Penetration during sex – the female (receiving) view

This is a brief discussion of how it might feel to receive penetration, or to be penetrated.

Although I am calling this the female view, the same issues might arise for a man receiving penetration, whether from a woman using her fingers or a sex toy, or another man.

The word penetration strictly speaking stands for the introduction of a penis either into the vagina or the rectum. Another technical word used for this process is intromission.

However, for our discussion here, it makes sense to see penetration in a broader way, as introducing penis, fingers or sex toys into the vagina or rectum.

So what’s all the fuss about penetration?

Penetration is a major thing for many people. How come it makes such a big psychological impact?

First, penetration is often seen as the one and only way to have “real sex”. It reinforces all the old gender stereotypes that sex is something a man “does” to a woman. She can’t do it to him because of her anatomy. So, during sex, she stays passive and receives “him” (i.e. his penis) and in some way he “possesses” her because of that.

Unfortunately, this one sided view of sexual techniques and penetration doesn’t help your sex life. Human beings are a lot more complicated than simple biology. Women can penetrate men too – and in any case being penetrated isn’t a passive process at all.

What’s more, you can never possess another person that way, and it certainly isn’t the only real or right way to have sex.

Even though we seem to be programmed to see penetration as the ultimate sexual act, trying other ways of having sex can be extremely liberating.

True, penetration has its kicks. Some women, and some men, love the feeling of being filled up, or feeling full. And, yes, penetration can result in intense sexual feelings. Some people experience it as an intense sexual kick when their body’s entered by another person.

And the physical sensations can go hand in hand with the psychological aspects of penetration: feeling extremely close to someone as he or she is in your body, feeling taken over, possessed, devoured, “taken”.

Penetration might mean the receiving partner can really go into his or her sexual feelings. In short, penetrating or being penetrated can be an amazing sexual experience. It can satisfy the sexual desire in us that wants to possess, to devour, to take someone – or to be taken.

The downsides of penetration

However, penetration doesn’t work for everybody. Many women do not reach orgasm through penetration alone, though this also depends on how much foreplay there’s been and how aroused she is.

In fact many women only reach orgasm through clitoral stimulation, which tends not to happen with penetration alone. If that’s true for you, maybe oral sex or manual stimulation is a lot more exciting than penetration.

Sexual penetration
Penetration is not the be all and end all of sex for many women

What’s more, penetration can feel very threatening. The experience of letting someone enter your body can be very frightening. The person being penetrated may feel like he or she has no control over the process: they may feel powerless. They may see it as something that’s “done to you”, not “done with you.”

Additionally, penetration is actually used by some people as an act of domination, as in rape. That’s bad enough, but our culture often reinforces this fear of penetration with negative images we see on TV and in films.

Psychologically, it can be very hard for some people to let go and trust another enough to let them enter their secret spaces. It’s not surprising some women have a fear of penetration, which can manifest itself in the form of “penetration phobia” or vaginismus.

The same is true for some gay men, who choose not to have penetrative sex. Straight men who are afraid of penetration (having their partner’s finger up their anus, for example) can simply avoid the issue by sticking with conventional sexual behavior (that’s the stuff that society acknowledges as “normal”).

Some last positive words on penetration

To allow another person into your body (and even into yourself) so intimately can be a very intense sexual and emotional experience. For a woman in love, it may be the very essence of accepting her man into her heart as well as her body. If you want to know more about how men and women fall in love, check this out.

And remember – the process of penetration can be slow and gentle as well as passionate and all-consuming.

As with all sexual issues, it makes sense to talk with your partner about it – including your fears as well as your desires. If you’re afraid of penetration, you can use this fact to start to explore your fears and mistrust.

But, when all’s said and done, if you really aren’t into it, there are plenty of other really sexy things you can do with your lover.

Rod adds: Such as? Well, oral sex; mutual masturbation; frottage – which is rubbing your bodies together till you reach orgasm, also known as dry humping, though you could use lube and make it a bit damper; kissing; massage; anal play – which is touching, kissing, fondling on, around or in the anus; vulva play, which is caressing, kissing, playing around or on the vulva; dominance / submission games; dressing up; sex toys; vibrators …. and so on.

And finally, for those men who care enough about their sexual performance to wish to improve how they make love, you’ll be glad to know that one of the authors of this website – Rod Phillips – has written an extensive The Tao Of Badass review. This is the highest selling product on Clickbank at the time of writing, and is all about improving relationships between men and women.


Francoeur, R. (1995) The Complete Dictionary of Sexology. New expanded edition. Continuum New York

written by Anna