The Guide to
Getting It On


Intercourse Distress

This is a continuation of last month's column, where a reader and his girlfriend were having intercourse distress. For most of us, 'intercourse distress' means not getting any, but for this couple, the woman says that during penetration it feels as though her skin is being stretched, "Like the skin between two fingers if you try to spread them too far." Oowie Ouch and then some! We were able to determine that while her partner was blessed with good girth, it's not the sort of penis that the average woman is going to scream "Not on your life" when his boxers hit the floor.

The reason I did a two-parter for this question is because we needed to consider some of the possible physical causes for her discomfort before considering some of the mental or emotional causes. Physical causes can range from adhesions under the clitoral hood, yeast infections, or herpes sores to chronic constipation, vestibulitis or even changes associated with menopause.

Now, what in the blazes could make a woman unconsciously tighten the ring of muscles around her vagina so that intercourse is difficult if not impossible? And could these muscles tighten to such an extent that she can't even fit a tampon inside? From the archives of my own private practice, I recall one woman who would answer "The Catholic Church" and "You Betcha!—I couldn't even get a tampon in there." It was as if the pope had sent a bishop to sit between her legs.

So we know one cause of vaginal gridlock during intercourse can be from a harsh religious upbringing. Another cause can be something as seemingly simple as an intrusive exam or a vaginal infection that once caused painful intercourse. The reason I say simple is because you would think the mind would be able to know "That was then and this is now," but the mind/body interaction is seldom that simple. The human mind has so much control over the body that it can create hysterical blindness or paralysis where the person actually feels that he or she is blind or paralyzed. So don't for a moment think that the mind isn't creative and powerful enough to tighten up a couple of muscles between your legs if it is trying to protect you from pain—or from what it assumes will cause pain.

Until recently, it was believed that some sort of sexual abuse or serious trauma was necessary to trigger such a response. And while this can certainly be true for plenty of women who have the problem, there are others who have never had any kind of experience that would be considered traumatic. In exploring your own past, you will need to decide if the causes may have been major or minor. If the causes were minor, it is possible to relieve the symptoms by using a series of vaginal dilators. With this process, you begin by inserting whatever size dilator you can comfortably fit in your vagina, and then slowly and gradually move up in size over time.

The best resource I have found on using vaginal dilators is Ellen, co-owner of A Woman's Touch. A Woman's Touch is a very classy sexuality store that is owned by a physician and a social worker. They have designed their very own vaginal dilators and Ellen is the most knowledgeable and easiest person you will ever find to discuss this with. She can be reached at 608.250.1928. The Web Site for A Woman's Touch is

Two other resources on how to use sexual dilators are:

1. From the Web Site of the Department of OBGYN of the University of Michigan The dilator part is at the end of this page, but I found it helpful reading the entire page.

2. The Marriage Builders Web Site of a Dr. Harley who seems to have written about six dozen books. He talks about using fingers and candles instead of buying dilators, which is helpful if you don't have the money. I don't know enough about Dr. Harley to say any more, other than the part he's written about dilators seems competent

A couple of online support groups that you might find helpful are:

The "frequently asked questions" page that's listed on the first yahoo site is also very helpful

As you can see, there are no easy answers, but plenty of good resources. The two of you will need to explore the possible cause or causes and go to work on some solutions.

©2010 by Paul Joannides

Related Issues: Talking With Kids About Tough Issues, Relationship, Sexuality
Relationship, Sexuality

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In America, sex is an obsession, in other parts of the world it is a fact. - Marlene Dietrich

Paul Joannides is the author of the Guide To Getting It On!--the Universe's Coolest and Most Informative Book On Sex. You can contact him at by clicking on the cover of the Guide that appears on his web site. All columns are the property of Paul Joannides and Goofy Foot Press

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