Aunt Vadge: I’m scared sex stuff is going to hurt

Hi Aunt Vadge,

Me and my boyfriend (first one) have been together about four months and we’ve started ‘doing stuff’. I fully trust and love him and want to do stuff with him but I keep getting so scared it’s going to hurt.

He tried to finger me but I couldn’t cope with the thought of potential pain. I’ve tried to do it myself to get used to it but I can’t get it deep enough, what do I do? 

Age: 18 
Country: U.K.

Dear Petrified,

Welcome to your vagina! Your fear of pain is very natural and I’m pretty sure most of us have it. At no point do people say, “Oh, isn’t it great being a virgin, everything that touches my vagina is like magic and feels so amazing!” It is always “Wow that freakin’ hurt!” It makes sense for us to be afraid of pain – we should be!

But, this fear does impede our investigations somewhat. This part of your learning is the most fraught, because this is hard, your vagina is mysterious, and you have no guidebook on how yours is going to react. It’s all new. This is ok, but overcoming your fear of pain is only going to be solved by understanding the actions that cause pain, and why that pain is occurring.

Usually the pain is caused by A) a hymen, B) a tightly-clenched vagina, and less commonly, C) by anatomical abnormalities that obstruct the vagina or D) a condition like vulvodynia that causes unexplained, but severe, pain in the vagina. We can assume in your case that it is either A or B, with both definitely solvable without pain.

What I would suggest you do is get out a hand mirror, and see if your hymen is still intact. Read the article about the hymen so you know what you are looking for.

You can stretch out your hymen yourself in a pain-free manner (see the bottom of that article for instructions), although if it’s thick and fibrous (which they sometimes are), you may be better served popping in to the doctor to have it quickly (and without too much pain – they can use anaesthetic) opened. They would just slice it open ever so gently so you can be free! This is unusual, so don’t worry – you can probably stretch it out painlessly at home yourself.

If your vagina is really tightly clenched, you need to learn about your vaginal muscles, but most importantly, you need to learn about how you get turned on. So take penetration off the table for a moment (and with it your fear) – that is penetration with a penis or fingers or anything.

Focus on your clitoris. Get your boyfriend involved too, and learn about the wonders of oral sex. Once your vagina is actually turned on, you are wet, and you are breathless, you will know that your vagina is prepared for penetration. Your vagina has to want to be penetrated before anything goes in there at all.

This cannot be underestimated. Get. Turned. On. The rest will start to make more sense then. Make your boyfriend promise not to put anything in your vagina at all, and let him investigate your whole vulva – clitoris, labia.

Find out what feels good to you, him using his tongue. Once your clitoris is turned on, your whole vulva will start to swell with blood, and the erectile tissue inside your body will be activated in much the same way a penis becomes erect.

This will stimulate your vagina to produce its own slippery lubrication, when you feel ‘wet’, and this whole swelling thing means that the vaginal walls and tissue is actually protected from damage. It has a sort of cushioning effect.

Your vagina is not designed to be used when it is not turned on. That will cause damage and pain and fulfill every single fear you have ever had. Don’t do it. Learn how to get turned on properly, fully, and breathlessly.

Then you will understand the feeling of wanting a penis or finger inside your vagina, and your fears will naturally dissipate, and you’ll wonder why you ever had them. If you don’t do this, you are denying yourself sexual enjoyment and the learning experience of your own sexuality, and the sexuality of your boyfriend.

Set aside a couple of hours with your boyfriend, and go through Sex 101, fingering basics, how to perform cunnilingus on a woman, and look over the diagrams in Vag Basics. It will take some time – these guides are comprehensive – but once you’re done, you’ll understand much better how this whole sex and vagina thing should go.

Being armed with knowledge means the next steps are simply practising with your boyfriend and by yourself. Learn everything you can – none of us are born being good at sex or knowing how to do it. Getting to know your body and how your sexuality and vagina works is a whole new ball game, one that takes years and years and years and never really ends.

You are on the right track. Keep reading and keep practising.

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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