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Q&A: I'm worried about hurting my partner during sex

Q&A: I'm worried about hurting my partner during sex

Dear Sh!

I'm getting to know someone at the moment with romantic and sexual interest building on both sides. She confided in me that she has problems because as a small child she fell/sat on a hot iron and suffered 3rd-degree burns in the genital area. Funny I'm so busy being sensitive and OK about this while talking to her, I realise I feel very upset writing about it now. I feel like weeping. I suppose that's normal enough.

I've always been a reasonably gentle lover anyway and feel reasonably confident that I can listen to her but the last thing I want is to hurt her or cause her damage. That would be very distressing and the last thing I would want. I'm a practical soul and visit your website for associated reasons and I just thought I'd ask (which took a bit of doing). I am desperate not to hurt her and would be most grateful for your assistance.

Hi there,

Many thanks for your email. It’s lovely to hear that you are both ready to move on to this new, exciting part of your relationship.

We’d need to know more about the types of problems your partner is experiencing in order for us to give more detailed advice. For example, is there pain?

Vaginal pain during sex

Pain is the body’s way of telling us that something is wrong, and it is important that we listen to this. We always recommend seeking medical advice if pain is experienced. We never recommend sex where it is painful. If your partner experiences pain during sex, it is important to stop and try to address the problem or you could cause further damage.

Vaginal scarring can cause sensitivity

Is there a lot of scarring? Does the scarring affect the whole genital area or some parts of it? How deep is the scarring? Are the areas super-sensitive, or are they numb? All of these factors will affect the kinds of sexual play you are able to enjoy and finding out about these aspects will help you and your partner develop a successful sex life.

Vaginal athrophy

The vagina may have shrunk and/or closed. This may place limitations on what type of play you can enjoy together. Saying that, even if there is some shrinkage, there is a vaginal training process called dilation that can work very well when practised with suitable products like vaginal dilators. You may want to discuss this with a gynaecologist or medical professional. 

Four lilac vaginal dilators in progressive size. Backgropund: 2 white candle holders, a green plant in pa;e pink bioth ana white candle in the shape of a curvy woman

The vulva & the clitoris

The clitoris has thousands of nerve endings on its very tip and if it remains undamaged, your partner has the potential to experience great pleasure from the right kind (for her) of clitoral stimulation.

Psychological damage could be an issue – how does your partner feel about the way her outer parts (vulva) look? She may be absolutely fine with any change to the appearance and colour of her genitals, or she may feel very sensitive about it. Follow her lead – ie. lights on vs lights off, having a good look vs a less intrusive view of her genitals and so on.

Has she had sex before? If so, how did she feel about it? If she has had good experiences, this will be helpful for both of you as she’ll view sex as something pleasurable.

If she hasn’t had sex, or if it was painful, she’ll need time to build up her confidence. Let her take the lead and give her plenty of time to discover what is and isn’t pleasurable for her.

Sex isn't just penetration

Take time to discover each others’ bodies, find out what triggers pain (avoid) and what triggers pleasure (yes!). Sex isn’t just one body part slotted into another – sex can be whatever you want it to be. Gentle caresses or kissing, and touching in ways that feel good for both of you. Sexuality, and what it means, is different for everyone, “Normal” (and we use this word very loosely) sex is different for everyone.

Perhaps try a gentle finger vibrator, as the vibrations can help relax tense nerve endings.

Always use lube for sex

Make sure to use a really good lubricant and lots of it. We recommend Sh! Pure Plus as the thickness of the lube will add a nice padded layer between fingers and damaged skin.

Best of luck to you both!


Team Sh! xx

If you’d like any tailored advice or recommendations, please feel free to drop us a line at and we’ll answer you privately. We may also share Q&A’s so others may benefit, but if we do it will always be anonymous, with nothing left in to identify you.

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