Sex Without Pain: A Woman's Right // Amanda Lappin
Recently I attended a sexuality conference held at a local medical center. The conference offered sessions on a variety of topics such as LGBT marriage, eating disorders and sexuality, and living with HIV. For one of the sessions, a physical therapist explored pelvic pain complications and the resulting sexual dysfunction. I had never heard of pelvic pain and learned a lot at the information session.
The pelvic floor is a “group of muscles that attach to the front, back, and sides of the pelvic bone” (Interstitial Cystitis Association, 2015). The pelvic muscles must be relaxed in order to urinate, have a bowel movement, or, in women, achieve sexual pleasure and/or an orgasm (Interstitial Cystitis Association, 2015). About 1 in 5 Americans experience some type of pelvic floor dysfunction in their life (Beyond Basics Physical Therapy, 2016). The physical therapist leading the session stated that many women cannot relax their pelvic floor muscles for sexual intercourse, resulting in painful intercourse or inability to have penetration. The physical therapist stated that due to pelvic floor pain, some women have never had an orgasm or avoid sex completely because the pain is too great.
I thought of friends and stories I have read online about women who have terrible pain during sexual penetration. When going to the doctor they were often told that it was just part of being a woman – we just don’t enjoy sex as much as men. Some were told to simply relax or to drink a bottle of wine and push through the pain. If a medical provider does not have expertise or training in pelvic floor pain, then he or she may not know how to diagnose and treat pelvic floor pain.
The physical therapist stated that pelvic floor pain is 100% treatable with a combination of physical therapy, counseling, and/or medication. In extreme cases an individual may need surgery. However, pelvic floor pain does not have to be a way of life for men and women. Women have a right to a healthy and pleasurable sex life without the pain of penetration. After attending the conference I wanted to tell everyone I knew that painful sex does not need to be the norm for women. While I am not sure if screaming this new information from the rooftops is appropriate, I wanted to spread the information somehow. So fellow feminists, tell your friends – sex doesn’t have to be painful. In fact, everyone deserves the very best that sex has to offer.
Resources and Further Reading:
Beyond Basics Physical Therapy. (2016). Pelvic pain and pelvic floor dysfunction. Retrieved from http://www.beyondbasicsphysicaltherapy.com/pfd
Interstitial Cystitis Association. (2015). Pelvic floor dysfunction. Retrieved from http://www.ichelp.org/about-ic/associated-conditions/pelvic-floor-dysfunction/
Nagoski, E. (2015). Come as you are: The surprising new science that will change your sex life. (2015). New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
-Dr. Nagoski is a sex educator and author. Come as You Are (2015) uses research and brain science to explore female pleasure and the unique sexuality of women.