Ask Kayy

Dear Kayy,

I’m 20 years old, and I’m not a virgin, but sex hurts sometimes. I’ve been having sex (though not consistently) for two years now. When I first started sleeping with my current boyfriend of one year, the sex was fine. Well, better than fine, and it certainly wasn’t painful. Somewhere around four months ago, we started having problems. At first it was just a little discomfort now and then, but now it’s more frequent and sometimes too painful to continue. Sometimes right before he’s about to go in, I tense up so much because I’m anticipating the pain, and he can’t even get in. He’s always very understanding and never asks me to keep trying, but I’m pissed! Our sex used to be really hot and now it’s almost non-existent. I’ve thought about going to a gynecologist but I don’t want my mom to know I’m having sex.

Any advice?

Ms. I-Miss-Good-Sex

Dear Ms. I-Miss-Good-Sex,

You (and all other women who are 18 or sexually active) should be seeing a gynecologist! I can’t even count how many of my friends are over age 20 and have had well over 10 sexual partners, but they still have yet to make the dreaded appointment. I hear the same lame excuses all the time: “I heard it’s painful,” “It’s OK, I use a condom every time,” “I don’t want anyone touching my vagina with those cold metal things!” etc.

And of course, the mother of all excuses: “But if my dad finds out, he’ll kill my boyfriend!”

The fact of the matter is, going to see the gynecologist is not just about sex, it’s about health. Just because you practice safe sex doesn’t mean you’re totally safe. Even if you’re using condoms, you can still contract HPV (human papilloma virus), which, if you’ve been watching daytime TV lately, you should already know can cause ovarian cancer and/or make you infertile if it goes unchecked and untreated.

Even if you’ve only had sex once or you’re a virgin, there are still plenty of disorders, diseases and cancers you may have and not even realize. OK, I know I’m probably scaring the crap out of you right now. But I tend to get on a soapbox when it comes to this topic. Maybe it’s because my mom dragged me to her OB/GYN at age 15, or maybe it’s because I know people who developed breast cancer in their early 20s. All I know is, you gotta suck it up and do what’s right for your body regardless of the parental consequences (you said you’re 20, right? What, is your mom in denial?!).

Now that I got that burning diatribe off of my chest, I’ll focus on your specific problem.

The fact of the matter is, there could be multiple reasons for your problem, which is why first and foremost you should make an appointment with your gyno. I can’t give you the answer based on the information you gave me and I don’t do personal examinations (sorry to disappoint you).

But, if you promise to visit the Planned Parenthood on campus or your doctor at home, I’ll give you some hints as to what your problem could be.

If you are experiencing itching, burning, hypersensitivity and redness, your problem could be as simple as a yeast infection, and the symptoms can be eased by over-the-counter products. However, the infection needs medication that you can get from your doctor.

If you feel a dull ache even when you’re not having sex that is heightened during your period, and you feel sharp pain during penetration, it could be a cyst. Most clear up in a few months and are harmless, but you should ask your gyno to do an ultrasound to make sure it’s not something more dangerous.

Your problem could be as simple as vaginal dryness if thrusting is painful and irritating, which is very easily solved – teach your partner some new tricks to make sure you’re ready for penetration, and lube it up.

All-over pain that encompasses your entire abdomen during sex, after sex or when you’re not having sex at all could be endometriosis, which occurs when uterine tissue attaches to organs in the pelvis. This is a disease that affects a small percent of women but can cause infertility, so if you have these symptoms definitely tell your gynecologist.

I’m pretty sure you’re not extremely freaked out, which you shouldn’t be. All the scary stuff I’m spouting aside, it could simply be a blocked gland or a UTI (urinary tract infection). If you experience aching and a frequent urge to urinate, this could be your problem, and is simply treated by antibiotics prescribed by your doctor.

Your problem can also be a number of other things, which is why you have to see a doctor – and if you go on campus, your parents don’t even have to know. You know what they say – loose lips cancel spring break trips to Cancun. But I assure you, the only people with tighter lips than gynecologists are priests hearing confessions. OK, scratch that, priests do squeal sometimes. But mum is the only word your OB/GYN will know when your mum calls her or him up.

Everything that goes on in that room is 100 percent confidential. My mom tried arranging an appointment for a procedure I was going to have, and they refused to talk to her! A little ridiculous considering she knew all about it and I tell her everything (I know, poor woman), but they still wouldn’t budge. So have no fear.

And ask questions! If you have no clue what she or he is about to do to you, ask before they go near the speculum. If you don’t understand the vagina jargon, ask what the hell a colposcopy is before you get into the examination room (trust me on that one) so you are physically and emotionally prepared.

Lastly, relax. I know that might sound funny after my list of dysfunctions and diseases, but I mean it. It actually could be literally nothing! Vaginismus, a condition I learned about from good ole’ Dr. Ruth, is more psychological than anything. A woman can get so nervous and bent out of shape about having sex that she subconsciously tightens up her vaginal muscles so that her partner can only get in a little bit, if at all.

And by the way – I’m glad to hear that you can openly communicate with your partner about your sexual issues and concerns. I mean, if you can’t talk about what you’re doing in bed, then you probably shouldn’t be doing it (another one of my fabulous golden rules). Continue to be open and honest in the future. It will enhance your emotional relationship as well as your sexcapades.

Mad love for the gynos,