There’s a lot about sex that they don’t show you in the movies. Things that are totally normal, like too much sweating, awkward flapping noises, sour smells, and even pain. Whether pain is caused by a penis, vibrator, finger, or tampon – pain during sex or insertion is pretty common, especially if you’re new to the experience. In fact, a 1999 study conducted by the University of Chicago found that 21% of women between the ages of 20 and 29 experienced pain with intercourse, making it pretty common. But, even when sex hurts, there are many things you can do to loosen up your vaginal muscles, relax your body, and have comfortable, pleasurable, pain-free sex!

In this article, we’ll answer your questions, like “Why does it hurt when I have sex?”, “How can I loosen up and relax my vagina?”, “Should I use lube?”, and we’ll give you our best tips to reduce pain and discomfort during sex, fingering, and insertion. It’s important to learn how your body works, get comfortable, relax, and find out exactly what works for you. With a little time, practice, and patience, you’ll be having more pain-free and comfortable sex than you thought possible!

Discomfort vs. Pain

Discomfort during sex, masturbation, or any kind of penetration (like putting in a tampon) can be totally normal, especially the first few times. But, it shouldn’t be very painful, and it’s important to recognize the difference between those two sensations. Discomfort is a new sensation that your body isn’t used to, while pain is your body’s way of yelling “stop!”, and is a much sharper and intense sensation. Putting something in your vagina might feel uncomfortable, weird, or scary simply because it’s a totally new feeling. Pay attention to what you are feeling, and if there’s pain, stop, take it slow, and if pain persists, talk to your doctor.

Explore Your Body

Spend some time alone and get to know yourself (and your vagina) intimately. Check yourself out in a mirror and learn where everything is located. Relax in private, and turn off your mind. Get lost thinking about a steamy hookup session, fantasy, or porn flick. Explore the erogenous zones of your body, like your breasts, neck, and thighs, and see what happens when you get aroused. Enjoy the physical sensations, and focus on external masturbation and arousal, instead of insertion. Try different speeds and motions on your clitoris, or use a vibrator externally. Stay aroused, and see what keeps you going. Once you’re aroused, your vaginal canal will expand, kind of like a balloon. Gently insert the tip of your finger, and stay focused on your arousal. View insertion as a natural step that feels comfortable, not an end goal you have to achieve. Stay engaged in your fantasies to stay aroused. The more comfortable you are with your body, the more comfortable you will be with sex and penetration.

Let Go of Stress and Relax

Emotional factors like fear, nervousness, and stress can be a big factor in discomfort and pain. If you are nervous, your muscles, including vaginal muscles, will tense up. This can become a downward spiraling cycle. The more nervous you are, the more you will tense up, which can turn natural discomfort info pain, and create more nervousness and fear. If you get nervous, tense up, or feel discomfort during penetration… relax. Discomfort is normal at first, especially when sex or penetration is new. It may take a while to get used to the way your body feels with these new sensations. Relaxing your body and mind can make a huge difference. Whether you feel tense of not, breath slowly and deeply. Relax your pelvic area, and your entire body. Relax your vaginal muscles, the same ones you use to stop pee mid-stream or let it go. Clear your mind, and enjoy the sensations of arousal.

Go Slow

Don’t feel pressured to go beyond your comfort zone. You are in control of the pace, actions, and what you’re comfortable with. Set time aside for exploring so you don’t feel rushed. Learning about your body is a process. Enjoy each moment instead of focusing on an end goal. Move slowly, and let your body adjust to new sensations, especially penetration. If you start to feel uncomfortable, relax, and adjust your movement or penetration slowly. Don’t try to put a whole finger in there at once, or push yourself to extreme discomfort or pain. Give yourself permission to take as long as you need, and don’t judge yourself if progress isn’t as quick as you’d like it to be.

Use Lube

Lube basically makes the sexual world go round. It is cheap, simple, safe, and easy to buy and use. It can’t hurt, and almost always helps. Everyone has different levels of natural lubrication, and, whether you think you need it or not, adding a store bought lube will make you slippery smooth, and make penetration easier and more comfortable. Be sure to get a water based lube, not oil or silicone, which can be difficult to clean and can cause irritation. We recommend Sliquid Organics Natural Water-Based Lube. It is incredibly body-safe, free from glycerine, parabens and made with certified organic extracts. It is vegan friendly, too. Check out my experiences with lubes that caused me pain. They may be causing you pain, too! (My experience here.) If you’re in a pinch and don’t have lube, spit can be used as a backup, but definitely is not a replacement. Spend a few bucks and get the real deal! A little goes a long way… so that bottle will last and last… The wetter, the better!

Try Different Positions

Exploring different positions could help you find what is most comfortable for you. For inserting a tampon or fingers, try sitting on a toilet, leaning back in a chair, crouching, and laying down. Open your legs, put them closer together, and bend your knees. Try to relax your muscles, including vaginal muscles. For sex, try a variety of different positions to find what will work for you. Thinking about what body positions are the most comfortable, and will give easy and open access to your vagina. Try everything with your legs comfortably spread. Try lying on your back, spooning, being on top, or on your knees. Put a pillow under your back, head, or butt for extra support and better positioning.


Communication is key in every relationship. It’s important to be open and honest with your partner, your doctor, and even yourself. Make sure everyone understands your discomfort, respects your experiences, and takes the time to be slow and gentle with your body. Be open about what hurts, what feels good, and what still feels weird. Be honest about your boundaries, what you are comfortable with, and what you definitely don’t want to do.


The more you get to know your body, the more comfortable you will become. Set aside a little time each week to practice, take care of yourself, and learn more. If you feel pain or a lot of discomfort, don’t push it! Relax, take a deep breath, and know that with baby steps, your vagina will be happy as a clam. No matter what, don’t get discouraged and give up. Keep trying! Your vagina loves you, and you’ll learn to love her, too!

Visit Your Doctor

If you’ve tried everything, and something just feels totally wrong, go to a gynecologist. They will help to determine any physical reasons for your pain. If you haven’t gone before, it’s really no big deal! Be open and honest. If you don’t want to go into details about your sexual activity, just say it’s uncomfortable to use tampons. The pain could be from your hymen, a small membrane of skin that covers your vaginal opening. All women have one from birth, and it is typically broken when we’re young from activities like bike riding, gymnastics, etc. But, some women have a thicker hymen that might not break all the way, and could be painful. It could also be from vaginismus, a treatable condition that often makes sex painful. If your doctor comes up empty handed, don’t give up! Visit another to get a second opinion, and search until you find the answers you need to have the great sex life you deserve.



I Cannot Insert Anything into My Vagina. What Should I Do?Scarleteen. 28 Apr. 2013. Web. 20 Jul. 2013.
Lynn, Anna. “Illness? Injury? How to Get Back Into the Sexual Saddle.” Kinkly, 8 May 2013. Web. 20 Jul. 2013.

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