Men, what causes painful intercourse?

Pain during sex is not just a women’s issue. Dyspareunia, or painful sexual intercourse, affects women and men and can lead to significant psychological distress. Male dyspareunia is defined as recurrent or persistent genital or pelvic pain with sexual activity or sexual dysfunction that is present for three months or longer, and you don’t have to suffer in silence. Talk to your provider about any pain you experience during intercourse, because there may be a simple (and highly treatable) explanation. Common causes of painful intercourse for men include:

Allergies. Some men may experience an allergic reaction to vaginal fluids or various chemicals found in latex condoms and spermicide. This is hardly surprising, when 30-50% of individuals are allergic to natural rubber latex. 

Have a fruit allergy? You might also be allergic to condoms. Latex-fruit syndrome means that if you are allergic to avocado, banana, kiwi, melon or peaches (and on rare occasions, fig, plum, potato, papaya and tomato) you have an 11% chance of also being allergic to latex. Who knew?

Peyronie’s Disease. Casually known as penile curvature, Peyronie’s disease refers to fibrous plaques or scar tissue inside the penis caused by repeated penile injury, resulting in painful, curved erections. A slightly curved penis is normal and often not cause for concern. Peyronie’s disease is associated with significant curvature that interferes with sexual function. 

Phimosis and paraphimosis. Phimosis and paraphimosis are both afflictions of the foreskin that may cause pain during intercourse. Phimosis occurs when the foreskin is too tight to be retracted to reveal the head of the penis. Paraphimosis occurs when the foreskin gets trapped behind the head of the penis. If you are uncircumcised and experience swelling, discharge or a white ring around the opening of the foreskin in addition to pain during sex, phimosis or paraphimosis may be the culprit. 

Prostatitis. Prostatitis refers to inflammation of the prostate gland, and it can cause painful intercourse and flu-like symptoms. Prostatitis is a common disease that affects one in six men throughout the course of their lifetime. 

Infection. If left untreated, many STIs including chlamydia and genital herpes have the potential to cause an infection in the urethra, testes or prostate, resulting in painful intercourse. 

Back pain. Over 31 million Americans suffer from back pain, and it is the leading cause of disability around the world. Back pain prevents people from exercising, sleeping, going to work and generally enjoying life. Unfortunately, this does not exclude sex. Movement of the spine, pelvis, core and hip muscles can lead to irritation. If back pain is preventing you from enjoying sex to your fullest potential, communicate with your partner, use towels or pillows to support yourself and try new positions that allow your back to rest. 

Speak up when you experience pain. Your provider can help you get back to a healthier sex life, which means getting back to a healthier you.