May 18, 2013

Something I Wish I’d Known: A Woman’s First Penetrative Sex Shouldn’t Be Painful

by oneeyedoctopus

I’m annoyed that I didn’t know about this before I had sex for the first time. I had no reason to be afraid.

Actual Facts

For most women, the hymen is a thin, crescent-shaped membrane at the opening of the vagina. Some women have more obstructive configurations. In rare cases the opening is completely covered and requires minor surgery to allow menstrual blood to escape. But for most women it’s not in the way. You just need to be relaxed and aroused and stretch it gently. It doesn’t need to tear.

The state of a woman’s hymen is an incredibly poor method of determining if she’s ever had sex. It can be broken by activities unrelated to sex, and sexual intercourse can leave it intact. If the hymen is elastic, it can return to its “virginal” state, especially after a long period without any stretching. Or it might form stretched, wrinkly remnants called carunculae myrtiformes. Or it might not be visible at all.

My boyfriend had been fingering me vigorously for weeks. My hymen was well out of the way. I had no reason to be afraid, but I was. And like many women, I wasn’t as relaxed as I could have been because I was anticipating that pain. This fear of pain can end up causing it. If she’s not relaxed, her vaginal muscles are tight and penetration is painful. And they don’t stop when it hurts because they think it’s supposed to.

I was lucky that my first time was just weird and a little uncomfortable. I didn’t have any pain. I thought that was incredibly strange. Maybe I’d broken my hymen without realizing it? Maybe during all that aforementioned vigorous fingering? I’d never heard of a woman not having a painful first experience.

But the truth is I haven’t heard many nonfictional accounts of a woman’s first time. I’ve read countless fictional versions of the story. And I think the story of the powerful man and the innocent, virginal woman is more exciting when he hurts her. I think that’s why it dominates fiction and so many people are so woefully misinformed. I’d like to see more people talking about the actual facts and challenging this ubiquitous lie that causes unnecessary pain and fear.