~ Written By: Alicia Pinkston, MSc, AASECT
When anxiety ruins sex for women…
Do you worry you are taking too long to climax? Ever fake an orgasm to please your partner? Do you avoid sex because you are upset with your partner? Do you feel like you need to have “porn star sex”? When doing it do you find yourself getting easily distracted?
The symptoms of anxiety related to sex are similar to when anxiety affects other parts of our lives, such as a feeling of doom, lack of concentration, excessive worry, nausea, tension, racing heartbeat, inability to relax, and avoidance. Sexual performance anxiety in women can result in loss of desire, difficulty getting aroused and lubricated, difficulty getting an orgasm, and feeling disconnected with your partner.
You are not alone! Performance anxiety happens to both men and women. However, we tend to hear more about men’s performance anxiety, particularly related to the fear of losing their erections. Most research on women tends to focus on loss of desire— but what if the loss of desire or avoidance of sex is due to anxiety about it?
Below are examples of how anxiety can affect women sexually and ways to help reduce sex-related anxiety:
Psychological factors/relation issues
Desire can be both increased and decreased by both psychological and or physical factors. Not feeling desired by your partner, unresolved conflicts with our partner, and stress are examples of how psychological factors can affect you sexually. On the other hand, feeling relaxed, confident, connected to your body, and emotionally connected to your partner can have positive effects on your desire and pleasure.
Technique—What to do? Am I am doing this right? Is my partner enjoying it?
Despite what media and porn tell us, there is not one set way that everyone likes to be touched or the type of sex they desire. Therefore, exploration and communication is key. Don’t be afraid to ask your partner what they like or explore together to discover what is pleasurable for both of you.
Concerns over asking for what you want, such as wanting more foreplay
Find out what you like so that you can share with your partner. Masturbation and erotic literature can be a great way to explore what arouses you, which you can be shared with your partner. Trust me –- your partner would love some guidance on what you want! Keep in mind that 80% of women CANNOT reach orgasm from penetration alone, only 15% of women have had multiple orgasms, and only 10-50% have experienced female ejaculation (“squirting”)— despite what you may see in porn!
Does the idea of having the lights on during sex make you panic? Body image can have a direct effect on women’s sexual desire. Women tend to be very hard on themselves and finding flaws about their bodies, that their partners often never even notice. These worries cause a disconnection from your body and pleasure. Decrease that negative critical voice and replace it with admiring the parts of your body you like. Learn to accept and appreciate your body, and tell yourself that you deserve pleasure. Mindfulness and relaxation can help you get in touch with your body.
Cultural, religious, and family of origin negative/judgmental messages about sex
Do you ever feel guilty about your sexual desires? Is there something sexual you would like to try but you’re scared to tell your partner for fear of being judged? Is there a conflict in what you want sexually and your religion? Many messages about sex can be laced with shame, due to external factors. Sex is an important part of our overall well-being and when you are in conflict with this it can be distressing. Empower yourself with information and exploration to make your own decisions about your sexual self, without judgement. Engaging in self-acceptance and compassion about your sexual self can help give you permission for pleasure- and to ask for what you want.
Is the sex you are having pleasurable?
Have you ever thought –- maybe I would want more sex if the sex was enjoyable? If sex is not pleasurable, boring and monotonous, emotionally unsafe, or painful, clearly it would cause you to avoid sex. Explore what would have sex more enjoyable to you and communicate this with your partner. Practice mindfulness and relaxation techniques to let go of your worries and be present. Create a peaceful relaxed space for sexual connection. Foreplay, foreplay and more foreplay! Research has soon that on average women need 20 minutes of foreplay before penetrative sex.