Just in time for Valentine’s Day, I wrote a piece for RH Reality Check about how this particular Hallmark holiday can be particularly stressful for women who experience chronic pain during sex.
The numbers on exactly how many women regularly experience pain during sex are fuzzy. There’s not a lot of funding out there to support research into conditions like vulvodynia, vaginismus and other conditions that can cause vaginal penetration to be painful. But the difficulty of getting an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment for these little-understood conditions is an issue for another day. For now, let’s focus on the immediate problem, which is that for a lot of women, the mind-blowing sex that is supposed to happen on Valentine’s Day isn’t going to be mind-blowing. It’s probably going to hurt like hell. And that can make the pressure to get naked and get busy on the 14th a lot more complicated.
Hannah is a cis-gendered woman in a long-term heterosexual relationship for whom sex has been painful for as long as she can remember. “My first time was stereotypically painful, but it just never got better,” she says. “To be perfectly frank, I don’t think I remember having sex when it didn’t hurt.” And that, Hannah says, makes special occasions like Valentine’s Day and anniversaries particularly stressful. The pain she feels during sex, she says, affects the frequency with which she does it, but she does feel pressure to sleep with her partner. “All of that is just aggravated,” she told me, “by special occasions like Valentine’s Day.”
The piece also includes some handy tips for how to take some of the pressure off on Valentine’s Day – on any day, really – if this is a problem you face. You can read the whole thing here.