Pain-Free Sex for Dad


Sex can be painful for men, too. Here's how--and what to do about it

Most men know that women sometimes experience pain during sex. But many women don’t know that men can experience pain during sex, too. And I don’t just mean the emotional pain of not getting an erection or of climaxing quickly.

A small number of men experience pain during sex for serious reasons, ranging from syphilis to an infection in the prostate or urethra. It’s a rare guy who will proceed with sex when it brings that kind of misery. But other reasons that sex can hurt are far more common, even if they’re not quite so serious.

One source of sexual pain is masturbation. Now I know that masturbation won’t make you blind or give you hairy palms. But it’s arguably the most secretive sex act. That means it’s sometimes done under less than ideal conditions, often in a rush or without proper supplies—meaning lubrication. Trying to climax without making noise, in a hurry, with a dry hand, can lead to abrasions. It’s like rubbing a spot on your arm, faster and faster, hoping you’ll sneeze before someone walks in on you. Ouch.

Or say our mythical guy, like Kevin Spacey’s character in the film American Beauty, masturbates in the shower. He uses soap as a lubricant—and if it’s a brand that’s loaded with perfume, or worse yet, exfoliants, the more he rubs his penis the more he’s, well, exfoliating his penis. Ouch.

Now this is bad enough, although the abrasions will heal in a few days if he can keep his hands off himself. But if his wife or girlfriend wants sex tonight, and he doesn’t want to say, “Um, I rubbed myself too hard today to make love right now,” he has three choices: 1) the traditional “not tonight, I have a headache;” 2) the traditional picking a fight over nothing; and 3) making love with a raw spot or two on his penis. Ever have a paper cut and get lemon juice in it while cooking? That’s exactly what it feels like to make love with a “minor” abrasion on your penis.

Sometimes that abrasion is actually a tiny little herpes outbreak. While most people can feel an outbreak coming, some can’t—especially if they’re busy and not paying attention to things. Some people who have planned sex for a particular occasion (Father’s Day, Oprah’s Birthday, Groundhog Day) notice an outbreak but try to deny it, not wanting to “ruin everything.” They proceed with sex despite the outbreak. Ouch.

Now let’s get you involved. Sex may be painful for a man because of the way he’s being stimulated: your hand on his penis may be too tight. And this may be a time to take off that lovely jade ring. It’s friendly to caress your man’s balls during sex, but don’t squeeze too tightly. How tight is too tight? You’d have to ask him. And your fingernails on his balls? Paradise for some, worse than root canal for others. Again, ask.

Fingernails can play a prominent—and generally unwanted—role when you’re stimulating your man anally. If he enjoys this kind of play, keep at least one nail trimmed short, the better to keep you two out of the Emergency Room on Saturday night.

A woman’s teeth are among Man’s Best Friends—when used soberly and consciously. As with all sexual activities, the variation in what different men like in biting, oral sex, and nipple play is very broad. There’s no substitute for asking, and darn those guys who say “everything is great, I love everything.” No one except Godzilla (and my pathologically passive Uncle Dave) likes everything.

Finally, let’s remember that the most common source of painful sex for men has nothing to do with their penis. It’s unromantic, unfunny chronic pain: lower back, neck, knees, hands. Some ibuprofen an hour before sex can help, but long-term conditions like arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome are stronger than any drug that doesn’t render you unconscious.

Most people don’t like to discuss these things, fearing they’re a terrible turn-off for both parties. If your guy is struggling with chronic pain, be pushy—insist that you find positions that minimize his discomfort, and insist that he’s still sexy to you.

Then, as my editors are always telling me, don’t just say it—show it.

Happy Father’s Day to you both.

Dr. Marty Klein is a marriage counselor and sex therapist with 30 years experience. His latest book is SEXUAL INTELLIGENCE: What We Really Want From Sex, and How to Get It. Dr. Klein’s blog, newsletter and more at