Painful sex is a silent problem most women are enduring, but this device could change that
For years, Katie, a 30-year-old woman based in Sacramento, California, experienced pain and discomfort during deep vaginal penetration with her partner. "I was so fearful of the pain that sometimes we avoided certain positions all together," she recently told HG. Whenever sex hurt, Katie felt embarrassed, and "like broken and damaged goods" because she couldn't be herself during sex. She hasn't yet gotten to the root of the issue, but she discovered one product that's saving her sex life in the meantime: the Ohnut, a squishy, ring-like device that officially launched last week.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, three out of four women will experience painful sex at some point in their lives. And despite how common this issue is, we rarely hear about it in the public sphere—or even in the doctor's office. In fact, another study found that only 40% of OB/GYNs ask patients if they're experiencing painful sex, which means that many individuals are suffering silently through their pain and likely not addressing it with their doctor or even their partner.
Dr. Susan Kellogg, an OB/GYN who runs The Center for Pelvic Medicine, told HelloGiggles that even if sexual desire is strong between two individuals, they might not be able to get intimate because there's a specter of pain that takes away from the playfulness and fun of sex. This can also ultimately cause stress in a relationship.
"A lot of people think painful sex is normal and there's nothing they can do about it, so they don't bring it up," she said. "They hide it and suffer quietly." According to her, pain during sex (which is known medically as "dyspareunia") can be caused by a number of conditions, including endometriosis, pelvic floor dysfunction, and painful bladder syndrome.
For 10 years, Emily Sauer, a New York-based creative, endured deep pelvic pain during sexual intercourse, blaming herself when her body didn't meet her own expectations. After having her pain ignored by several doctors, Sauer decided to try to make a product that could control the depth of penile penetration, teaching herself everything she needed to know about silicone and 3-D printing. Several months of tinkering later, the first version of the Ohnut was born. And when she tried it herself, sex was much more comfortable and enjoyable, both physically and emotionally. "I felt capable, deeply connected to my partner, and free," she recalled.
The Ohnut is a donut-shaped device worn by the penetrator (it can be worn on a penis, fingers, or a toy) that's made from an FDA-approved body-safe polymer blend. With a soft and stretchy feel, Ohnut is made up of four stacking rings that compress down for a soft landing during penetration, allowing the partner who usually experiences pain to control the depth of penetration by adding rings. This past summer, Sauer launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to get the product off the ground and raised over $60,000.
While this device is not a cure for painful sex or a replacement for necessary research into the root causes of women's unexplained pain, it is currently the only non-hormonal, non-invasive option available to help women who experience discomfort during sex. Already, Dr. Kellogg said she's recommending it to her patients every day, at least once a day, as an easy-to-use, non-medicinal solution to painful sex with a decent price point—a set of four Ohnuts goes for $75.
Katie said the Ohnut has helped her and her partner bring joy back into the bedroom. She told HG, "It's so liberating, and sex is exhilarating again." She added that they can now try any position they want without limitations.
Sauer hopes the intimate wearable helps partners release the guilt they may feel when sex is painful, and initiate a larger conversation about sex. While she believes that sex is almost never physically perfect, instead of judging ourselves, we should stop thinking of painful sex as a weakness and start seeing it as an opportunity to learn more about our bodies, ask questions, and try out new things.