About Last Night: I have a medical condition that makes sex painful

Q: I am a 32-year-old woman. For almost a year I’ve been receiving treatment for a medical condition that can make penetrative sex painful. This makes it difficult for me to relax, and enjoy, sexual intercourse. Most painful is deep penetration, so I am always tense and concerned that my partner might get carried away. This is putting a strain on my relationship. Is there anything I can do to overcome this depressing situation?

Illustration: Jim PavlidisCredit:

A: More than 70 per cent of women will experience pain during sex at some time in their lives, but painful sex is never OK. If sexual intercourse is causing you pain you need to seek medical advice at once. There are a wide range of conditions that can result in sex being painful, including endometriosis, fibroids, hypertonic pelvic floor dysfunction, and vaginismus. Not all of these conditions can be cured, so, in these cases, pain management is necessary.

One of the activities that can be particularly painful is deep penile penetration of the vagina, especially with thrusting. It can be difficult for the partner to judge this, and desire can cause him to get carried away. As a result, many women cannot relax into their pleasure, and neither can their partners. As you say, this constraint and worry can spoil a couple’s sex life, and take its toll on their relationship.

In the 22 years that I ran Bliss for Women I had innumerable requests for a product that could regulate the depth of penetration, but there was nothing available. However, thanks to an ingenious Kickstarter project run by Emily Sauer, a breakthrough product was launched in 2018 – the Ohnut (ohnut.co).

Already being praised by many medical professionals, this intimate wearable comprises a series of stretchy rings that link together and let you customise the depth of penetration, whether by a penis, dildo or dilator. You choose how deeply you want to be penetrated by sliding the chosen number of interlocking rings over a lubricated shaft until it reaches the base, leaving the rest of the shaft ready for action. The material (a body-safe, food-grade, antimicrobial polymer blend) is also squishy enough that it acts as a buffer between your body and the thing penetrating you. Women all over the world have reported that the Ohnut has radically improved their ability to enjoy sex once more.

More than 70 per cent of women will experience pain during sex at some time in their lives.Credit:Jessica Hromas

At the beginning of this year I passed the baton of Bliss to a new owner. Jodie Dunne is a sexuality educator with a wealth of experience in the field of women’s sexual health and wellbeing. As a co-founder of Endometriosis Australia, Dunne understands the problems that can be caused by painful sexual intercourse, and now features the Ohnut on her website – blissforwomen.com.au.

To get personal feedback on the efficacy of the Ohnut, I sought an independent review by a woman with hypertonic pelvic floor dysfunction. She reported that, after extensive pelvic floor physiotherapy treatment, she was still experiencing some sexual pain.

After testing the Ohnut, she was asked if it had made a difference.

She said: "While I can’t speak for everyone, the answer for me is a resounding, 'Hell, yes.' The first time I used Ohnut was with my partner, a cisgender man, and it was the first time in months (in fact, maybe a year) that I was able to completely let go and be totally in the moment instead of having to remind myself to relax my body and my pelvic floor muscles so it wouldn't hurt.

"I was able to let go and just enjoy sex with no pain. I cried afterward. It was a good cry – one that let out months of pent-up frustration at my body."

She said her partner not only found it easy to use, it had absolutely no negative impact on his experience, and actually helped to hold a condom in place.

If you are being treated by a medical practitioner, it would be advisable to consult them before trying anything new, but it does seem the Ohnut is the answer to many people’s prayers.

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