My Experience of Painful Sex and Endometriosis
I was recently interviewed for a podcast about my experience of painful sex due to endometriosis. This wasn’t the first time I’d been interviewed for this subject; I’ve also talked to Women’s Health about it too. Strangely enough, though I am far from an expert, my sex life seems to have attracted interest. So, giving that it seems people want to hear more, and are frankly, desperate for someone to just talk about it, I’m opening up again.
Often, I like to give practical tips on how to deal with these issues, but for this article, I want to focus on my story and my experience. It’s easy to gloss over our stories, thinking they’re of no use to others, but I’m learning more and more that there is solidarity in shared experiences, and comfort in feeling less alone.
Early sexual experiences
I was a late bloomer, in many respects. I started my period at around 16, I wasn’t interested in sex as a teenager, and the obvious endometriosis symptoms didn’t appear until I was about 19.
My first real sexual experiences occurred a year or so before my severe endometriosis symptoms began, so at the time, I didn’t experience any obvious pain. However, I was still incredibly young, and had little confidence in general, let alone with my sexuality. I was happy to keep waiting until I felt comfortable enough, but had become known as the ‘frigid’ one in my group, and whilst I was fairly okay with my decision, I wouldn’t have gone ahead had I not felt external pressure. This resulted in me not really being fully present in any sexual experiences for at least a year or so, with polite sex being the only type on the cards. This meant that due to my lack of arousal and confidence, plus the type of sex I was having, I didn’t really feel any pain, but I didn’t feel much in the way of pleasure either.
Struggling with painful sex
Fast-forward a year or two, and I began my first really serious relationship. It was an intense one with a strong love that ignited my first real feelings of desire. This did result in more passionate sex, and so being more engaged, present, and physical, I began feeling the first signs that something was wrong. In the beginning, my partner was more gentle, but I still had a mentality that sex was more there for the man, and my role was really more about pleasing him then pleasing myself. I did my best to hide my pain or continue in a different position when it got bad.
Quite quickly, it transpired that the relationship I was in wasn’t a healthy one, and as it became more abusive and volatile, I began on a path from detachment to my body. I felt the pain, and would pull away if it was bad enough, but much of the time I covered my face, looked away and blinked back tears. My sexuality became non-existent and I associated sex with pain, more than anything else.
How I was able to enjoy sex
These days, I am in a loving, secure relationship. Our sex life is not without its challenges, but I am in a healthier place sexually than I have ever been. Endometriosis is such a huge part of our lives that my partner is aware I am always managing it, and always looking after my body – including when it comes to sex. Being intimate together will always involve him considering my level of comfort, and we’ll move around a bit until we get it right. I don’t doubt it takes a lot of patience from his side, and sometimes I want even more patience, but together I believe we’re doing the best we can. I no longer cover my face and cry; If I’m in pain, we stop or we move until I feel good again. Whilst I’m still working on changing my perspective on sex being all about men, I rarely have sex unless I’m 100% present and all in. This does mean that we don’t have sex as much as other couples might, but equally, there are phases when we have lots of sex. I now work with my cycle, and know when I’m more likely to experience less pain, more pain, and even when I’m going to be more aroused or just want to curl up with a movie.
Sex with endometriosis isn’t just about avoiding pain. It’s about becoming confident with your body, your sexuality, and in your ability to communicate. As a woman, I’ve faced lots of challenges with my sex life, and these are exasperated with endometriosis. Learning how to work with painful sex has been a journey of healing all aspects of my sexuality, not just my pain.
Have you heard about the new tampon technology currently being tested to detect endometriosis?