Does sex hurt?

The most important thing to remember is that sex shouldn’t hurt. If it does, then there is a problem, and you should stop and take a break.

For most people, sex is very pleasurable and they enjoy it, but sometimes there can be a bit of pain depending on what you are doing. Because sex often involves repeating a specific action over and over again, people can get muscle cramps, often in their legs or jaws, but these pains usually pass quickly and feel better as soon as you stop.

Some people who suffer from something like back pain or arthritis may find some aspects of sex painful or uncomfortable. Depending on the reason for their pain, they may benefit from e.g. being in a certain position during sex, or taking painkilling medication first.

Mostly, when people are concerned that sex is going to hurt, they are worried that it will hurt for somebody who is being a receptive partner in sex. Being a receptive partner means that somebody is putting something (usually fingers, a sex toy or a penis) inside you- inside your mouth, anus or vagina.


Vaginal sex: Sometimes people worry that vaginal sex will hurt, especially the first time. When you get ‘turned on’, your vagina produces a wet substance and becomes slippery so the vagina is not damaged. This means that if you aren’t turned on and your vagina is not slippery, it can hurt if somebody tries to put something in it because it is too dry and the friction will hurt in this sensitive area. In some cases, it is possible to feel turned on and ready for sex, and yet your vagina isn’t slippery enough to feel comfortable. You can use a lubricant to help things. Using a lubricant is a really good idea, because not only can it make sex feel more comfortable, but it can also reduce the risk of a condom tearing. Lubricants should be proper lubricants which are made for sexual use- slippery things you might find around the house like butter and Vaseline aren’t okay because the oils in them can cause tiny holes to form in condoms.

Sometimes when people feel nervous the muscles of their vagina tense up, which can also cause pain if something goes in your vagina because the entrance is tightened up. If you’re turned on and relaxed, your muscles should relax and it shouldn’t hurt. If it isn’t easy for you to get turned on and feel relaxed, then it suggests that you aren’t ready to have sex with that person yet and you should wait until you are.

It’s a myth that you have a “cherry” that gets torn or “popped” the first time you have vaginal sex! The truth is that there is a thin membrane called the hymen that makes the vagina a bit narrower, and that it gets stretched over time when things are put inside (like sex toys, tampons, menstrual cups and fingers). If it hasn’t been stretched a lot then putting something inside it like a penis and going too quickly can stretch it further than it is used to being stretched, which can cause some pain. For more info about this check out this great video:


What to do if there is blood? It is best to see a doctor at your local sexual health clinic if it is not normal for you and/or you are worried about it.


Anal sex: Unlike the vagina, the anus does not become slippery when you are turned on, so it is really important to always use lots of lubricant intended for sexual purposes during anal sex, because otherwise it will hurt a lot and cause damage. The skin inside the anus is very delicate and tears quite easily compared to the vagina.

The anus itself can take a long time to get used to stretching, and so trying to stretch it too much at once will cause pain and maybe tearing. Feeling nervous can make the muscles of your anus tense up, which will cause it to hurt if somebody tries to put something inside it.

If you take it really slowly (which might mean over days or weeks of gentle stretching!), use lots of lubricant, and feel relaxed, anal sex shouldn’t hurt.


Penis damage: The bit that connects the foreskin around the tip of the penis to the head underneath (called the frenulum) can be damaged in rough sex. It can tear and because there is a lot of blood going to the penis during an erection, it can bleed a lot. If this happens, as it can but rarely does, you must go to the nearest Emergency Department at a Hospital right away. It can be repaired and work normally again with medical help.


Oral sex: Oral sex usually does not cause pain, but sometimes it can if you are being rough. Some people enjoy “deep-throating” where they take their partner’s penis deep into their throat, which can cause pain both to the penis and to the throat. Some people enjoy thrusting roughly into their partner’s mouth, which can also cause pain if done to roughly.