About Last Night: How will I find a partner if I don't enjoy sex?

Q: I'm 19, and have had three boyfriends. I've never really enjoyed sex, but try to be a good lover. My last boyfriend was a bit full-on and wanted to experiment which sometimes left me sore. I was devastated when he dumped me for being frigid. I love my current boyfriend, and don't want to lose him, but having sex hurts all the time. How will I ever find a long-term partner if I can't enjoy sex?

A: Sexual intercourse should never be painful! Enduring pain to please a partner will only make things worse. Sex should be pleasurable for both of you. Nobody should be pressured to do things they do not enjoy in order to please, or hang on to, a lover. Do something about this immediately to avoid the problem becoming entrenched.

Sex should be pleasurable for both of you.

Sex should be pleasurable for both of you. Credit:MOODBOARD

First, see a doctor to make sure there is no medical cause for your discomfort. If you feel uncomfortable about consulting your GP, or if you are told there is nothing wrong with you, do not give up. Both the Royal Women's Hospital and the Monash Medical Centre have free sexual counselling clinics where you can get accurate advice and information. Book now, as there can be a waiting list.

At the Sexology In Practice Symposium 2018, Dr Anita Elias spoke on "Painful Sex: a biopsychosocial-cultural approach". Painful sex used to be a problem encountered mostly by older women around menopause. New research suggests that, today, the biggest group presenting with this problem are 16-to-19 year olds.

Using porn as your source of information about sex is like using the Tokyo Drift Boys movies as a driving lesson.

Using porn as your source of information about sex is like using the Tokyo Drift Boys movies as a driving lesson.

Sexuality education in Australia is patchy, at best. It is done well in some schools, but thousands of teens are not getting accurate, frank and nuanced information about having safe, respectful, equal, and mutually fulfilling intimate relationships.

At the same time, children are being exposed to pornography at a younger and younger age, often inadvertently through pop-ups. It can be illegal for teachers to talk about porn before year 10, so there can be nowhere where kids can get a perspective on what they are seeing.

Pornography is fantasy. A variety of activities are featured, in a short space of time, for the purposes of entertainment. This can give the impression that a sexual encounter should be like a decathlon, and include vaginal penetration, oral and anal sex, and more extreme activities. People might experiment with different things over a lifetime, but each encounter will be different.

Much porn puts little, or no emphasis on the woman's arousal and pleasure. Sex is done to a woman, often aggressively. Using porn as your source of information about sex is like using the Tokyo Drift Boys movies as a driving lesson.

Never forget that a woman's pleasure is as important as a man's. He can be as ready to go as soon as he has an erection. Women need more time. During arousal, the blood vessels become engorged, and the woman gets an internal erection. The body releases natural lubricants, and the vaginal canal lengthens. Vigorous intercourse when you are not aroused can easily become painful. Enduring painful sex acts like aversion therapy. Some women end up with vulvadynia (acute pain around the vaginal opening), or vaginissmus, where the pelvic floor muscles spasm, making penetration impossible. These conditions are treatable, but prevention is much better than cure.

There were no good old days. When I was a teen there was unreported abuse, backyard abortions, and the inhumane treatment of unmarried mothers. Sex was forbidden fruit. However, apart from the fear, guilt and shame, things did often go more slowly. Holding hands, long sessions of passionate kissing, heavy petting – these served to allow time for both partners to get aroused. There is something to be said for taking things more slowly at times.

Sadly, men are also being short-changed. The emphasis on physical performance and prowess is causing anxiety, with the result that very young men are experiencing erectile dysfunction. Also, being trapped in the body, without engaging the heart, impoverishes the spirit and leads to a shallow and superficial kind of pleasure that is little more than glorified masturbation.

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