Why is having sex so hard?

My girlfriend and I are having problems with sex. We've been together for one year and we've tried to have sex lots of times, but I'm never able to penetrate her. What can we do?

Deciding to have sex is a very big decision and most people will remember their first time. It may not be perfect, but no one is expected to know how to do this if they’ve not done it before. Learning to feel more relaxed and confident takes time and practice. Sex is likely to be a more positive experience if you are able to discuss with the other person what you both like or what you think you would like if you are not sure.

Being aware of where things are and how they work is important. The vagina is actually the inside ‘tube’ of a woman’s genitals. The vulva is the area which is most visible to you: where the vaginal lips, also called the labia, and clitoris are situated. You can get a better idea about this by looking at this diagram on women and girl’s sex organs.

During sexual arousal, a number of things happen to the female genitals. The vagina releases sexual fluids and becomes wet. The clitoris becomes engorged with blood and swells, as do the tissues surrounding the entrance of the vagina and the lips of vagina. These also open out slightly to make the entrance into the vagina easier for intercourse. The internal structure of the vagina also elongates to accommodate penetration.

It can feel uncomfortable if your partner is tense or not aroused enough or if she is too dry. Take your time, make sure you feel aroused enough and let each other know if it feels OK before you attempt penetration. Good sex is all about feeling ready and having good communication with your partner.

You also need to feel comfortable and able to talk openly with your partner about:

  • What feels good for both of you;
  • Which contraception you are both planning to use;
  • What you are prepared to do and not do at this stage;
  • Any anxiety you may have about having sex.

People sometimes use lubricants to make sex easier. Lubricants are available free from Brook or family planning services or they can be bought from chemists. It is important not to use Vaseline or anything that contains oil if you are using condoms as they can rot rubber.

Before you attempt sex again it may also be useful to know that when a woman has sex for the first few times, her hymen will get stretched. The hymen is a ring of thin skin which covers some of the opening of the vagina. The hymen stretching may feel a little uncomfortable or hurt slightly. Some women may experience a small amount of bleeding, as the hymen may tear a little. If this happens, this is perfectly normal and nothing to worry about.

However, not all women experience discomfort and bleeding the first time they have sex. This is because their hymen may already have been stretched before having sex, by using tampons, or through sports.

If you need advice on contraception to help reduce the risks of unwanted pregnancy and STIs, you can go along to your local Brook Centre (for under 25s), Young Person’s Clinic, Family Planning Clinic, or your doctor (GP). Advice is given in confidence and contraception will be free. You can also buy condoms from a chemist and other retail outlets.

Answered by Brook on 09-Jul-2012

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