For many of us, sex is one of the most enjoyable things in life, right up there with a sale on Ben and Jerry's and your boss giving you a raise you definitely didn't deserve.
But if sex seems to be making you cringe more than cry out in ecstasy, it's definitely worth taking a look at what's going on. If you are genuinely concerned, please seek a professional medical opinion.
1. You might have an STD
Actually, the correct terminology is "STI" since most of these little buggers are infections and not diseases. However, I doubt you'll care too much about the jargon if you're freaking out about having a sexually-transmitted infection.
The Center for Disease control reports that chlamydia and gonorrhea are on the rise and they're most likely to affect young adults.
Both of these infections are generally “silent,” meaning that you don't have any signs or symptoms... but if you do, they can be painful.
Chlamydia symptoms in both men and women can include abnormal discharge from the penis or vagina and/or a burning sensation while peeing.
Gonorrhea shares some of the same fun signs and symptoms, but in addition to the burning and discharge, some women infected with gonorrhea will experience bleeding from their lady bits in between periods and, while less common, men may experience swelling and pain in the testicles.
Luckily, both of these pesky infections can be treated with medication prescribed by a doctor.
It's important to remember that most of the time you will have no signs and symptoms of these infections, so make sure you are being tested regularly! Planned Parenthood is a great resource for those who are unsure of where to get tested.
2. You might not be into it
Have you ever heard that the brain is the largest sex organ?
If you're not feeling turned on by your partner -- or you're tired... or you're stressed... or you JUST want to make it through "The Bachelor" -- you're not going to enjoy yourself.
If you aren't relaxed and ready for sex – it's not time for sex! Take care of what needs to be taken care of, whether that is the dishes, more foreplay or waiting 10 minutes to see who gets the final rose.
When you've gotten these things out of the way, you'll feel more relaxed and enjoy your sexual experiences more. And, uh, about those dishes, a study found that couples who share chores have better sex lives.
3. You might need lube
No, lube isn't just for the elderly (but they're definitely still having sex) and you're not doing yourself any favors by buying into that outdated misconception.
Lube is for every person, every sex act and every position. Lube makes sex (especially anal play – the anus does not self-lubricate as the vagina does) 10 times better and safer (lubricant reduces rips and tears that can lead to infection).
There are so many options for lubricants. Silicone lubricants are great for anal play and water play, as they last longer. Water-based lubricants are slippery and can feel amazing. Flavored lubricants can make oral sex even more exciting -- I didn't even know that was possible!
Make sure your lubricants are glycerin-free (sugar – we don't want that all up in your sensitive parts) and paraben-free (a preservative that some believe has negative health effects).
Remember never to use an oil-based lubricant with a condom, as oil can break down the latex. If you have questions, go to your local sex shop or email one.
4. You might need to change positions
Google it. It doesn't matter whether your partner has a penis, a strap-on or no phallus is involved at all!
Being comfortable no matter what type of sex you're having is super important. It can be fun to experiment with new positions until you find something that is comfortable and fun for you and your partner.
You may find tucking some pillows under your hips as you lie down makes things more enjoyable. Maybe a standing position feels better to you. Perhaps you'd benefit from trying sex acts on a surface other than a bed, like a chair, a counter or the shower.
You can find some great books that discuss different sex positions, some even offer a new position for every day of the year!
5. You might need to go to a doctor
There are a number of medical conditions that can make sex painful, sometimes even unbearable. Some of these conditions include: vulvodynia, pudendal nerve pain and endometriosis.
Don't let WebMD diagnose you, get to a doctor who has training about these conditions and can offer you some remedies.
If you receive a diagnosis and you feel like you'd like someone to talk to, visit the America Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists to find a professional who is qualified to help you through this process.