There’s no way around it. We can’t talk about self-love, Valentine’s Day, and endometriosis without addressing the big fat pain-body in the room — sex.
We know that there is no correlation between endometriosis stages and pain levels, so if you’re like me, you might have very little in terms of endometriosis growths, but lots of pain, including during sex. Or you might have very complicated and advanced adhesions, but not feel any pain at all. So, it goes without saying that not everyone with endometriosis will have a difficult sex life, or will always have a difficult sex life if they already do. But if you are currently struggling, this column might be for you.
Intimacy is about having a closeness with someone, a connection, a private and safe space with each other where communication can be raw and honest when it needs to be.
When it comes to being in a romantic relationship, it’s about trusting that you can show that person your body and it’ll be embraced, accepted, and loved. It’s also about being able to tell your partner your fears, desires, hopes, and dreams in the knowledge that those truths will be protected and acknowledged. A relationship like this means endometriosis (or other conditions that cause painful sex) can be openly discussed without making you feel ashamed or embarrassed. Of course, it’s natural for us to sometimes feel a bit awkward when raising these topics, but an intimate relationship makes discussing these issues less challenging.
Yet we’re not all in relationships, nor do we all want to be. So if you’re at a stage in which you want to have sex, but perhaps you’re not in a committed relationship, building up the confidence to explain your needs and struggles with sex can help you communicate clearly. There are some great Instagram accounts out there that encourage female sexual empowerment and sexual wellness, such as @ihartericka.
I had a very raw and honest conversation with a group of women several weeks ago, which included repeatedly counting down to 10 until sex was over, crying throughout, and going along with it to be polite. I’ve had my fair share of sexual encounters like this. When I was in a previously abusive relationship, my partner said he would pay me for sex because I had stopped wanting it due to my pain levels — he didn’t get why I found this offensive.
One thing that came out of these conversations was the stark reality that many of us still feel unable to say “no.” Men’s pleasure is so ingrained in us as being the most important part of sex that we feel guilty or pressured to the point that we go along with it even if it brings us excruciating pain.
If you’re in a relationship in which you feel guilted, pressured, or forced into sex, this is not OK. My previous roles with young girls and women often explored the boundaries of a healthy relationship, and when you’re used to certain behavior, it can be hard to see that what’s happening is unhealthy. Abuse doesn’t have to be physical; it can include a wide range of emotional and verbal aspects. If you’re concerned and want to know more, this guide to recognizing abuse is helpful.
Getting to know your body
It can be really easy and natural to completely detach from our sexuality when the area can cause us so much pain. But denying ourselves of this natural part of our nature can cause other problems (though if you’re comfortable with celibacy, that’s also fine)!
Some of us may have deeper psychological issues around sex than just the physical pain aspect of it, so it could be worth pursuing support with this through therapy before you do any work on a physical level. It could also be helpful to talk to a counselor about the trauma associated with sex due to the pain levels and work through this so you can begin to have more positive associations with sex again.
Then perhaps once you’re more comfortable on an emotional and mental level, you can begin getting in touch with your sexuality on a personal level, before you share it with someone else. There are now some really strong and helpful female pleasure websites, accounts, and brands.
OMGyes is a resource website dedicated to the science of female fulfillment based on research and is tailored 100 percent to women and their needs. Womanology creates intimate well-being products that are natural and organic, and encourage self-touch and intimacy. Finally, Wild Flower Sex provides adult products, while encouraging sexual wellness, and sex-positive education. All of these brands are run by women, so you know that your pleasure and well-being are at the forefront of these companies.
What helps you with painful sex?
Note: Endometriosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Endometriosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to endometriosis.