When the Sweet Spot Becomes a Sore Spot

Q: I’m a 21-year-old lesbian. A problem has popped up in me and my girlfriend’s sex life. When we practice tribadism with just skin, after a while a very small raw spot will show up, bringing with it a sharp pain. Both of us have this problem. Neither of us is clean-shaven, but we do trim–would shaving help? Is there anything else we can do?

A: Ah, friction. Sometimes it feels so awesome. Other times it hurts. Part of what makes genitals so sensitive is that genital tissue is far more delicate than other kinds of skin on our bodies. With genital friction, there’s a tipping point after which a wowie can turn into an owie.

To avoid being rubbed raw, first make sure you and your partner are always very well-lubricated. Lube from a bottle tends to do the job better than our bodies’ lubricant when it comes to friction-intensive sex. Apply lube before you start and add more as needed throughout. Be generous and don’t skimp.

I checked in with Searah Deysach, the fantastic owner of Early to Bed, to see if she had any specific lube suggestions; she keeps up with brands and types like nobody’s business. She suggested a high-quality silicone lube, such as Uberlube or Sliquid Silver–they tend to be longer-lasting and slicker than water-based lubricants. But if you prefer water-based, she suggests glycerin-free brands such as Sliquid Sea or Liquid Silk (my fave), which are kinder to vulvas and vaginas than those with glycerin.

Searah and I are of one mind about hairy issues. She says, “Hair that is growing back after shaving can be especially irritating, as stubble can be vicious on delicate tissues. “ I agree. Stubble from hair removal is more likely to irritate than the softer pubic hair we tend to have when we don’t shave. If all you do is trim, chances are hair isn’t the problem.

Consider positioning. I’d suggest experimenting with an eye for reducing how much weight is being put on each of your genitals. Try finding ways you can scissor without anyone really being “on top” at all, like lying on your backs toe to head. Searah suggested straddling your lover’s thigh as an alternative. Similar feeling, less pain. If you do like a missionary-style V-on-V position, whoever’s on top can try to balance so less weight rests on the other person’s tender bits–e.g., by bracing their hands on a headboard.  Mixing up positions often helps, too. And if and when either of you start feeling raw, don’t keep going with the activity that got you there–take a break from genital sex or at least consider that spot done for the day. If it remains raw the next day, lay off the intense pressure for as long as it takes to heal.

Now and then this still might happen, especially because, when we’re very aroused, pleasure can cause us to space out on signals of pain. But with these adjustments, you can probably make it a rarity instead of a norm.

Check out last week’s advice to a woman whose fiancé monitored her vagina’s size.

Have a sex, sexual-health or relationships question you want answered? Email it to Heather at sexandrelationships@msmagazine.com. By sending a question to that address, you acknowledge you give permission for your question to be published. Your email address and any other personally identifying information will remain private. Not all questions will receive answers.

Photo from Flickr user Gray Marchiori-Simpson under license from Creative Commons 2.0

Line drawing from Wikimedia Commons.

About

Heather Corinna is the executive director of Scarleteen, the inclusive online resource for teen and young adult sexuality education and information she founded in 1998. She is the author of S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-to-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College; a co-founder of the All Girl Army; and director of the CONNECT sexual health outreach program for King County, which primarily serves homeless and transient youth. She is on the editorial board of the American Journal of Sexuality Education, a writer and contributing editor for the 2011 edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves, a member of the Board of Directors for NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, and her sexuality advice is also syndicated weekly at RH Reality Check. Heather was the winner of The Champions of Sexual Literacy Award for Grassroots Activism from the National Sexuality Resource Center/SFSU in 2007; in 2009 the winner of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, Western Region's Public Service Award and the Our Bodies, Ourselves' Women's Health Heroes Award. In 2011, Scarleteen won a Seattle Web Award for Best Nonprofit Website. A Chicago native, she now lives and works on an island in the Pacific Northwest.