Aunt Vadge: it burns and tingles after fingering

Hi Aunt Vadge,

I’m experiencing some pain after my boyfriend fingers me. The pain started recently and we’re really not sure why, since we’ve been doing the same thing for months now. It’s like a tingling/burning sensation that lasts for like 15 minutes tops.

I did my own research, but no one really seems to be in my situation,  I’m still a virgin but this isn’t the first time he’s fingered me. The other day he went very slow ‘n gentle but it still hurt afterwards. And according to him, I’m soaked, so I don’t think it’s from rubbing it when it’s dry. He also trims his nails until his fingers are like nubs.

The most I can come up with is that his hands might be dirty but this wasn’t a problem before. I also sort of had a urine infection about a month ago, but everything is pretty okay now. I even go so far as wetting toilet paper in the sink to wipe after I pee.

Please help! He’s more worried than I am and wants to stop but I don’t want him to… what could be the reason?

Thank you,
Tingly Fingers

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Dear Tingly Fingers,

Thank you for your letter. You sound like you have been doing some good research on the problem, which is great to see. It is also great to hear that your boyfriend is being careful with your body.

So let’s investigate the problem.

You experience pain, a tingling and burning, after being fingered by your boyfriend. It lasts for about 15 minutes. You haven’t mentioned how long these fingerings go for, which is important. So a ‘standard’ session would be some making out, then someone undoes a belt buckle or zipper, and then the making out continues with a bit of fumbling below the belt and up the top.

This can sometimes go on for a long time because there is no ‘resolution’, meaning the feelings just keep on going if there is no orgasm. This is heaps of fun, but what can happen is that your nerve endings stop responding because they are not ‘needed’, which reduces the blood flow to the vagina, and therefore reduces your lubricant levels.

This can easily result in a small cut or fissure inside the vagina that feels a bit like a paper cut. There won’t be any blood, but every time you get fingered or have sex, it feels sore for a while.

This nerve mechanism is the same one whereby you do a poo, but by the end of your visit to the toilet, you can’t smell your poo anymore and wander out under the illusion that your poo actually doesn’t smell. This is not the case.

Your odour-receptors have just stopped firing, because the smell is the same – no change here, still smells like crap – and therefore unimportant.

This can mean that after a long sexy session of making out and fingering and whatever else is going on, your nerve endings stop firing at their hefty pace and the juices stop flowing.

This means it’s time to stop, or it’s time to do another activity, because when you don’t stop then, you start doing damage to tissues and making yourself uncomfortable (even if you can’t feel it much at the time).

The nature of the vagina is that when you are turned on – really turned on, physically – your sexual tissues swell up with blood just like a penis does. Your clitoris, vaginal lips and muscles plump, with the result being no damage and an enhanced sexual experience. You have no doubt seen people having sex before – sometimes they go really hard!

And if you have ever seen a guy masturbate, they also seem to go really hard, and this is because the blood acts as a buffer. The key to being able to have penetrative sex – or be fingered – like a champ is being properly and fully turned on so that no damage occurs and it doesn’t hurt.

You mention that he says your vagina is ‘soaked’, but what do you think? Being hot and wet is not the same as it just ‘not being dry’. Having a properly-lubricated vagina that is ready to be sexed is very different to having normal vaginal secretions that are also wet.

It is important that you, not he, know the difference. You are driving this boat my dear, and it is critical that you know what is what when it comes to your vagina.

Let’s reverse it to demonstrate the principle. If you touch a soft penis, and really give it a good ‘fingering’ equivalent (poke at it, even though you can’t see what you’re doing, through a curtain of hairy skin) and the penis does not become hard, the movement will eventually become uncomfortable.

This is the same as fingering a foot or ear – unless the body part being ‘fingered’ is ready for action by being filled with blood, it will do damage to the tissue after a while. If you don’t let that heal up, the injury will just stay – mild as it might be. The blood acts as a buffer, like styrofoam.

The next thing we need to know is, if you finger yourself, does the same thing happen? You now have homework, which is to spend half an hour alone with your vagina, fingering yourself, but only once you are turned on. Like really turned on. Like gasping-moaning-and-wet turned on.

You need to know what he is feeling, and what a wet woman actually feels like. If you don’t know these things, you will continue to encounter weird pains and aches and tingles, because your boyfriend will end up accidentally hurting you, because if you are a virgin, it is unlikely he is the resident Dirk Diggler and therefore may have less idea of what’s going on than you do.

Get him to read this article on the basics of fingering for guys.

So what are you looking for with your fingering?

You have these special little glands near the entrance to your vagina that have just one job: to squirt out lube when you are turned on, to get your vagina ready to take a sperm-toting penis, making sex slippery so that hopefully (according to biology) you get pregnant or at least make you orgasm.

The whole point of all of this is to get you up the duff and continue the species. If you are not turned on, the vagina will still be damp – it is by its very nature a wet thing – but it won’t be slippery. If you haven’t noticed, a dry vagina is like Fort Knox.

This slipperiness is the difference between your usual vaginal moisture and when you are really turned on. When your boyfriend touches you, you should pretty much already be wet, so when he slips a finger inside, you are so pleased by this that you try to buck against it.

The vagina is designed so that when you are ready for sex, you want something inside of you so bad that you will do anything for it. Until that point, a penis or fingers are usually a bit like salty porridge: fills you up, but doesn’t excite you. The nerves need to be tingled first. You need to be ‘on’. Really on.

You don’t mention how old you are, but you do mention that you are a virgin, which I presume means you haven’t had a penis inside of you (the meaning of ‘virgin’ can be a bit vague, and being fingered could be construed as sex of some kind because it’s sexual, and penetrative).

This means your sexual experimentation is at its humble beginnings, and will continue to develop, so what should be happening is more touching in the handful of other ways you can easily sexually stimulate each other: oral sex (see if you like a tongue on your clitoris, inside you, and see how his penis feels on your lips), see what it’s like to touch each others butts, massage each other’s bodies, learn how sensitive both your nipples are, and the grand old classic, just make out heaps more and dry hump.

Don’t let you being fingered be the only avenue you have – it is, in my experience, just one of a handful of staples, and once you learn the others, it may no longer be your favourite. Experimenting with sex is fun, hot, embarrassing, hurts from time to time, and is often hilarious.  Go nuts! Fingers bah humbug fingers.

The vagina itself doesn’t have a lot of nerve endings except around the entrance which is why you can’t feel the abrasions all the time, just after they are irritated. It is important to take some time out and let it heal (even if you can’t feel any pain, the fingering is obviously irritating a scratch, as small as it may be).

Your prescription is:

  • 1 week off penetration (fingers, toys, penises) to let your vagina heal
  • Experiment with different types of sexual activities, as you are both comfortable, that do not involve fingering, or do, but as well as something else like a tongue
  • Make sure that before anything goes into your vagina, you are slippery-wet and very turned on

We would love to know how you go so write back when you get time!

Sincerely,
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.