We hesitated before posting this. It’s very personal and unlike our usual material. We decided to go ahead because we don’t believe we are the only sex-positive couple (BDSM lifestyle or otherwise) that, with all the love and best will in the world, suffer from sexual problems. So we’re putting this out there to share our ongoing experience in the hope that it might also help others in some small way. Parts of what follows might seem overwhelmingly negative on first reading. But we are positive people and look for solutions and try very hard not to get bogged down in the problems. We are also very much in love- more so now than years ago when we first got together. We will get through this. As we have so many other things. So, when the sex doesn’t come easy – our experience so far …..
It’s easy to come to the conclusion, if you read a lot of sex blogs and look at a lot of porn, that there is a state of grace out there for those who embrace their sexuality and have partners who do the same. These people can do it anytime, anywhere. They can sample new kinks and new toys at the drop of a hat. Whatever problems their lives contain, they aren’t sex problems, right? Sex problems are only for people who are sex negative, or people in dysfunctional relationships.
Unfortunately, that’s not true. You can have two people who love sex almost as much as they love one another who still end up having difficulties.
Problem 1: Contraception.
For some lucky couples, contraception is as simple as the pill or a jab. For others, hormonal methods of birth control are a nightmare of side effects, headaches, and mood swings. We’ve tried nearly every method there is. Even vasectomy wasn’t the right solution for us (Getting the Snip, part 1) and it was only 6 months ago that we found a pill I could take. Before then? Our birth control method was primarily anal sex. Which is something we love, but since the rectum has another job to perform, it isn’t always available for sexual pleasure.
Problem 2: Fibromyalgia
I have fibromyalgia, which is an ugly disease that causes crippling fatigue and unexplained pain. I can’t do so much of what I used to be able to love. Being tied up will cause muscles to cramp almost instantly. Impact play is impossible. I no longer have the strength to participate in most sex positions. I can’t kneel on the floor at his feet, or wear a collar for longer than a few minutes. We get around it by roleplaying and fantasy talk – pretending that I am really doing all the things we used to do.
The worst is something called “allodynia” – when a physical sensation that normally shouldn’t cause pain does so anyway. Sometimes, even the feel of clothing against my skin is painful – it feels like the softest clothing is made out of burlap. Sometimes, the softest touch of SilverHubby’s hand feels like a blade or an electric shock. Once, he licked my nipple, and it hurt so bad, I thought he had clamped down his teeth on it.
Problem 3: Osteoarthritis
This is what SIlverHubby suffers from. In the Air Force, years ago, he was an athlete. Cross-country running, sailing, badminton etc. You wouldn’t know it to look at him now. He walks, slowly and painfully, with a stick. He may need a wheelchair in a few years. We’ll have to move house soon because the three steps up to our front door are getting too much for him. The arthritis affects most of his body now, but especially hips, knees, shoulder and hands. Staying in one position hurts pretty quickly, as does standing still. Some positions are no longer possible for him, and sex at the end of the day (when I am usually most awake) can be difficult for him as his pain is typically at a maximum at this time.
Problem 4: Inflammation.
When your partner calls you to the shower to look at something worrisome on his penis, it’s an issue. It looked like thrush (also known as yeast infection) (which can affect men, particularly if they are uncircumcised and diabetic), and we treated it with the over the counter stuff. It went away, then it came back. And again. He took his bits to the doctor and got a prescription, and it went away again. Only to come back again the day after using the Fleshlight Ice. Is it an allergic reaction to the materials in the Ice? Is the Ice harbouring thrush, although we take great care when cleaning our toys? We still don’t know. But now we’ve figured out that it goes away whether we use the cream or not, simply by letting it rest for a while.
Problem 5: Low libido.
My first marriage was to a man with a low libido. I wanted sex every day, or at least, every other day. He was content with once a fortnight. Rather than being willing to talk about it, and coming up with some kind of compromise – say, sex once a week with me using toys in between – he reacted by insisting the problem was with me, and that I shouldn’t want it so much. Slut-shaming. He laughed at me if he caught me masturbating, and it was in an ugly way that let me know I was lesser in his eyes because I wanted an orgasm badly enough to use my fingers. He denied ever masturbating himself, and I never caught him at it.
It took a long time to rebuild my self esteem after that marriage ended, and I was delighted to find myself with a man who could match my libido. Until I couldn’t match his. The fibromyalgia, the medications I take, the other problems on the list – all of them combined to make me less interested in sex than I’ve ever been at any point in my life. If I were single right now, my toys would probably be growing dusty. My body simply doesn’t want sex that often.
However, SilverHubby does, and unlike my ex-husband, I want to make sure my partner’s sexual needs are getting met. I track on a calendar with stickers how often we have some form of sexual activity so I can make sure the gap doesn’t grow too long. I’m willing to say yes to sex even if my libido isn’t there, knowing it will almost certainly get there once we get going. But it’s still an issue, because I have to consciously think about doing the sexual things that used to come naturally to me.
Problem 6: Vaginal pain.
This is the worst one, and it snuck up on us. Over the past few months, I had gradually begun experiencing some discomfort during vaginal penetration. We made sure we had plenty of quality lubrication and carried on. It continued to get a little worse and worse, but so gradually that I hadn’t noticed that I had begun to dread vaginal intercourse due to the expected pain. There were tricks we learned. Having an orgasm before penetration made it easier – until it didn’t. Making sure he spread lubrication inside me with his fingers and then covered his penis with lube was necessary – until it wasn’t enough. Finally, last week, we had intercourse that never stopped being uncomfortable for me. He was inside me, I wanted to enjoy it, but I couldn’t. Not physically. He knew something was wrong, but I didn’t tell him until we were finished because I really wanted something good to come out of it. My vagina was still sore the next morning. We tried again a few days later, and finally came to the conclusion that I needed to see my doctor.
I have to thank my GP (aka family doctor) for making it easy for us to discuss the problem. I wrote out a description of the issues I’d been having with libido and vaginal pain and gave it to her – not out of embarrassment to say it, but because I wanted to be sure I hadn’t forgotten anything. She went through the medications I was on, and couldn’t find a likely culprit there.
I asked if it was the menopause. She said it could be, but I’ll need to get off the pill for a month before they can run the blood tests for that. She said “Lubrication can often make it worse because the ingredients could be drying. KY, for example.” I assured her that we only use Sliquid, which has only healthy ingredients. She wrote me a prescription for Replens which helps to plump up the cells of the vaginal wall, but has to be used regularly as a moisturiser, not as a lubrication for intercourse.
Sometimes, the sex just doesn’t come easy. Sometimes, it’s easy to let that eat into you until you feel like you’re a failure, because you don’t have great sex. The comfort we have is that we face this together, and we’re both willing to get creative in order to make things work. We have learned to put penetrative sex on the back burner and let mutual masturbation and toy play take centre stage. We’re hopeful that we’ll get some answers from the GP that will let vaginal sex work for us again. And we’re always looking for ways to work around our health issues. The bottom line, is that we have always valued our sex life and considered it a strong priority in our lives and our marriage.