Lack of Information on Painful Sex

Research Study on the Inability to Have Intercourse

Adrienne Bairstow, MSW, MEd.

Sex Therapist and PhD Student

Center for Human Sexuality Studies, Widener University


As a sex therapist, I’ve seen the impact of vaginismus on women and their partners.  I work with individuals and couples, and frequently see people who are impacted by vaginismus.  While each couple is different, there are some common threads in their stories.  Many people report that they’ve had difficulty finding information about the condition, even from doctors or other service providers.  Couples often say that they feel isolated and alone, because no one talks about vaginismus.


My work with those who are unable to have vaginal intercourse, many of whom have vaginismus, prompted me to look at the research literature in order to better help my clients.  I found that there isn’t very much research on the topic, and even less from the perspective of those who are actually affected by the inability to have intercourse.  The lack of information and the isolation reported by so many in this situation prompted me to choose this topic for my doctoral dissertation.


As part of my dissertation for my PhD in Human Sexuality, I’m speaking to individuals in heterosexual relationships who have been unable to have penile-vaginal intercourse, despite wanting to do so.  My goal is to represent the experience of women and men in this situation.  The results of my study will be used to educate service providers.


Are you interested in sharing your story?  If so, you’ll take part in an interview with me, via online video call.  I’ll ask you questions about what it’s like to have this experience. Participants will receive a $20 Amazon gift card in appreciation of their time.


For more information about this study, please contact me: ambairstow @