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Vaginal Dryness & Painful Penetration

Updated: Mar 14, 2023

I recently received a question in my Ask A Sex, Love & Relationship Coach form which read…

"Good evening, this is probably a matter I’m overthinking and seeing an issue where there is none. I’m a 30 years old cis-gender female and am heterosexual. I believe I do experience arousal in that I can feel flushed and fluttering around my chest when I see someone attractive or get a tight rolling drop sensation in my stomach when I’m exposed to an erotic stimulus like a sexy story or thoughts. But when it comes to masturbating my orgasms last for a few seconds and I can achieve this via clitoral stimulation, yet when trying to insert anything inside myself feels really uncomfortable. I think the issue is that I don’t really get that wet. Which I don’t understand because the rest of my body sensations feel ready. My question is; Is it possible for a vulva haver to have issues with vaginal dryness and therefore difficulty with penetration even if the rest of their mind and body is aroused? For maybe a bit more context, I’m a virgin and have had painful smear tests where I’ve been so tense and passed out with anxiety. They’ve had to use the smallest speculum on me and a lot of lube. Thank you”

When receiving messages such as this the nuances and reasons for why a person can be experiencing these issues can be varied. It is always best to get support from medical professionals and very often further exploration in a 1-1 coaching session around an issue may be required that is not possible by just simply writing a response. However, where possible I like to offer opportunities for contemplation and as a potential starting point for exploration rather than a specific what to do formula. My reply…

Thank you so much for reaching out and sharing your physical experiences around your own arousal and how your body responds to being touched. I would like to suggest that if you feel there is tension in your vagina that you first of all seek support from a physical floor therapist to get an assessment. Also, hormones can have a huge impact on our vaginal fluids so an endocrinologist may be able to check that your body is functioning in an optimal way. It may also be supportive to have an appointment at the gynaecologist to ensure there aren’t any other potential areas of concern.

If medically you have had the all clear I would like to make you aware that regarding the dryness it has been shown in research (Emily Nagoski’s book Come As You Are has good references) that men and women can experience a phenomenon called ‘non-concordance’. What this means is that we can be aroused mentally and feel sexual energy in our genitals but our genitals may not respond in the ‘expected’ way such as an erection for men or wetness and vulva swelling for women. It is also possible that our bodies can behave in a way that appears to be aroused such as swelling in the vulva and vaginal lubrication and we actually not experience any turn on. If you are finding this is the case then I would like to invite you to continue with lubrication and if possible lovingly accept your body with where it is at.

Offering loving acceptance to our bodies and how they are can enable us to really relax and be present. When we can be present with our current experience around our arousal and also the sensations and emotions that show up for us around our sexuality it gives us permission to relax, to not push or force.

Regarding the smear tests I wonder how supportive the medical professionals have been? If you have had experiences in the past which have left you anxious, having a conversation around your previous experiences can help the medics understand and support you better. Remember that even in a medical setting you have the right to consent. A medical professional should be in constant communication around what the procedure involves and ask permission and wait for an answer before doing anything to you. If this doesn’t happen, it is your body and you are well within your right to take control of the situation and ask them to wait until you feel ready. Being in this situation of deciding how and when you will be touched gives you as sense of power and autonomy over your body and can help you in becoming more relaxed.

Breaths and bringing awareness to how you are feeling. Allowing yourself to slow down your breathing with longer out breaths can support you in reaching a parasympathetic state of ‘rest and digest’ - relaxing your body and therefore your vaginal muscles to allow penetration.

Your body is amazing and could be in its own way protecting you. The tension in your vagina could be there to protect you from harm so listening to your body, honouring how it feels, what it is ready for can be very supportive in healing your relationship to penetration.

If a pelvic floor therapist gives you the all clear for using a yoni egg, then they can be a great way to connect to your vulva. When beginning a yoni egg practice it is important to always ask your vagina before inserting the egg, see if she is ready - slowing down and listening for a ‘yes’ from the body. If you don’t hear a ‘yes’ and it’s a 'no', honour that no and return to the yoni egg practice another time. If you aren’t sure, asking again and waiting. If it’s still a maybe then ask your vagina what you can do for it to be a yes and wait for the answer. If you don’t get a reply, my invitation is to return to the practice another time.

It is important that your vagina and vulva feel respected and listened to. You will then be able to take this trust into other situations in the future such as medical appointments.

You also say that your orgasms feel short. The clitoris goes all around the side of the vagina. The contraction of the muscles around the vagina and the nerves connected to this area, when stimulated will contribute to the orgasm. A hyper- or hypo- tonic pelvic floor can have an effect on the intensity of a clitoral orgasm. Also ‘damage’ from repetitive rubbing during cycling and horse-riding can have an effect on the clitoris and a woman’s ability to orgasm. Numbness in the area - a way of the body protecting itself - can effect the intensity of an orgasm.

If you get the all-clear from a pelvic floor therapist, a yoni egg practice can support you in your pelvic floor health. Many women experience a greater awareness of their vulva and this awareness brings with it a greater intensity to orgasms.

Slowing everything right down by having an intentional pleasure practice where you listen to a ‘fuck yes’ to penetration can create more ease and comfort and pleasure.

I myself have found yoni steaming to be supportive in encouraging more lubrication - these are of course anecdotal but I know of other women experiencing the same. If you do decide to explore yoni steaming please do so with someone qualified who can guide you, I recommend you reach out to Kate at Sunshine Kates who can support you further if you would like to understand more the benefits of yoni steaming and the safest way to do it.

Creating a better relationship overall to your pussy will mean that you able to better listen to her yes and no, get more intimate with the sensations, experience heightened pleasure and in turn gives you an overall sense of confidence in your body and your sexuality.

Carla Crivaro is a trauma-informed and certified Sex, Love & Relationship Coach, she works with men and women internationally to reach their goals in delicious sex, profound love and authentic relationships. Carla helps men and women understand themselves and each other, sexually and relationally, in and out of the bedroom. You can reach her at

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