- Orthodox Jewish couples, when they are engaged, should read 'The Newlywed Guide to Marital Intimacy.' It is very clear, still tzniut, and even mentions pain (even though the only type of pain they mention is vaginismus, and their resources in the back do not include sexual pain guru, Dr. Goldstein). So there is definitely room for improvement, but this is still a great start for new couples to feel empowered and knowledgeable about sex.
- In my opinion, all kallot should either wear tampons before they get married, and should seek guidance on how to insert them if they are confused about how, or should make a special appointment with a NICE gynecologist who will hold up a mirror to their vagina, show them where everything is and how it works and help them insert a finger into there, just so that they are totally familiar with their bodies and able to have sex without being afraid/ without having to rely on the man to know what to do (especially since, if the man is Orthodox, he's most likely never seen a woman's vagina or penetrated her before).
- Every kallah should be taught what the hymen really is. That way, instead of being afraid of 'breaking the hymen' and having images of this flap of skin or tissue that the man has to break through, which sounds like he has to use force and plug into her like a needle piercing your ear, she will know from the beginning that the hymen is a vaginal RING of tissue which already has an opening because that is where the blood flows from, and the man's penis merely widens the opening. See more on this here.
- If you are experiencing pain with sex, here's the road to take. 1) If you are totally new to sex, it might just be pressure/ the sensation of something new, so do try more than once, and do try adding lubricant (and try different kinds of lubricant, because maybe one kind will do it for you better than another kind) 2) Go to your gynecologist and check if you have a yeast infection or any other natural irritant that could be easily solved and 3) If you are still having pain with sex, do not ignore it, but rather make an appointment to see Dr. Andrew Goldstein in either DC, New York or Annapolis. Do not bother buying dilators or seeing other people before him; they might misdiagnose you; he has the highest chance of getting it right. Also, it is best if you go to see him ALONGSIDE your significant other or husband (if you feel that he can be supportive about this process). If possible, you and your partner want to be in this together so that the person experiencing pain does not end up feeling like everything is just 'on them' while you lolllygag along. (Obviously, this section may not apply if you were raped, abused or otherwise traumatized; it could still be worth it for you to see Dr. Goldstein, since that might not be all that is going on, but if you feel like the main issue is your anxiety or your psychological health, a sex therapist might be better. That having been said, I incorrectly thought for a time the main issue was anxiety, when in truth it is most likely a physical birth defect.)
- Do not be ashamed of the pain you are feeling or consider yourself a freak. Rather, read 'When Sex Hurts' by Dr. Andrew Goldstein and see if you can get in touch with others like you (for example, me!) It is very helpful to speak to others who know what you are dealing with and who will not simply tell you that it will all be okay, but who can still respond knowledgeably and supportively to you.
- DO consider seeing a therapist to deal with the issues you are facing. It is very hard to have a unconsummated marriage/ pain with sex/ to not feel like a functioning woman/ possibly have a husband who feels bereft etc. There is no shame in seeing a therapist. There are some therapists who specialize in talking about this issue in particular; otherwise, just see any therapist who you feel could be helpful. I personally see a man who specializes in CBT and he has been very helpful to me.
- DO (if this is important to you) find a competent rabbi to ask your shailot to. My husband and I have a very competent one, who we can recommend to you if you are worried about asking a rabbi the kinds of questions that inevitably come up, such as whether you can have non-penetrative sexual fun (mutual masturbation etc) and so on.
- Do find yourself people to support you throughout your journey. Whether it is a therapist, a family member or friends, you really do not want to be going through this alone. Even if you have the most amazing husband in the world (and I do), it is still better if you have someone else to help you, especially during those times when part of the issue might be your concern over how your husband will react to something etc.
You can always write to me, and while I may not always have the time to answer, I do try to write back when I can. And I wish all of you good luck.