Do One-Third of Women Really Experience Pain During Sex?

What Women Really Think
Oct. 7 2010 5:38 PM

Do One-Third of Women Really Experience Pain During Sex?

Earlier this week, Indiana University’s Center for Sexual Health Promotion released the results of a new nationally representative survey of American sexual behavior. The study covered everything from condom use to the increased popularity of anal sex, as  Slate ’s William Saletan has extolled.

What, exactly, is going on? Why are so many women experiencing pain during sex? We don’t know. That’s both the answer to the question, and the root of the problem. American attitudes about sex keep us from sharing and learning crucial information with each other, and they stymie scientific attempts to learn more about why sex is painful for so many women. We, the fine, sex-having people of America, don’t know how to speak openly about our sex lives and, as a result, scientists don’t have the resources or the knowledge to help us improve them.

Advertisement

Dr. Debby Herbenick, Associate Director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion and one of the study’s co-authors, believes that "the way women and men are talked to about sex when they’re growing up is very different." Women, she said, are often told to expect that sex will be painful, and "have this sense that sex is supposed to hurt. So when they have sex and it hurts, they’re not surprised and they don’t talk to a doctor and they don’t talk to a partner and they don’t say it to their friends."  There is also probably pressure to stick to the cultural consensus that sex is always pleasurable.

A silver lining: Few women reported being in a great deal of pain.  But the survey didn’t go into much detail-it didn’t explore the location, duration, or nature of the pain, nor did it ask if the pain was a one-time occurrence or a chronic problem.  So there's a lot more to learn about this.

TODAY IN SLATE

War Stories

The Right Target

Why Obama’s airstrikes against ISIS may be more effective than people expect.

The One National Holiday Republicans Hope You Forget

It’s Legal for Obama to Bomb Syria Because He Says It Is

I Stand With Emma Watson on Women’s Rights

Even though I know I’m going to get flak for it.

Should You Recline Your Seat? Two Economists Weigh In.

Doublex

It Is Very, Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Or, why it is very, very stupid to compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice.

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

Why Is This Mother in Prison for Helping Her Daughter Get an Abortion?

Politico Wonders Why Gabby Giffords Is So “Ruthless” on Gun Control

Behold
Sept. 23 2014 4:45 PM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
Foreigners
Sept. 23 2014 6:40 PM Coalition of the Presentable Don’t believe the official version. Meet America’s real allies in the fight against ISIS.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 23 2014 2:08 PM Home Depot’s Former Lead Security Engineer Had a Legacy of Sabotage
  Life
Outward
Sept. 23 2014 1:57 PM Would a Second Sarkozy Presidency End Marriage Equality in France?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 23 2014 2:32 PM Politico Asks: Why Is Gabby Giffords So “Ruthless” on Gun Control?
  Slate Plus
Political Gabfest
Sept. 23 2014 3:04 PM Chicago Gabfest How to get your tickets before anyone else.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 23 2014 8:38 PM “No One in This World” Is One of Kutiman’s Best, Most Impressive Songs
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 23 2014 5:36 PM This Climate Change Poem Moved World Leaders to Tears Today
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 23 2014 4:33 PM Who Deserves Those 4 Inches of Airplane Seat Space? An investigation into the economics of reclining.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 23 2014 7:27 PM You’re Fired, Roger Goodell If the commissioner gets the ax, the NFL would still need a better justice system. What would that look like?