The sexual pain disorders: Is the pain sexual or is the sex painful?

Document Type



The concept of a sexual pain disorder is both intriguing and confusing. It is intriguing because the basic premise underlying this idea appears to be that there is a special type of pain which is sexual in nature. If this premise is true, then the study of sexual pain that becomes pleasurable or sexual pleasure that becomes painful might provide us with crucial information concerning the relationship of pain and pleasure. The nature of this relationship has intrigued philosophers, psychologists, and neuroscientists for many generations. On the other hand, the sexual pain concept is confusing because acceptance of the notion of sexual pain implies that there may be numerous other special types of pain, such as work pain and sports pain. This seems unlikely and raises doubt about whether there is a special type of sexual pain. The term, sexual pain, is also confusing because it is vague and can be understood in at least two distinct ways. Does it mean pain induced by sexual activities, thoughts, and feelings, or does it mean sexual pleasure induced by painful activities, thoughts, or feelings?


Chronic pain--Psychological aspects; Dyspareunia; Mental health counseling; Pelvic pain; Psychosexual disorders; Sexual disorders; Vaginismus


Community-Based Research | Counseling Psychology | Health Psychology | Medicine and Health | Psychiatry and Psychology | Psychology


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Publisher Citation

Binik, Y. M., Meana, M., Berkley, K., & Khalife, S. (1999). The sexual pain disorders: Is the pain sexual or is the sex painful?. Annual review of sex research, 10, 210.

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