But unfortunately, for a lot of people with vulvas, sex is painful.
One of the reasons for this pain is due to something called High Tone Pelvic Floor. This occurs when the pelvic floor muscle around the vagina and vulva tenses and gets tight during penetration. This tightness physically stops penetration from occurring comfortably.
Many of my clients tell me that penetration feels like hitting a wall, which can be incredibly uncomfortable and painful for them.
But what is causing this? And what can you do to fix this?
One of the most common causes of this tightening in one’s pelvic region is pressure and stress.
That’s why understanding how your body holds stress and pressure is important:
Where do you hold stress in your body?
Where do you experience the physical effects of being put under pressure?
One couple I was seeing who was experiencing High Tone Pelvic Floor gave me wildly different responses.
When I asked the penis-owning partner where they held stress and pressure in their body, they answered that they felt tightness and tension in their neck and shoulders.
When I asked the vagina-owning partner, they said that they held stress and pressure in the lower part of their body, specifically the vaginal area.
So it would make sense that under feelings of stress, pressure, and anxiety, the vagina owner would experience a physical wall of tense muscles in their pelvic floor, resulting in pain during penetrative intercourse.
Unfortunately, this becomes a cycle where the vagina owner experiences pain during penetration and then becomes anxious about the pain leading up to penetration, causing even more pain.
Why would someone who experiences pain during penetration want to participate in sexual intercourse that is associated with such pain?
They expect pain, they experience pain -- and it reinforces that painful message: Sex = pain.
But repeat with me again - sex should not be painful.
There are many reasons behind High Tone Pelvic Floor, and these reasons can be explored and navigated individually and/or with partners. It’s important to figure out why these muscles are tightening and what you can do to relax these muscles and enjoy sex more thoroughly and pleasurably.
High Tone Pelvic Floor doesn’t have to be forever, and whether it’s fear, shame, anxiety, or something else, it is possible to work through this and get the sexual experience and fulfillment you deserve.
To learn more about High Tone Pelvic Floor (Vaginismus) and different ways to approach and navigate this, check out my interview with Darshana here.
Kimberly (she/her) is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, an AASECT Certified Sex Therapist, Certified Emotionally Focused Couples Therapist, and a Certified Integrated Intimacy Professional. She has a private practice that focuses on sex therapy, attachment, social justice, and couples work.
Kimberly is a Washington State Supervisor, an AAMFT Supervisor, AASECT Certified Sex Therapist Supervisor and an EFT Supervisor-in-training. Kimberly also provides sex supervision through the Modern Sex Therapy Institute where folx train to be sexual educators and therapists.
Kimberly is a national speaker, speaking on topics of faith, sexuality, grief, coping with Multiple Sclerosis, high tone pelvic floor, menopause and more! She is a gifted teacher and emphasizes the freedom that comes from education!