Sex Has Always Been Really Painful for Me

Dear E. Jean: I’ve been plagued by painful intercourse my whole life. I’ve tried physical therapy, hormones, creams, you name it. This pain has been instrumental in the breakup of my last two relationships. To top it off, I’m in early menopause at the age of 37, so there is literally nothing happening down there anymore. Do I even bother dating? And at what point do I have to alert my suitors that sex is painful for me? Does it need to go on my Tinder profile? —Should I Just Get Another Cat?

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Miss Cat, My Cantaloupe: If Barbie, the fabulous astronaut-veterinarian, with her horse and her Fiat convertible, had written to Auntie Eeee saying “There is literally nothing happening down there,” Auntie would have agreed. But you, Cat? Please. Aren’t you in possession of the velvet buzz saw? And doesn’t that buzz saw have some 8,000 nerve endings? And after you get done reading this answer, shouldn’t you go count them?

Now, let’s get down to business. You mention physical therapy. I can’t guess which therapy you tried, or when. There are so many new ways to eliminate your pain: Improved procedures (ultrasound, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, etc.), recent drugs (Ospemifene), improved “desensitization” treatments (usually via a numbing gel), old techniques (Kegel exercises), and witchy wizardry (three hours of foreplay!) all show potent and elegant promise. It’s incredibly important that you again see an MD, but one who principally treats dyspareunia, and take a shot at the fresh fixes. Go! Go!

As to when you should “alert your suitors”—over Auntie’s dead body will you alert your suitors. There’s a fine chance the new treatments will lessen the prick of intercourse. So it will be just a matter of enjoying, as Kevin Costner says in Bull Durham, “long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days,” and getting to know your chap well enough to want to romp in the begonias with him. Then, when you’re ready, a simple “Let’s take this slow, darling, I’m a little tender” will do. Or if the chap is overly excited by your charms and wants to jump right into the bouncy-bouncy, you can say, “Life is a banquet, buckaroo, so don’t tell me all you want is knockwurst.”

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This letter is from the Ask E. Jean Archive, 1993-2017. Send questions to E. Jean at

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