgasm from penetration alone, despite what’s depicted in Hollywood. Penetration, although still enjoyable and pleasurable, really isn’t designed to be the icing on the cake for the female sexual experience. And that’s okay! (This calls for another blog post on redefining how we as a society label sex and sexual intimacy away from just penis-in-vagina sex, but that’s for another day).
Okay, but still. Why is intimacy not that enjoyable? Even if it is penetrative in nature?
The Effect of Pain on Sex
Our bodies are experts at evading pain. If there is a way out or a short cut to avoid being uncomfortable, our mind and body will take the fastest route possible to this. So if you have a history of pain with intercourse, you better believe you body is going to do all that it can to convince you not to entertain such activity.
The first step your body does- make intimacy so undesirable that you really don’t want to do it. Shut down the arousal, withhold the pleasure, and create even more pain!
Your body might shut down arousal and desire when it thinks this is something that will lead it to a painful response. So if you don’t feel aroused, then maybe you wont try to have sex. Problem solved. Unfortunately, it’s that simple. Your brain can work subconsciously in the background to make sure you don’t really get much arousal going. This is part of the reason why so many of my vaginismus clients can’t experience orgasms.
If your body is anticipating pain, there really is little hope for it to be able to take the necessary steps for orgasms and pleasure to happen. You really need your mind and body to feel completely safe and at rest in order for the physiological process of arousal and orgasm to occur. If the threat of pain is involved, that’s likely not going to happen.
And here’s the kicker- if your body doesn’t want you to do something, it can subconsciously create more pain to tell you to stop. This is often when we start seeing some of those classic vaginismus symptoms- the wall, burning, stinging, or sandpaper sensations. Your body is perceiving penetration to be a threat and so we throw up more red flags to get you to stop. This is often why vaginismus symptoms come and go, get worse, or shift. Your body is trying to throw around different responses to get you to listen.
Sometimes it hurts with insertion, sometimes its now burning on the left side, sometimes it’s the wall response, and sometimes it burns more when you pull out. This can be so exhausting and frustrating.
So if you’ve experienced pain or discomfort with sex, it makes total sense (to your body) to not let intimacy be pleasurable.
The Effect of Tension & Distraction on Sex
Another way that intimacy or arousal can be illusive is if we’re experiencing heightened tension, stress, or distraction. Like mentioned above, in order to move through the arousal process to reach orgasm, your body needs to enter into a relaxed, supported, and psychologically safe parasympathetic state before it switches over to the sympathetic orgasm experience.
If we’re holding tension, facing increased stress, or overly-distracted, it can lead to nervous system dysregulation where our body can’t accurately switch back and forth between these two states. Resulting in minimal arousal and a long game of chasing orgasms.
The Effect of Pressure & Expectations on Sex
Similarly to the above, if you’re placing certain pressures and expectations for yourself to be aroused, orgasm, or perform a desired way, your body might just jump right into the sympathetic ‘fight or flight’ stressful mode and withhold the necessary relaxation piece needed for arousal/orgasm. Performance pressures or expectations create tension and stress for our body, even if it’s subconsciously done. Even a small bit of this can side-swipe our joy in the bedroom and leave us frustrated from 60 min of slow advancing ‘foreplay’.
Bringing Back Arousal
Try to remove the pressure and expectations, as well as the tension and distraction, to fully let your body rest and enjoy intimacy. This can be quite a challenge- especially if you have a history of negative thoughts, poor self image, unrealistic expectations, comparison, shame, fear, pain, etc. We have to be able to put our minds and our bodies at ease so that we can experience pleasure the way it was designed.
And if pain is something you’re up against, we need to address the pain. We need to get your mind and body believing and seeing that pain-free sex is possible and enjoyable.
At the end of the day, sex isn’t defined as a penis pleasurably entering into a vagina. It’s about two people coming together in intimacy for mutual connection and pleasure… which is beautifully different for all!
We address all of these things and more in my Mind-Body-Sex Reset Vaginismus program. This is a comprehensive 12-week program that gets your whole mind and body on board with enjoying intimacy the way God designed it to be. If this sounds like what you’re looking for, I encourage you to schedule a free and easy consultation with me!