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The Private Hell of Painful Sex

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The Private Hell of Painful Sex

For over a decade after losing my virginity at twenty, I suffered from painful sex (dyspareunia). Although my body would lie there, feeling like I was getting stabbed with a knife while being rubbed raw with sandpaper and having acid poured on my wounds, the rest of me would go running for the hills every time I saw a penis coming my way. I literally dissociated from my body during all those years of painful sex that led to the disintegration of my marriage.

My poor husband suffered too. The dude adored me, so he felt like a total schmuck because he knew how much sex hurt me (you couldn’t miss the signs – the tears, the yelps, the grimaces, the avoidance of anything as innocent as a hug because it might lead to more pain.) At first, the diagnosis was vulvar vestibulitis, inflammation of the glands in the “vestibule” (opening) of the vagina. But finally, my body got to the point where it just flat out shut down. You couldn’t get into my body if you wanted to because the muscles in the vagina had had enough. They just locked out anybody who wanted to come in – lovers, gynecologists, even tampons.

My vagina became a DO NOT ENTER zone.

This went on for over ten years, and the whole time, I was PISSED.

I mean everyone else seemed to be having rocking, sexy, hot, intimate, multi-orgasmic blissful sex.

But not me. I would have settled for feeling nothing. Nothing would have been bliss compared to the hell I experienced from my husband’s penis. I would have been willing to lie there, feeling nothing, so my husband could get off and we could have some sort of sex life. Nothing sex would have been awesome.  Great sex felt like more than I could ever hope to achieve.

At first, I didn’t even know this was abnormal. I figured every woman just suffered through intercourse as some sort of female sacrifice to get a man. But then, as I went to medical school and became an OB/GYN physician, I learned that most women do not experience pain with sex, although 15 percent of women will have painful sex at some point in their life, and 20 million women are currently suffering from this health condition.

I Could Have More?

For a long time, I didn’t even know I could ever have more. Then, even after I knew it wasn’t normal, I continued to suffer in silence.

During this time, nobody knew except my husband. I had had other lovers, but I never shared with them how much I suffered when they thrusted into me. I trusted my husband with my private truth, and he begged me to get help, but I was too embarrassed to tell even my doctor, who always seemed too busy to really listen.

I Felt Like A Hypocrite

The worst part was that I was an OB/GYN physician. I spent all day promoting women’s health, teaching people about sexual health, and delivering babies so others could have great sex lives and healthy, happy vaginas. I felt like a f*cking hypocrite.

I remember, right after my husband and I finally got divorced (after I finally saw a doctor and she told me there was nothing she could do for me except cut out a piece of my vagina), I had just delivered the baby of a good friend. I remember thinking, “That will never be me. I will never find true love, have great sex, give birth to a baby, or feel sexual, feminine, and whole. I’m going to be an old maid delivering other women’s babies. I’ll never have that experience myself, and nobody will ever love me again.”  I felt horribly, desperately alone, like damaged goods.

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Read more: General Health, Gynecology, Health, Love, Menopause, Relationships, Sex, Women's Health, , , , , , , , , ,

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Lissa Rankin

Lissa Rankin, MD is a mind-body medicine physician, founder of the Whole Health Medicine Institute training program for physicians and other health care providers, and the New York Times bestselling author of Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself.  She is on a grassroots mission to heal health care, while empowering you to heal yourself.  Lissa blogs at and also created two online communities - and She is also the author of two other books, a professional artist, an amateur ski bum, and an avid hiker. Lissa lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and daughter.


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10:01PM PST on Nov 28, 2011

I can't imagine having to suffer pain like this during a session of what is supposed to be exhilarating, especially with that special someone in your life.

Glad to hear that it has a happy ending, and that there is hope for other women who are in the same predicament.

So, what was the diagnosis and the treatment for this sort of thing? Can you post information here so that Care2 readers, going through the same thing can go to their physicians to get help, if needed?

Anyway, I'm fortunate to be on the opposite end. I just can't get enough.

8:56AM PST on Nov 24, 2011

Love should be expressed and should gratify your physical and emotional desires. A few factors that can affect your sexual intimacy are everyday tensions, pressures, health, fidelity issues etc. Here are tips to keep the romance alive.

4:40AM PST on Nov 24, 2011

this shouldn't be up here if it is just advertising. If this article actually told how it was cured maybe it would be even halfway readable.

11:17AM PST on Nov 21, 2011

My problem is thinning of my vagina and lack of lubrication inside the vagina. I have moisture from the clitoris. Since menopause and losing estrogen I actually bleed a little and have great pain. The way we have sex is he brings me to orgasm and I give him oral or manual sex to bring him to orgasm. Has anyone had sexual problems since menopause?
No lubricates relieve the extreme dryness so intercourse is too painful and difficult for him. Please tell me where to get help.

9:39AM PST on Nov 21, 2011

eh, not so sure about this article

10:07PM PST on Nov 20, 2011

Vulvodynia is the most frequent cause of painful intercourse, a recent study found that 25% of women had experienced vulvodynia at some point in their lives. The National Vulvodynia Association is an organization who offers support to women with this condition, including help with a physician referral. For more information go to their website:

3:49PM PST on Nov 20, 2011

I whole heartedly agree with the protests of the posters I've seen. This sounds like a 3AM infomercial for a product of dubious results.

1:40PM PST on Nov 20, 2011

This is nothing more than an infomercial! Tells me nothing about how to solve the problem. So, tell us Dearie - how did you "do the work'?

Doesn't Care2 screen this stuff?

12:42PM PST on Nov 20, 2011

poor You :(

8:15AM PST on Nov 20, 2011

Sad story, good you learned to have good sex, but this article is just one long advertising. Leaves you with a bad feeling. I don't have any problems but if I had I would have felt cheated.

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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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