dyspareunia: a condition or syndrome of difficult or painful coitus, of variable etiology, in men and women [from Greek, dyspareunos, badly mated]. The term is used chiefly in reference to women, but applies equally well to men. the experience of pain, especially in the sex organs or within the pelvis, during sexual intercourse. It may also include coital migraine headache. It may occur in either sex, but traditionally has been named dyspareunia in women and coital pain in men. Dyspareunia may be a manifestation of hypophilia.

Dictionary of Sexology Project: Main Index

Dyspareunia is the medical term for painful sexual intercourse in both women and men, and is estimated to be experienced by about 15 percent of adult women on a few occasions per year and by one to two percent of adult women more often. I have found no statistics for how many men are affected and would be glad to include these if someone else finds them.

Dyspareunia can best be categorised by where the pain is felt. 


External dyspareunia is felt most commonly as a dry, burning sensation. The most usual reason for feeling this pain is a lack of lubrication, and either more foreplay to encourage the production of natural lubrication, or the use of an artificial lubricant, or both will assist in fixing the problem. 

Some of the causes of lack of vaginal lubrication are:

A less common but more serious cause of external dyspareunia is a yeast infection. If you are having itching, burning or a feeling of dryness during intercourse it is a very good idea to seek medical advice at once. (See thrush for a further discussion of vaginal yeast infections)

There are other physical reasons for external dyspareunia. Some of them are:


Many women feel occasional discomfort with deep sexual penetration. It is believed that this may be a normal response of delicate organs attempting to protect themselves from too rough treatment. The solution is to avoid penetration which is too deep by choosing a sexual position which minimises penetrative depth.

Some other, more serious but less common causes of deep dyspareunia are:

*Women who have or develop an allergy to their partner's semen are rare, but the condition is serious. Some women have gone into deep shock from this allergy.  

Any of these problems is very serious so if the pain persists you should seek medical advice to rule these problems out.


As stated at the beginning of this article, men as well as women can experience dyspareunia. Some of the causes of male dyspareunia are:

As you can see, it is impossible to have one treatment plan for a condition with such a wide range of causes. The best course to take when experiencing dyspareunia is to eliminate less serious problems, such as lack of lubrication, and if this does not completely resolve the problem, to seek medical advice.

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