Many Women Don’t Tell Their Partners When Sex is Painful

Many Women Don’t Tell Their Partners When Sex is Painful

Painful intercourse is a common problem for women, but many of them don’t tell their partner about the pain, new research in the Journal of Sexual Medicine reveals.

In a study of 382 women who experienced painful sex, only 51% discussed the issue with their partner.

Why didn’t they mention it? The researchers discovered four main themes among the women’s responses:

  • Pain was “normal.” Some women said they expected sex to be painful. “It always happens, nothing new,” said one woman. Another responded, “It’s pretty typical that I will have some amount of pain during sex; if we stop just because it hurts, we’d never have sex.”
  • Pain was “not worth mentioning.” For some women, the pain was not severe enough or did not last long enough to warrant discussion. Some made adjustments. “I repositioned him, and that fixed it,” one said.
  • The partner’s pleasure was “more important.” In some cases, women prioritized their partner’s satisfaction over their own. One said, “I believed the sex would become less enjoyable for him,” if she told him about the pain. Another explained that she was “fulfilling his needs, not mine.” Others indicated that their pain would not matter to their partners. “He already knows that I have pain most of the time, but still insists on having sex,” one woman remarked.
  • They didn’t want to make things “awkward.” Some respondents felt embarrassed about the pain and didn’t want to complain. Others didn’t want to bruise a partner’s masculinity or put pressure on their relationship.

Women should know that intercourse doesn’t have to be painful. If you’re in this situation, consider talking to your partner and your gynecologist. A sex therapist can help, too.


The Journal of Sexual Medicine

Carter, Allison, PhD, MPH, et al.

““Fulfilling His Needs, Not Mine”: Reasons for Not Talking About Painful Sex and Associations with Lack of Pleasure in a Nationally Representative Sample of Women in the United States”

(Full-text. Published online: September 21, 2019)