Aunt Vadge: burning after being fingered during my period

Dear Aunt Vadge,

I am 21 years old, and recently my boyfriend fingered me when I was on my period on the third day, and right after that my vaginal opening started burning. I have had sex before, but the last time I had sex it didn’t burn. I don’t know what is wrong with my vagina, and I am really scared.

Sincerely,
Burnt

______

Dear Burnt,

Sorry to hear you are suffering! A burning vagina isn’t very pleasant, and yes it can be scary if you don’t understand what’s happened.

Since you had your period, during the fingering your vagina was probably either wet with menstrual blood (not your usual lubrication, which is from actually being turned on, not just ‘wet’ with the blood), or alternatively you had just removed a tampon, and it was a lot drier than normal. Both of these scenarios make it far easier to be damaged by your boyfriend’s fingers than normal.

This isn’t anyone’s fault, but is merely a lack of understanding about the way the vagina prevents damage.

What’s interesting hormonally during this time of your cycle is that your body is at its least ready to be sexed up once your period has started. The tendency is for you to be at a sexual ebb (low point) on Days 1-8 of your cycle. (Day 1 is always the first day of your period.) This means your excitement levels, lubrication, etc. were likely to be much lower than at other times of your cycle, resulting in you being less ready to be penetrated than usual.

By ready, I mean: turned on, a bit swollen with blood, wet with natural lubrication (not blood or lube).

So let’s say, step one – your vagina wasn’t in fine form for being fingered.

This results in more damage, and damage to flesh results in burning and stinging. Especially on your vagina and vulva.

On top of this, traditionally young men have got absolutely zero clue what they are doing when they finger you – they can’t see what they are doing, and without any feedback from you, it can be very easy to damage the delicate flesh of your vaginal opening with their stabby poking around, particularly if there is blood present and it feels wet – a false positive. This damage results in a burning sensation. Poor technique results in damage. Not being turned on, swollen and wet results in damage. Damage burns. Understand?

This damage will heal very quickly, within days, and unless the burning continues, you don’t have anything to worry about. This burning is the feeling you get when your vaginal or vulva tissue is damaged.

The lesson here, Burnt, is to make sure your vagina is ready to be penetrated before you let anyone or anything inside of you. Our bodies are not designed to just be penetrated, willy nilly, by whatever happens to be around, any time. We have an intricate physiological process that needs to be adhered to before anything should go inside of us.

This isn’t just about being horny: it is entirely possible that you can be horny, but not be wet (yet) especially if you just popped a tampon out before getting sexy. The tampon absolutely sucks every little bit of moisture up, and you have to wait longer (or use lube) before penetration can happen with any success. The vulva and vaginal tissues take a little bit of time to swell with blood, which creates a kind of fleshy buffer, and then the moisture starts to seep out, making you wet and lubricated, ready to be penetrated by a finger, penis or any other object of your desire. The fact is, if you let anything go inside you without being properly prepared – however long that takes – you are going to end up with burning, bleeding, pain and stinging. It’s the way it works.

Let’s use food as an example.

If you eat when you are not hungry, your mouth can be really dry and the food sort of just sits there, and it can feel pretty ho-hum and uncomfortable. If you eat when you are hungry, however, your saliva is flowing, you feel ravenous, smells are exciting, and the food tastes amazing (even if it’s average) because your body was ready and willing to receive it. You need your body to be hungry to receive a penis or finger, or it just doesn’t really work. Your body doesn’t like it. Just because it can go in there doesn’t mean it should.

The cure to being damaged by an overzealous male fingering

Foreplay

Twenty minutes of foreplay is an absolute minimum sexual requirement for women, and for you right now, usually most of this will not be any penetration of any kind. Fingering is penetration, so save it until you actually think “Oh my god penetrate me right now!”. Your body has to want to be penetrated well before it happens, so it can prepare with lubrication and swelling and extra blood supply to nerves, and ultimately, if all goes well, bringing you to orgasm. (Yes there is pleasure to be had without orgasm, but as an initial aim of sexual adventuring, it’s not a bad one because it means you’re doing something right. It gives you a measure of success.)

Masturbating

It is important that you know how to finger yourself, so that you can teach someone else. Remember, your boyfriend does not own a vagina and has no idea what he is doing. It doesn’t matter how many times he’s done it before, because he could have been doing it wrong all this time, and nobody could teach him how to do it any differently because they didn’t know. Don’t be her. Teach your boyfriend how to touch you, and do every woman he ever sleeps with in the future a massive favour. Masturbate and see what sort of touch feels good to you. Then teach him. Be explicit, not vague, and figure it out together.

If sex or fingering hurts, before, during or after, you’re doing it all wrong.

Practice, teach, learn

Once you understand a bit better what you need from a fingering, you can start to practice more with your boyfriend. You can return the favour by offering to be his student, touching him, while he is yours. Make it fun, while you learn to be experts in each other’s bodies, and you can be remembered for being that awesome girl for all of eternity.

Learning about another body is one of life’s great curiosities and so exploring your sexuality is very much a fun, nerve-wracking, exciting and generally, because so many things can go oh-so-wrong, pretty hilarious experience, no matter what your age. It’s just true that there is sometimes damage to tissue – both yours and his – in the process (splits, stinging, burning, blood, carpet burn, bent penises and deep vaginal aches). It’s a messy business and each of us has the quirks of our body that are different to everyone else. We are not all created identical.

Experimenting is how you learn what you like, and what hurts, so get amongst it. Be vocal about what feels good and what doesn’t, and learn what actions cause damage to you, and try it differently next time. Don’t worry too much about the temporary aches and pains – learn from them and move on.

Suggest that your boyfriend read this guide on how to pleasure a woman with his fingers.

Burnt, your burning is normal and you are very likely to be completely fine – there is nothing wrong with your vagina. In fact, it is doing exactly what it should: responding to damage with pain.

If you start to become more worried, you start to bleed or there is a worsening, visit your local sexual health clinic or doctor to be examined. It is advisable not to have any sort of sexual activity when you have damaged yourself; let it heal, and then do better next time.

Let us know how you go!

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.