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There's More to Sex than Penetration

Sex is an important part of a relationship. But for endometriosis sufferers, sex can be very painful, especially penetrative sex. During the worst of my endometriosis, at a time when I also had undiagnosed adenomyosis, sex was impossible for me. I was in far too much pain to even use a tampon, let alone allow anything bigger, to penetrate me.

Sex is not just penetration

As a consequence, my husband and I stopped having sex altogether. I felt like a failure for not giving him the sexual act which society had impressed upon me was the only act that qualifies as sex. I didn’t want to be intimate with my husband, because I felt that if I wasn’t able to allow him to penetrate me, the whole evening would have been a waste.

We are often told that penetration is the only way for a man to get an orgasm. That this is the goal of sexual intercourse. Without a man putting his penis in a woman’s vagina, no sex has taken place. And worse, I believed that if I couldn’t give my husband that, I wouldn’t be able to completely satisfy him, thereby torturing him instead. I shunned intimacy out of a feeling of guilt for not giving my husband what he needed.

Foreplay is a myth

Since then, my views on sex have changed so much. I really wish I knew then what I know now. Our sex life would not have dried up then. But the sad reality is that sex education still teaches us that penetration is necessary for the sex act to have been successful, a message which is amplified through the media. Everywhere you turn, we are told that penetrative sex is the only sex. Everything else is just foreplay leading up to the big event.

Foreplay is just a myth. Not in the sense that it doesn’t exist, of course, but in the sense that it, in itself, isn’t sex. We need to stop defining sex as penis-in-vagina. It’s not only wrong, but it’s damaging to all those women who aren’t able to have penetrative sex. Endometriosis isn’t the only illness that makes penetration impossible.

Sex can take many forms

As I said, I really wish I had known all that when penetration became too painful for me. It wasn’t necessary for my husband and me to go through a sexual drought. We could have had a satisfying sex life even without his penis ever entering my vagina. We are lucky that we were able to work through it and still be together as a couple, but it saddens me that this dry spell was avoidable.

What society so scornfully calls foreplay, the lead-up to the main event, can easily become the main event. There is no right way to have sex. Experiment with what feels good and communicate with your partner. Try to keep an open mind and remember that sex is about intimacy. Yes, it’s lovely if both partners have an orgasm, but that doesn’t have to be the ultimate goal all the time.

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