Aunt Vadge: am I just too tight to have sex?

Hi Aunt Vadge,

So I’ve started having sex, and I’ve run into a problem. I seem to have gotten tears down at the bottom of my vagina, near my perineum, at least according to what I think I’ve read on here already. It started with stinging pain during sex, enough that after I had an orgasm it hurt too much to put pressure on the area enough for him to finish inside me (we’ve been using condoms). 

I thought maybe I was too dry after orgasming (though I was plenty wet before), so we applied some ph-balanced lube, and god, that just made it worse! Soon as I was touched, it started stinging.

I had a Bartholin cyst a little while ago, and I used sitz baths to get rid of it, though it only actually ‘popped’ earlier this week, so it was still there, but very small, when I was having sex.

Could that have been a contributor? It’s not like he was being overly rough, especially when first entering. I’m worried maybe I’m just too small for comfortable sex? I thought the pain had healed, but it’s back a week later, this time for no good reason, as I haven’t had any sex since then, or even used more than one finger inside myself.

Sorry for any TMI, and thank you! Please advise! 

Sincerely, 
Frustrated 
Canada, Age 21

Hi there Frustrated,

You seem to have identified your problems more or less correctly – the posterior fourchette area seems to be the tear site, from sex, exacerbated by the Bartholin’s cyst, which is in the same area. Having pain arise without sex means your cyst is an issue. There is no reason for your posterior fourchette to be breaking open without provocation.

You mentioned that the cyst only popped a week earlier, but was still there (but small), so there may still have been a small wound there which has been disturbed by the sex and contributed to the tearing, or a mixture of a simple tear plus the cyst pain and inflammation. Cysts are by nature a deviation of normal flesh behaviour, and this almost always causes pain (when our skin is doing something it wasn’t designed to, like become a cyst).

There is almost always no such thing as ‘too tight for sex’. Your body, unless there is actually something going wrong, adapts very well to sex, and the fact that you have enjoyed the sex – and orgasmed – is evidence enough of that. Keep in mind that condoms are made from latex, and if you’ve ever played around with rubber gloves, you’ll know how much they can pinch and burn, so add that pinching and burning (after becoming drier) to your damaged cyst, and you have yourself a small, painful problem.

Condoms could easily have contributed to the problem, and made it feel really bad quite quickly once your vagina wasn’t so wet. That’s why it’s just so important to have good quality condoms and make sure you keep it lubed, the whole way through. Just having your natural lubrication is often simply not sufficient, though clearly this wasn’t the case in your situation, except at the end. You can get tricked into thinking it’s fine because it feels good, but we do dry up after orgasming, because the point of us becoming wet is to prepare for sex. Once sex is over, well, it just goes away.

I recommend using silicon-based lube and see how different it feels compared with water-based (if you are not already). It’s much smoother, and usually costs more for good stuff, but a little goes a very long way compared with water-based lube.

Try to avoid continuing to have sex when you start feeling that burn, pain or any discomfort at all – stop and sort it out with more lube (or stop the sex or get each other off a different way), or you’ll end up with these sorts of problems. It is sometimes hard to feel pain when you are also feeling pleasure, so we tend to ignore it, which is all well and good – no biggie – but to avoid sex wounds, try to manage your flesh during sex, and you’ll come out the other side in one piece more often. It is also going to be necessary to sort your cysts out properly, and avoid irritating the area as much as possible.

It would pay to keep close tabs on your cyst/s, and take some photos and record your tearing symptoms so you can really see what’s going on and have a record – after closer inspection, you may find that the pain is not connected to a tear, but to your cyst, which is useful information in problem solving.

If the painful sexual experiences (and tearing) continues when there is no sign whatsoever of your cysts, then it is time to start looking to other avenues. This could include being examined by someone who knows vaginas inside out (so to speak) and can let you know if your flesh is actually all in order.

You don’t mention if you have been examined before, but if you haven’t, it may be useful to ensure you don’t have any anatomical abnormalities that could be causing recurring pain and damage. These can be really small and undetectable until you try to start having sex, and then they hurt and bleed and nobody knows why.

Read about how to care for your tears, and get rid of them before trying to have sex again. Once everything is healed, try it all again and see how you go, being more careful during the sex to stay very lubricated right to the end, and see if it makes a difference.

Write anytime.

Warmest regards,
Aunt Vadge

Jessica Lloyd - Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica Lloyd - Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica is a degree-qualified naturopath (BHSc) specialising in vulvovaginal health and disease, based in Melbourne, Australia.

Jessica is the owner and lead naturopath of My Vagina, and is a member of the:

  • International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease (ISSVD)
  • International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health (ISSWSH)
  • National Vulvodynia Association (NVA) Australia
  • New Zealand Vulvovaginal Society (ANZVS)
  • Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS)
Read more about Jessica and My Vagina's origin story.
Jessica Lloyd - Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

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