top of page

When Sex Hurts Book Review

Title: When Sex Hurts: A Woman’s Guide to Banishing Sexual Pain

Authors: Andrew Goldstein, MD, Irwin Goldstein, MD, Caroline Pukall, PhD,

Year Published: 2011

Main Topics Covered: Sexual Health, Painful Sex, Dyspareunia, Relationships, Self-Help

Written for: All Genders, All Sexual Orientations

Recommended for: Women with GPPD symptoms

Perspectives taken: Feminist, Normalizing, Educational, Biopsychosocial, Sex-Positive

Type of Resource: Self-Help Guide

APA Citation:

Goldstein, A. P. (2011). When Sex Hurts: A Woman's Guide to Banishing Sexual Pain. Cambridge, MA, USA: Da Capo Press.

Book Overview:

Andrew and Irwin Goldstein and Caroline Pukall empathetically tackle the pervasive condition of painful sex, or Dyspareunia, through a normalizing lens. Dyspareunia is a growing global epidemic that most practitioners are ill-equipped to diagnose and treat. However, “When Sex Hurts” centralizes on empowering sufferers to seek effective care and learn self-management. This support guide is rooted in research and separated into three easy-to-read sections outlining the problem itself, followed by its causes and post-Dyspareunia empowerment techniques. The authors succeed at demystifying the condition by motivating affected women to take action towards improving their lives.

The book is chiefly geared towards female readers given that dyspareunia predominately affects women (though males might also suffer from the condition). It is particularly sensitive to biopsychosocial causes of painful sex, and women’s sexual abuse as correlational to dyspareunia and general sexual malfunction. Furthermore, while the book is sexual-orientation-neutral, most case studies included in the publication are hetero-oriented. After providing numerous accounts of women’s relational disappointments, the authors advise readers to seek men who are understanding – further normalizing women’s unique conditions and encouraging positive self-esteem through synergistic relationships.

Additionally, Goldstein, Goldstein and Pukall propose a practical guide to female anatomy and strive to educate women on statistical data pertaining to dyspareunia. They also provide visual maps of female genitalia and explore the physiology of pain itself, in hopes of crystallizing and therefore dismantling dyspareunia. This is followed by a concrete guide to finding and retaining appropriate medical care and a list of possible resources for sufferers. Included in this section are recommendations for how to speak to doctors, which contain effective words to describe pain and detailed descriptions of how successful appointments should flow. It also empathetically prepares women for physical exams by describing the process from beginning to end.

The authors conclude with positively-charged advice, urging women to be vocal about their dyspareunia and sexual dysfunction, so as to dismantle shame and normalize sexual dysfunction, in general. Moreover, the authors encourage women to participate in relevant clinical trials and offer support to organizations dedicated to women’s sexual health, such as the National Vulvodynia Association and/or the Interstitial Cystitis Association. Lastly, the book offers a detailed pain diary to validate women’s experiences. It provides women an opportunity to gain a strength-based perspective of their condition and re-claim control of their happiness.

About the Authors:

Andrew Goldstein, MD, is a Gynaecologist and President of the International Study of Women’s Sexual Health. He is also President of the Gynaecologic Cancers Research Foundation and was an Associate Editor of the Journal of Sexual Medicine, The Female Patient, and Current Sexual Health Reports.

Caroline Pukall, PhD, is a Professor at Queens University, and one the leading researchers on women’s sexual pain and dysfunction. She has received a number of prestigious fellowships, honours awards and research grants, from prestigious institutions, including the National Vulvodynia Association, American Institute of Bisexuality and the Canadian Institute of Health Research.

Irwin Goldstein, MD, is a sexual health physician and researcher who taught as a professor of urology and gynaecology for 25 years. He has pioneered diagnosis and treatment of sexual health dysfunction and currently runs the San Diego Sexual Medicine Clinic.

Written by Westland Researcher Mia D.


bottom of page