Hot. *Fire emoji*. Smokin’. Heat-conjuring words are often called upon to describe good sex, but what if actual heat had a pain-diminishing and pleasure-improving place in the bedroom? According to sex educators, it absolutely can: For vulva-owners who struggle with dyspareunia, or painful sex, heat can prove especially helpful strategy for claiming some real-deal pleasure.
“Heat can ramp up sexual pleasure because it ramps up circulation, which helps prep vaginal tissues and genital nerves for heightened sensation and pleasure,” says somatic sex expert, Kiana Reeves sex and community educator with pleasure-product company Foria.
Vulva-owners with tight, aka hypertonic, pelvic floor muscles or vaginismus (painful contractions of the vaginal floor muscles), “may find that heat application helps the muscles soften, instead of keeping the body from fighting penetration,” says Reeves. In many cases, she adds, heat application can be the difference between ouch and oooh.
Keep reading for 6 ways you can use heat as a painful sex remedy.
1. Hold a heating pad to your lower abdomen and pubic mound
Cramps—whether from a period or penetrative sex—are essentially aggressive muscle contractions and overactive muscles at work, says Reeves, who adds that the heat can help quell the associated pain. “For vulva-owners who experience cramping after penetration, placing a heating pad on their lower abdomen before, during and/or after can help,” says Reeves.
2. Keep it classic with oral sex
Fun fact: Cunnilingus is a free, heat-producing act that can help minimize painful sex. “The heat a partner’s mouth creates against your vulva during oral sex is actually enough in some cases to help the pelvic floor muscles relax,” says Reeves. It can be called upon to prep the body for penetration or as the main sexual event.
3. Use a stainless steel or glass wand
Both these materials are great for temperature play because they hold heat (and coldness) well. “Warm your wand up under warm water, or let it sit in a bowl of warm water,” says sex educator and sex-toy reviewer Indigo Wolfe. When you’re ready to use it, press it against the back of your hand or inner lip to test the temperature and, from there, start slow.
“Use it or have your partner use it against your thighs, then pubic mound, then labia,” says Wolfe. If you want to explore penetration, wait until your labia are engorged and are firm to the touch, because both are signs of arousal, says Reeves. And for some shopping inspiration, consider the nJoy Eleven, $400 or nJoy Pure Wand, $130.
4. Take a bath
“The warm water will help all your muscles, head-to-toe, relax,” says Wolfe. “You even might try making the water a little warmer than you can normally handle to make your non-genital erogenous zones even more sensitive to touch,” they say. (Just be mindful not to burn yourself.)
5. Explore vaginal steaming
Reeves says a number of the vulva-owners she’s worked with who have hypotonic (or tight) pelvic-floor muscles have found vaginal steaming to be pain-relieving. “Think about the way shower steam relaxes your trap muscles after a longggg day of typing. Vaginal steaming is like that,” she says, but just for, you know, your vagina, because the heat brings blood flow to tissues, which trains the muscles to relax.
6. Try CBD lube
While heat-use should never replace lube, Reeves says heat can support the body’s natural lubrication process. “The heat draws blood flow to the vaginal tissues, which is part of the arousal response that tells the body to become lubricated,” she says.
And while CBD lube is not a warming product itself, it may function similarly to heat application. “The primary benefits of using CBD lube are the same as the primary benefits of heat application: muscle relaxation and circulation promotion,” says Reeves. For folks who are wary about (literally) turning up the heat on their vulva, CBD lube is a great alternative, she says. Just keep in mind that many CBD lubes (like Foria’s Awaken, $48 and Privy Peach Intimate Oil, $45) are oil-based, meaning, they’re not condom-compatible.
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