“We’ve never properly had Intercourse, but my Wife doesn’t care.”

“We’ve never had intercourse”

“We’ve never properly had intercourse, but my wife doesn’t care.”

In my Sexological Bodywork practice, I’ve come across quite a number of heterosexual couples, some married for years, where penetrative sex hasn’t happened for some reason or other, ever. It’s often the male partner who is trying to get to the point where his wife might actually open up to desiring intercourse. Their wife might very much want to have intercourse, too, and in this blog post I’m looking at possible reasons for this distressing situation.

Because of the number of cases I have personally come across, this must be an issue that’s much bigger than perceived, and it doesn’t get any attention whatsoever in the media. Never having had intercourse in a relationship is not the same as having a sexless marriage, as it’s commonly understood – where sex fades out at a later point. 

The Dilemma of Pressure, and ‘do it for your Husband’

The worst obstacle for a woman to getting interested in penetrative sex is pressure, even if perceived only. This can result in a vicious cycle, of the female partner withdrawing more and more, and the male partner growing more and more desperate.

In one scenario, the female partner may be committed to finding a way towards intercourse, in another, she might be completely satisfied with clitoral orgasms and not really wish for PiV sex. The latter is a tricky case, because she might agree to Sexological Bodywork sessions because her husband wants intercourse, but is not really a yes to them at all.

When intercourse doesn’t happen, it may well be due to the man only. I have yet to encounter a couple where that’s the case, though.

Should the partner not accept that his wife is simply not interested in intercourse?

This is an ethical dilemma, so here is my take on it.

If you think intercourse in a heterosexual marriage is not important, think of the legal situation alone: A marriage that hasn’t been ‘consummated’ could be declared null and void by the authorities when questioned. Even the legislator puts great emphasis on PiV (penis in vagina) intercourse as the core of the marriage, at least initially.

This does not apply to same sex married couples, which raises discrimination issues of its own. And yes, of course we need to look at whether this view of marriage is actually compatible with human and women’s rights.

According to today’s societal understanding all over the world, if you get married, PiV (penis in vagina) intercourse is implied in it, and I don’t think heterosexual partners can just opt out of it altogether, to start with. It’s like getting married under false premises. When marriages go sexless at a later stage, that’s another matter entirely, even if not easy either.

There is of course the case of wives leaving their new husband right after the marriage night, and never looking back, and who would think she took that decision lightly? Physical abuse, lack of respect for physical integrity and agency, and non-consensual sex are never ever alright.

What can be done to make Consummation possible?

Women may experience attempts at having intercourse as excruciatingly painful.

I heard about a wife who sought help from her GP after years of the couple trying by themselves, and was laughed at, and referred to a private urologist. I was shocked that she had to go through being made fun of, as it wasn’t easy for her to broach the subject in the first place.

It’s a good idea to get a medical opinion when intercourse seems impossible, because a great number of women have hymens (not every woman, though!), and they can be tough at times.

It takes a lot of skill to approach a woman erotically, and make her feel safe to a degree that she feels at ease, and that’s before any kind of turn on happens! The vast majority of women have suffered some kind of sexual violence in their life, from being sexually shamed, objectified, groped, or raped, and/or have been told  preventing sexual violence is up to them. It’s sometimes difficult for men to understand where women are at with all of this.

I understand the panic new husbands feel when their beloved wife is simply not up for, or unable to engage in, intercourse. There is usually a lot of despair, often on both sides. I once heard about a husband briefly attempting marital rape in this situation. Please know that rape is rape, and if your partner is not a verbal yes to intercourse, that’s exactly what it is. I’m also saying this because even in this day and age, some women think it can’t be rape when their partner or husband is doing it. It still is rape. Don’t ever go there!

A number of couples are traditional or religious ones where intercourse is only supposed to happen after the marriage vows. This means that both husband and wife may be inexperienced in bed and unfamiliar with their partner’s, and even their own, bodies. Pair a man with erectile dysfunction with a woman who has vaginismus, both virgins, and you have a problem indeed. Both partners need to get familiar with their bodies and responses separately before attempting intercourse.

A vagina can feel like a brick wall when vaginismus is present, and in a Sexological Bodywork session it takes a lot of patience  and a slow and gradual approach to finally creating the body epiphany for the woman that she can actually open up and receive, with agency, and also locate her vagina, and the sensation of something in it (a small dilator or a gloved finger), for the very first time in her life.

Becoming aware of having a vaginal canal – in a taboo zone

There is a remarkable scene in a Netflix series, Unorthodox, that shows an orthodox Jewish marriage lesson in an episode. The marriage educator tells the bride that she has two openings in her pelvic floor, one where the pee comes out, and the other one being the vaginal opening. The bride-to-be flat out denies the existence of the second opening, because if it existed, wouldn’t she have noticed?

While girls are likely to discover their own vulvas at some point, the vaginal opening can’t be seen without a mirror, and not even then, because it may be hidden in the folds of the labia. I’m convinced that women would never know that they even have a vagina unless they get told about it, attempt to insert a tampon or a toy, or try to have heterosexual PiV intercourse.

Unfortunately, many children still grow up in body-negative societies, and may end up with a perception that their own genitals are non existent, because their entire surroundings denies their existence, and any engagement with that area beyond hygiene is deemed sinful. This social conditioning can cause a lack of sensation in the pelvic area, because perceiving any pleasure of the many nerve endings there could be alarming. The best solution then is to disengage from all sensations in that area apart from urinating/defecation.

Sex education may not have happened, and the entire genital area may be considered unclean, and not good to touch at all. Years of conditioning can’t just be undone with the marriage vows, and this mindset may get in the way of conjugal intimacy.

What is more, sexual activities may be rampant in secret, and happen non-consensually, behind closed doors, as abuse by adults, or older peers. The lack of education that sexuality even exists makes children more prone to being helpless victims of such abuse. Boys may be introduced to porn by peers earlier than they are ready, too.

In their teenage years (or earlier) girls learn that they should get used to having an opening that constitutes an access to the inside of their body. Their minds may liken it to a wound. They may also perceive it as an outlet only, different from their mouths that can take food and drink in. Let me give an example, to illustrate this. Imagine you find an opening in your body that you didn’t know about, or haven’t engaged with, and you notice that it leads deep inside you. You may try its depth with a finger, and your entire finger fits into it! How would you feel?

Panic responses and trauma preventing intercourse

It may also be due to trauma when some women feel faint when seeing their own vulva in a mirror, or at the mere thought of self penetrating with a finger.

I have also seen panic responses as soon as the opening of the vagina is approached with gloved hands in a session, even after taking time and achieving a good level of arousal and comfort in the body. This points to underlying trauma. I check for trauma at the beginning of working with clients, but not every trauma is consciously known – sometimes, sexual abuse is only remembered decades after if happened because the mind tries to protect itself via blotting out the memory. Sometimes, the client presents trauma responses without ever having knowingly experienced trauma. Whatever the reason is, a trauma response in the body equals consent being withdrawn, and any touch must cease immediately. We then need to assist the client to get back into a state where they can get back to safety, and process verbally what happened.

The most important feeling to create for women is one of agency, and freedom. Relaxation and a safe space with a trauma-informed practitioner are paramount. Please know that you are not alone with all of this, and that there are people to guide and help you.

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