Chances are you’ve experienced sexual performance anxiety at some point in your life. Anxiety disorders are the most common health issue in the United States after all, and sex, as wonderful as it is, can be pretty nerve-wrecking, especially when you’re inexperienced or with a new partner.
The idea that sex is a “performance” is exactly the problem, as it’s falsely regarded as something to be scrutinized and evaluated by an audience. This, naturally, makes people more nervous and critical of themselves.
These anxieties can stem from a number of issues like body image, fear of intimacy, past trauma, relationship problems, various sexual dysfunctions, and so on. And the ways they can manifest are just as profuse, whether it’s erectile dysfunction (difficulty getting or keeping an erection), premature ejaculation, lack of desire, or even avoiding sex altogether. Unfortunately, there is no universal cure for how to get rid of sexual anxiety, but there are some solutions that can help manage it.
If your sexual performance anxiety persists, intensifies and/or becomes unmanageable, you may want to speak with a doctor. They can perform some tests to ensure these issues don’t stem from an underlying health condition or medication. You may also benefit from talking and working through these anxieties with a sex therapist. But first, take a browse below and see if any of these solutions help.
Understand that some performance anxiety is completely normal:
You need to understand how perfectly normal it is to be a little anxious before sex. I mean, think about it: sex is the most vulnerable and intimate human act there is, so naturally there is going to be some nerves, especially when you’re inexperienced or with a new partner. In fact, research cites that psychological erectile dysfunction (mostly caused by anxiety) affects about 90 percent of teenagers and young men. Perhaps by knowing that these nerves are common (and not something that only you are dealing with, which can certainly creep its way into our heads) will spare you from spiralling.
Consider changing your porn habits:
Porn, as fantastic a stimulant it is, creates unrealistic expectations for sex. That’s because porn is entertainment, and just like Hollywood movies, they often cast absurdly beautiful people as your average joe or pizza delivery man. In porn, the penises are always massive, always hard and always cum on cue. This is not reflective of reality, and unfortunately, because we don’t have comprehensive sex education in our schools, porn is the most available resource for such information. It’s gotten to the point that porn consumption might even be linked to lower sexual satisfaction and lower erectile function in some men, as these expectations are rarely met. So if you think porn is making you anxious about sex, try limiting your consumption, or find studios or creators with more realistic content that doesn’t make you feel inferior.
Do things that relieve stress prior:
Dwelling on something that’s making you anxious just makes things worse, so keep yourself busy in the hours leading toward sex and do something to relieve stress. Go for a run, take a nice long bubble bath, call a friend, pour yourself a drink, smoke a joint, or something equally soothing. You know yourself better than anyone else, so choose the activity that works best for you.
Stray from goal-oriented sex:
Goal-oriented sex means that you have sex with the goal that all partners will climax. While that would be lovely, it’s not realistic. According to research, only heterosexual men are consistently orgasmic during sex (95 percent of the time), while heterosexual women orgasm were least least likely (65 percent of the time). Assuming the figures in this study were self-reported, the numbers are probably lower because research shows time and time again how much people tend to exaggerate when it comes to sex. As anyone knows personally, a lack of orgasm doesn’t mean you didn’t enjoy yourself during the romp. And, if anything, the pressure to orgasm distracts us from enjoying the moment, making us less likely to orgasm. So, take the pressure away and enjoy the experience whether you climax or not.
Stop making sex so dick-centric:
As we were told in middle school, penetration is the “home run” of sexual acts. This consideration largely stems from heteronormative and patriarchal beliefs that prioritize procreation. Truth is, penetration is just one way to have sex, so it’s not going to be everyone’s favorite. We still have tongues, fingers, and a great number of erogenous zones all over our bodies that are deeply pleasurable. Besides, research has found only 25 percent of women are consistently orgasmic intercourse, with 75 percent requiring clitoral stimulation in order to orgasm. Not to mention, experts say it’s “normal” to have trouble getting or keeping an erection for up to 20 percent of sexual encounters. So if your anxieties revolve around performance, take you or your partner’s penis out of the equation, and explore your many other options.
Use sex toys:
Sex toys are the ultimate tag-team partner during sex. When performance anxiety rears its head, tag in a sex toy and use it on your partner. Toys allow people to explore new and novel ways of being intimate and, as an added bonus, they take the pressure off performing. They might also help bring your confidence back, or temporarily please your partner when your erection isn’t cooperating, and you’re ready to enter the ring again. Research has found that men who regularly use vibrators on themselves or others report higher orgasm frequency, erectile function, sexual desire and sexual satisfaction than those who don’t, so, really, there’s no reason not to give sex toys a try.
If you’re anxious about sex, sometimes just putting everything out in the open can help. Do you typically not orgasm during oral sex? Tell them. If you’re not sure about how they’d react, keep comminiating until you’re more comfortable being vulnerable. For example, do they seem judgmental and shallow, or kind and accommodating? If you get the vibe that they’re the latter, it might make you more comfortable sharing this information. A conversation about expectations and boundaries before sex can make you and your partner far less anxious heading into things.
Normalize your body to yourself:
If your performance anxiety stems from body image issues, you may benefit from exposing yourself to your body more often. Some of us dislike our bodies so much that we avoid looking at them. But this behavior, while understandable, won’t herald progress. Wear your underwear around the house, post a picture you would never think to post, cultivate body-positive news feeds on social media, and do things that make you feel sexy. Play a character if you have to. Keep it up for long enough and you’ll eventually believe it.
Remember this person is attracted to you:
Remind yourself that this person wants to sleep with you. It might sound silly but sometimes we need that reminder when we’re in our heads. They find you sexually attractive, that’s not up for debate, despite the voices in your head saying otherwise. You might hate that you don’t have a six pack or that you may not be as experienced as they are, but these things aren’t even on that person’s radar. You are, without a doubt, criticizing yourself way more harshly than anybody else would.