Ask the Doctors: Too Tight for Penetration!

Are there exercises or toys I can use to increase the diameter of the opening of my vagina? Currently, it is very uncomfortable, even with massive amounts of lubricant, to penetrate more than a short distance. Thanks for the help.
–Too Tight to Tango

Yes, it is usually possible to use toys (and items intended/designed to be dilators) to work up to larger vaginal diameter or capacity. Have a look at these products, which are all designed for or useful for this purpose, although they are all hard plastic. This makes them smooth and easy to clean, but also inflexible. Some people prefer to use Silk dildos — these are silicone, somewhat firm but also flexible, and come in three sizes so you can go from smaller to larger.

You would definitely want to use a lubricant when you use these, and take your time. There are many reasons why penetration may be uncomfortable and the vaginal opening tight or narrow. If you have never communicated with a doctor about this, you might wish to do so, since some causes of these issues can be anatomical or physiological, and it’s possible a physician could help.

Some thoughts: It’s not completely clear to me whether you can only enter your vagina a short way because of the tightness of the introitus (that is, the opening), or whether something is stopping you from going further. If the latter, you should know that it’s possible to have a hymen so strong that it prevent penetration altogether — this is pretty rare, but it does happen. Also, it’s possible to have a much shorter-than-average vaginal canal.

If your issue is tightness rather than depth of penetration, here are some additional thoughts:

Vaginismus — vaginal tightness that causes pain and/or interferes with penetration — may be part of your situation, and there’s a good deal of information available about it (check the link for one site that addresses it). Please note that many times vaginismus is addressed with regard to penile penetration, and of course not every women has a penis in her life right now <g> or desires penile-vaginal intercourse; there are other kinds of sexual experience that can be affected by vaginismus, whether you are partnered or want more solo erotic options.

Kegel, or PC (pubococcygeal), exercises serve to increase the flexibility of the muscles that surround the vagina and are responsible for tightening and relaxing them. Here’s how to do the exercises. This might not be enough to make the tightness go away altogether, but they will help.

In doing dilation exercises, it isn’t absolutely necessary to be sexually aroused. But knowing what I do about genital anatomy and physiology, I’d strongly recommend that you do include arousal in your process. For one thing, the simplest answer to your concern is that you haven’t been adequately aroused yet when penetration attempts have been made. For some women, this makes the vagina seem very tight, but the same vagina, with good arousal, will be quite flexible and able to be comfortably and pleasurably entered. Arousal brings blood flow into the vulvo/vaginal area and makes this flexibility possible — it’s not just a mental state, but a physical one as well. Plus it makes the exercises much more fun to do.

Either of the  products linked to above — the Vibrating Dilator Set or the Oasis Intimates Wand Vibrators– will allow you to add clitoral vibration to your experience and greatly increase your arousal that way. If you choose the Silk dildos, you might wish to add a vibrator as well. You can also add clitoral stimulation by hand, of course, and/or add to your arousal level with erotica.

By the way, I looked up my old Q&A about vaginismus in case it is helpful. Here it is.

And here’s one from my colleague Dr. Charlie Glickman.

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Dr. Carol Queen

Carol Queen has a PhD in sexology; she calls herself a "cultural sexologist" because her earlier academic degree is in sociology: while she addresses individual issues and couple's sexual concerns, her overarching interest is in cultural issues (gender, shame, access to education, etc.). Queen has worked at Good Vibrations, the woman-founded sexuality company based in San Francisco that turned 35 years old in 2012, since 1990. Her current position is Staff Sexologist and Good Vibrations Historian; her roles include representing the company to the press and the public; overseeing educational programming for staff and others; and scripting/hosting a line of sex education videos, the Pleasure-Ed series, for GV’s sister company Good Releasing. She also curates the company's Antique Vibrator Museum. She is also the founding director of the Center for Sex & Culture, a non-profit sex ed and arts center San Francisco, and is a frequent lecturer at colleges, universities, and community-based organizations. Her dozen books include a Lambda Literary Award winner, PoMoSexuals, and Real Live Nude Girl: Chronicles of Sex-Positive Culture, which are used as texts in some college classes. She blogs at the Good Vibes Magazine and at SFGate's City Brights bloggers page and contributes to the Boston Dig. For more about her at

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