Hundreds of women experience painful sex, new research has found.
According to a study of more than 1,200 UK adults carried out by Durex, sexual discomfort of varying degrees affects 73 per cent of women.
One third say the pain is hindering their libido and one in 10 say it’s having an adverse effect on their relationship with their sexual partner.
The findings also reveal that nine per cent of women have faked an orgasm with a partner and a further 15 per cent have purposefully hurried their partner towards climax due to feeling uncomfortable.
Despite these figures, just 57 per cent of men surveyed said they’ve noticed a female partner feeling uncomfortable during sex.
One of the primary causes of sexual discomfort for women is vaginal dryness, which Dr Moses Batwala, consultant gynaecologist at The Evewell Clinic in London, says affects 20 to 40 per cent of women aged 17 to 50.
Speaking to The Independent, Batwala explains dryness occurs when there are decreased levels of oestrogen in a woman's body and can lead to itchiness, irritation and decreased elasticity, all of which can render sex uncomfortable.
"Many women are embarrassed to talk about vaginal dryness, even with their partners," he says. "Nor do they seek help about vaginal dryness yet it is a very common symptom and cause of morbidity and there is a lot of help and options at hand."
Consultant gynaecologist Amanda Tozer adds that this is condition most commonly experienced by menopausal women.
"This is because oestrogen is no longer produced by the ovaries of women when they reach the menopause," she tells The Independent.
Younger women may also experience dryness due to hormonal reasons, says Mr Narendra Pisal, consultant gynaecologist at London Gynaecology. He explaine these may include hormonal changes due to breastfeeding or a progesterone-only contraception. But the study found that most women experiencing dryness (42 per cent) thought it meant they weren't "turned on enough".
As for treatments, Tozer says one of the simplest solutions is to use either water or oil-based lubricants during sex.
According to Durex's research, just one third of women would use lubricants with a partner despite the fact that nine in 10 said that sex felt better when they used them.
Other reasons for painful sex cited by female respondents in Durex's survey include the sex position (42 per cent) and blaming their partner for "not knowing how to pleasure them".
Sex and relationships vlogger and writer Hannah Witton explains that the research sheds a light on the need for women to be honest about what is and isn't enjoyable during sex.
"Sex can be uncomfortable, and that’s totally normal, but it’s just about being confident enough to find solutions that work for you as an individual," she tells The Independent.
"If I experience any discomfort or pain during sex, I would certainly pause and use lube."
But Chidera Eggerue, blogger and founder of the #SaggyBoobsMatter movement, tells The Independent that Durex's findings are reflective of a systemic societal problem about gender dynamics.
“When it comes to intimacy between men and women, the goal for the latter is to be as exciting as possible in order to impress your partner. But the sad and ironic thing is the guy is doing nothing to impress you because he’s been socialised to put himself first," she says.
“So it completely makes sense that in a situation where a woman and a man have sex, there is a strong likelihood that she will compromise her needs.”
The 24-year-old added that this may explain why a large number of men said they haven’t noticed a female partner experiencing discomfort during sex.
In terms of what can be done to combat the issue, Eggerue explains that improving sex education in schools is vital, but that it’s not enough to really change the behavioural attitudes between men and women with regards to sex.
“We need to extend beyond the conversation regarding sex and involve autonomy,” she said.
“Women need to feel comfortable taking control of their bodies and putting their wellbeing first.”
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