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Painful Sex? Treating Vaginal Atrophy

Opening the space for women to explore what it means to be sexual and to experience their unique arousal mechanism through a wide range of sensory experiences would be a helpful adjunct to current treatment modalities. Our olfactory system lives inside of our arousal mechanism. Identifying the scents that arouse your imagination and using them in the context of sensuous touch are a great way to jumpstart the discovery of  your erotic self. These practices, which originated in ancient societies, are worth revisiting as they provide important information to your limbic brain, which processes memory, emotion, sexuality, as well as scent.

I often explain to customers that scent is our primary gateway to our sexuality. A literal storehouse of fantasy is often locked up inside and having the courage to attend to what lives in us, moving beyond our fears of being abnormal (which everyone has) is where our erotic relationships to ourselves and others begins. Even the best lubricant in the world cannot adequately do its job if you are not ready to be penetrated or if your only association with the act is a fear of pain.

Sexual pleasure and pain have an odd relationship to each other and one that is hard to articulate both because it is mysterious and lives in each of us uniquely. A few rules of thumb may help though. First, orgasmic readiness is the space of exploration where our fear mechanism turns off. We are being lead by something deeper and, in some ways, more base in us. This place where we are at least as much mammal as we are human is largely out of our mental control and is also a pain release mechanism. Stated another way, some of the most exquisite sexual pleasure available to us rides the line of pain, which is, in some ways, what makes sexual pleasure so compelling. Orgasm is in fact the transformative energy release that simultaneously liberates both pain and pleasure.

Without the experience of pleasure and the aspiration for the occasional visits of orgasmic transformation, sexual penetration would be experienced only as a form of trauma. Tragically, this is why most women don’t want to fight for their sex lives, because even before the vaginal atrophy began, their access to their erotic selves was limited and pleasure was not the sexual companion it deserved to be.

Yet the capacity to lean into your erotic self and experience transformative healing orgasms actually expands with age. The sexiest part of our body, our arousal mechanism in our limbic brain, does not atrophy. It is always looking for and maybe even longing for the opportunity to be experienced.

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Wendy Strgar

Wendy Strgar, founder and CEO of Good Clean Love, is a loveologist who writes and lectures on Making Love Sustainable, a green philosophy of relationships which teaches the importance of valuing the renewable resources of love, intimacy and family.  In her new book, Love that Works: A Guide to Enduring Intimacy,  she tackles the challenging issues of sustaining relationships and healthy intimacy with an authentic and disarming style and simple yet innovative adviceIt has been called "the essential guide for relationships."  The book is available on ebook.  Wendy has been married for 27 years to her husband, a psychiatrist, and lives with their four children ages 13- 22 in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

51 comments

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2:00AM PDT on Apr 9, 2013

While I agree that arousal starts in the brain, the author never addresses the titled subject matter and seems to imply that painful intercourse for women always has a root psychological cause. Sorry, but erotic fantasies will not treat vaginal atrophy. Not surprised to see that this is written by a non-medical professional and self-proclaimed 'loveologist.' Thanks to the other commenter who posted about the Estring, which was much more helpful.

12:07AM PST on Dec 20, 2012

You can try a procedure called o-shot which uses blood derived growth factors to give healthier vaginal tissue by stimulating uni-potent stem cells. This has been very effective with my patients. You can see how it's done at http://oshot.info

Hope this helps.

Charles Runels, MD

1:33PM PST on Feb 4, 2012

Thanks.

6:22PM PST on Feb 1, 2012

thanks

10:25AM PST on Jan 29, 2012

I think the article missed the point of the title. Vaginal atrophy is a real physical condition caused by lack of hormones, not lack of desire and interest (although some women may experince that as well.) The frustration comes from bring physically unable to act on that desire because of the pain involved. I was, and am still, definitely interested but suffered repeated infections, thinning tissue, loss of elasticity and lubrication, and even irritation from riding a bike. I found the Est-ring a great solution. It's replaced every 3 months and releases a bio-identical estrogen hormone direclty where it is needed. Much easier to deal withn than creams and safer because it is not systemic.

With that problem solved, the mental aspect is free to flourish! (and yes, those younger guys have some real advantages.)

6:44AM PST on Jan 29, 2012

Beverly G., I understand your situation. When I get sad, I remember what a friend said to me: "It's going to be difficult but not impossible."

I read this article a few months ago; I hope it's helpful for those people (women and men) who would like to date but for some reason can't or don't want to have sex:

"A Dating Site For People Who Can’t Have Sex?"

http://www.care2.com/causes/a-dating-site-for-people-who-cant-have-sex.html#comment-2424723

Good luck!

7:10PM PST on Jan 28, 2012

This is such good info, very informative. Tho i had problems with painful sex b4 the menopause(vaginitus) due to the anxiety of it all and the worry of becoming pregnant. Now im not intrested because im going thru the menopause and not intrested in sex, not just becos of atrophy, but its a very complex matter if you dont have a partner and are looking for some one when you are older becos all men just think SEX all the time and dont give you a chance. Its really horrible getting old, i am obsessed with ageing i know. I look good for my age im told but, that dont get me anywhere. I have been so hurt by MEN in the past i just cant bring down my barriers anymor and the thing is thats the most important thing i want. I am and feel very lonely and would like a lovely ,warm,caring , compassionate companion. Sad, very sad.

6:56PM PST on Jan 28, 2012

Good info Jane B.

6:55PM PST on Jan 28, 2012

hmmm...sounded like a non article . Not enough info...REAL info . Author should not be shy or afraid to really get into giving real info i.e. creams , gels or whatever. perhaps red wine ?

12:36AM PST on Jan 28, 2012

Thanks for the article.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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