It's MMMMonday! Each Monday, we bring you special, maintainer-curated content intended to enrich your VP experience. Please note that you can find past MMMMonday posts using the "mmmmonday" tag.
Also, a quick reminder about the other places you can find VP: vp_bulletins for local announcements; contact_vp for questions and feedback on the way VP is run; the Vulvapedia for basic questions; and don't forget about our sibling community over on Dreamwidth!
This week's post is from kaberett, who is one of our very own safer space maintainers, and oversees our sibling community on Dreamwidth. When they're not hanging around VagPag or engaging in trans* activism, they are most frequently found bothering rocks. Their favourite album this week is Seanan McGuire's Wicked Girls, and they can't wait to tell you about their shiny new pinstripe underbust corset.
Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones...
...and sex will always hurt me.
In general, we're very keen to tell people that sex shouldn't hurt - and as far as it goes, this is true, and it's good advice. Pain is your body's way of saying that something is wrong, that you should stop – take more care – reevaluate.
This is important: conditions like vaginismus can be set off or made worse by trying to "push through" the pain; the idea that first-time sex "should" be painful is incredibly damaging to people's understandings of what good sex is like; for anal penetration, pain is typically a warning sign of microabrasions or tearing and an indication to (at the very least!) add another bucket of lube.
Like all blanket statements, though, "sex shouldn't hurt" isn't true all the time. For me, the key distinction is between expected, explicable pain, and pain I don't understand (why it's hurting, where it's hurting, and so on).
There's the obvious case of BDSM: pain that some people experience as enjoyable in part because it's safe (ideally!), so rather than worrying about what's causing it and whether (unwanted) permanent damage is going to be sustained, it's possible to just pay attention to the sensations in their own right rather than as part of a larger narrative.
The other case, though - and the big one for me - is that I have chronic pain (via endometriosis and RSI). It's beginning to affect more and more of what I do with my pelvis, and more and more of any motions I make using that general area of my body. For me, pain during sex (any kind of sex, not just penetration) is, these days, expected: between nodules in my rectovaginal septum (the shared wall between the two!), ovarian cysts, and labial and clitoral neuropathy (shooting pains in my labia and clitoris, due to endometriosis affecting the function of the nerves that serve those areas), I can pretty much pull out my MRI scans and surgery photos and point out exactly what's causing any given pain spike.
Of course, it also helps that I live in a country where routine access to appropriate levels of pain relief is a possibility for me.
But one way or another, I've pretty much ended up in the situation where I expect that sex will hurt, I know what kinds and levels of pain are within the boundaries of "normal" for me, and I want it anyway (well, some of the time!). My partners know that sometimes I'll say "hold on a sec" and roll over to grab some painkillers from the bedside table, or I'll ask them to fetch me some, and we'll then snuggle carefully while I lie very still for a bit; or we'll talk about what we want to do, and we'll check in about what I can do (or what my pain levels will likely be with particular activities); or we'll stop altogether or not start, or we'll negotiate something that gets me off when I'd really appreciate it but I'm not up to taking an active role in a partner's orgasm. There's lots and lots of options, and I'm pretty sure I haven't listed them all here - but it boils down to this: it's not pain in and of itself that's the "stop" signal for me, but pain I can't explain, or pain that's worse than usual, or pain that's in any other way abnormal.
And I think it can be really, really useful to acknowledge that sex hurts, so - here I am, and that's what I'm saying.
VPers, what are your experiences with sex and pain, chronic or otherwise? if you do have chronic pain affecting sex, what strategies do you use to handle it?