The 411: Sex + Cancer Part 2


Vaginal Dryness 

Vaginal dryness happens to lots of women, not just those suffering from cancer. The good news is that there are a variety of lubricants on the market designed for many types of sexual pleasure, not just intercourse. One lubricant then I recommend is Pjur silicone lubricant. I love it because it is odorless and tasteless (so if you combine it with oral sex you do not get a mouthful of an awful taste), it lasts a long time without having to reapply, and never gets sticky. It is great for all of us who need lots of extra slipperiness order to be comfortable. If you want something very natural, YES water-based is a great option. It is 96% organic, and ph balanced for the vagina. The pH balance is really important for keeping our vaginas at a happy bacterial level. But you may have to reapply more often. A third alternative is coconut oil. It gives all- natural long lasting slipperiness. Its only drawback is that it is not compatible with latex toys or condoms. There is also a slight risk of urinary tract infection with oil-based lubes. So each option has its own merits and every woman should discover what meets her needs and her body the best.

Orgasms Are Less Intense and/or Harder to Achieve 

Lots of women have challenges with orgasm whether they are survivors of cancer or not. When our orgasms are harder to achieve the great news is that there is help available. Some people need glasses to see, some people need a calculator to do math, some people need a vibrator in order to orgasm. Using a toy can be a solo activity or can also be helpful during partner sex. If your partner is a little reluctant to bring something new like a toy into your sex life, I often recommend using the toy also on them. A female partner might enjoy similar strategies to what you like. A male partner might appreciate vibration on parts of his penis, testicles, and/or perineum. And vibrators are becoming more accepted and common among women and their partners simply for pleasure, so you can just join the club!

Our orgasms and pleasures change throughout our lifespan. It can be worthwhile to spend some time reconnecting with your body and its new or responses.

Sometimes a technique that we didn’t like 10 years ago might be pleasurable now. So go back to the beginning and re- explore all of the different erogenous zones all over again. You might be surprised to find some new favorite options that can make your sex play better than you imagined.

Pain During Intercourse

If you experience pain during intercourse, the first thing to try is to add some lubrication. You also might want to practice penetration on your own without the pressure of a partner and their desires and expectations. Start practicing with a finger or thin dilator or toy.  You want to ensure that your vagina learns to trust you. Because if intercourse has been painful, your vagina now thinks that anything coming towards it will be painful and it will naturally tense up, regardless of what your mind tells it to do. So the best thing is to practice by stimulating it slowly and not enduring any pain. The moment that you experience pain, stop moving your finger or toy, take a deep breath, squeeze against your finger or a toy, and then relax your breath and relax your vagina. Often the pain will have subsided. Move your finger or toy again. And once you feel any pain again, repeat the process of stop, breathe, squeeze and relax. It may take you 5 minutes to get your finger in and out once or twice. Be patient as sometimes it is a slow start but once your vagina starts trusting, you will find that it is much more relaxed and able to accommodate faster and wider movement. Once you have practiced enough and feel comfortable inviting your partner in, ask them to do the same but with their finger to begin. After some dedicated time you may be able to accommodate penetration and intercourse.

In the meantime, should your vagina not experience intercourse as pleasurable, there are other options. Oral sex, external stimulation with fingers or toys can all be pleasurable. In fact, many women find those the more pleasurable aspects of partner sex regardless. And regular blood flow to the area is important for keeping the tissues healthy. You don’t have to stimulate the vagina to bring blood flow there: any arousal naturally brings blood flow to the vagina. Maybe sex will look differently for a while, but don’t be shy to enjoy whatever feels great to you.

If you still miss intercourse the Hot Octopus is a great toy for partners who want the closeness of intercourse without the pain. It fits over the head of the penis and vibrates the frenulum of the penis. And it will work whether a penis is soft or hard. Therefore it is great for couples where a partner experiences erectile dysfunction. And the other beauty of it is that the outside of the toy also vibrates. So if you have pain with penetration, you can sit on top of the vibrating part of the toy and get your own pleasure externally. And in this case you are both positioned similarly to how you would be during intercourse but without requiring the penis to be erect nor for you take accommodate penetration. You both can experience pleasure and feeling the closeness while omitting any pain or discomfort.

Other Pain: Breast, Joint and Muscle Pain

Take some time to figure out which positions feel comfortable and which ones don’t. Are there times of the day when your pain is lower? Is there a way to time your sexual adventures for when your medications are at their maximum effectiveness? Are there times of day when you are less fatigued and have more energy for sex? It is ok to plan your sexual connections around your body’s optimal pleasure time.

Feeling Like It is Not Worth The Trouble and Doesn’t Work Anyways

Don’t give up. Your body is ever changing and with some simple adjustments you might find some pleasure in physical touch as well as intimacy with a partner. Communicate your frustration to your partner. Talk about what your goals are for being sexual together (eg closeness, release, intimacy, pleasure), what expectations you have about what sex looks like and what makes it satisfying. Think a little outside the box and discover commonalities and ways that you can still feel close, loved and intimate.

If intercourse does not work, there are still other options. You are not broken or have not failed if intercourse does not work for you.

You just need to adjust how you connect and spend time on oral pleasure, fingers, toys, or even take the opportunity to explore kink/ BDSM or tantric sex.

Low Libido 

Stress, fatigue, medications, frustration can all decrease our libidos. But the reality is that lots of women struggle with low libido. But a lot of it is based in a misconception: most of us think that we should have spontaneous desire, where we crave sex on a regular basis. However this usually only happens at the beginning of a relationship. After a while we are more interested in cuddling up on the couch while watching a movie. And even though we might not initially feel like having sex, if our partner initiates and we choose to give it a go (or sometimes deciding to just “take it for the team”) oftentimes we find ourselves enjoying it. This is because many of us have responsive desire: it responds to arousal.

As long as you are receiving pleasure that feels great, your body usually finds its libido in the moment.

So rather than waiting for when you spontaneously feel like having sex, find times instead where you are open to connecting- kissing, bathing together, massage, tickling etc. Choose activities that have a high probability of getting you in the mood, and initiate those. Your libido will possibly follow.

Of course this arousal is based on you enjoying the activity. You don’t get excited at the thought revisiting a restaurant where you didn’t enjoy the food, do you? So take responsibility for discovering what brings you pleasure and be honest with your partner about what you would like them to do. If your partner has clear instructions on how to please you, then you are more likely to enjoy pleasurable and satisfied sex.

For more expert advice on The 411 click HERE!

Carlyle Jansen colour low res

Carlyle Jansen is a sexuality educator,  coach and founder of Good For Her, Toronto’s premiere sexuality shop and workshop centre. She is the author of Sex Yourself and Anal Sex Basics.

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