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Spooked By Sex? Here's What Sex Anxiety Means

Spooked By Sex? Here's What Sex Anxiety Means

Written by Yoppie

29 Oct 2021

What is sex anxiety?

What happens during sex anxiety?

Where does sex anxiety come from?

I’ve heard some scary sex myths that make me nervous. Are they true? 

Is the answer to avoid sex altogether? 

How should I handle sex anxiety?

If you believe there are much scarier things under the sheets than ghosts, you’re in the right place. Whether it’s fear of intimacy, performance anxiety or weird sex myths you’ve heard, we’re lifting the lid on common fears, where they originate, and how to handle them. 

What is sex anxiety?

Sex anxiety can affect anyone - any age, gender, experience level, or sexual preference. It’s often associated with a fear of ‘firsts’; first time having sex, first time trying something in the bedroom, first time with a new sex partner, etc. But it can happen at seemingly random times too, and for some, is a long-term affliction that causes real stress and anxiety. Some of the most common fears about sex include: 

  • Fear of performance in bed and ability to satisfy a partner
  • Negative body image
  • Worries about a relationship
  • Worry that your genitals aren't the "right" size or shape
  • Worry about orgasm happening too soon, or taking too long (or not happening at all)

What happens during sex anxiety?

The above fears usually manifest as more than just a worry. They can cause intense panic or anxiety, and even the thought can bring on stress. You may experience sweating, rapid breathing, increased heart rate, difficulty focusing, shaking, or something else. 

The Catch-22? The more you worry, the more likely your body will do what you fear most. For example, worrying about not being ‘wet’ enough may result in more dryness. The irony! 

Where does sex anxiety come from?

Like most anxiety, this usually has a root cause that makes you question things like how good you are in bed, how you look during sex, what sex means with your partner, and so on. One study from the Journal of Sex Research found a third of US female college students were “unhappy with how their body looks”, which impacted sex with a partner.

Sex anxiety can also stem from past trauma, for example, if you have experienced any type of unwanted sexual encounter in the past, or if you were brought up in a religious environment that associated sex with sin. 

I’ve heard some scary sex myths that make me nervous. Are they true? 

Oh hello fake news! Don’t worry about rumours, just do your own research to calm your anxiety. Let’s quickly debunk some common sex myths: 

  • You need to orgasm together - We can thank the movies for this one! Couples rarely have an orgasm at the same time. It’s OK to take it in turns.
  • Anal sex means… there will be poop - Not necessarily. Don’t let this fear stop you from trying anal sex if you want to. Check out our blog on healthy anal sex for tips. 
  • If your partner doesn’t orgasm, you’ve failed - An orgasm isn’t the only goal of sex, so don’t feel pressure to make this happen. You can enjoy sex sans orgasm.  
  • If you only like the missionary position, you’re boring - Why reinvent the wheel?! If you both like missionary best, have at it and don’t listen to naysayers. 
  • Sex isn’t as good with a condom - Not always true, and whether it’s true or not doesn’t matter. If you want to prevent pregnancy and avoid STIs, wear a condom. 
  • If you need to use lube, you must be old  - False. No matter your age, you may find yourself drier than you’d like to be. No big deal. Enter: lube
  • The first time will hurt - A very common rumour that’s not always true. If your partner cares about your comfort, in most cases you can both create a first-time experience that’s enjoyable and not painful. 

Is the answer to avoid sex altogether? 

According to the Center for Anxiety Disorders, sex avoidance is a real condition, and a defence mechanism if you suffer from sexual anxiety. While you are under no obligation to ever have sex, it’s best to face the issue and improve your sex anxiety by moving past some of the self-imposed boundaries you have in place. There are some steps that may help...

How should I handle sex anxiety?

While mindfulness exercises can help (e.g. breathing techniques) you should try to address the source of the issue rather than just taking deep breaths until it’s over. You may like to:

  • Work on becoming comfortable in your own body. If you have self-esteem or confidence issues, make day-to-day changes like picking yourself up on any negative self-talk, or removing social media scrolling if it makes you feel bad about yourself. 
  • Sometimes our worries are like a runaway train because we don’t address the issues, so if you worry about how your partner sees you in bed, communicate with them about this. Opening up will give them a chance to help. 
  • If you struggle to move past certain steps during sex, take the end goal off the table. Focus on foreplay, and get used to touching. By removing the worry about the next steps, you can enjoy the present. And if you ever feel ready to move on, you can. 
  • Do your research. If you lack sexual experience, don’t let anxiety take over your brain. Forget the rumours you’ve heard and Google what’s bothering you to alleviate the fear of the unknown. *ahem* The Full Stop blog has lots of good stuff...
  • Talk to a counsellor or sex therapist. If your anxiety is rooted in past trauma, you may benefit from speaking to a professional who can shed light on the root cause of your anxiety, and suggest exercises or techniques to improve it. Speak to your GP about general counselling or look for a private therapist who is a member of the College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists or the Institute of Psychosexual Medicine.

Do you have questions about sex anxiety? Our Full Stop FB group is a private, inclusive place where you can ask questions, or feel free to DM us on Instagram at @itsyoppie. Don't forget that our personalised menstrual care subscription can get organic tampons, PMS supplements and much more delivered easily and regularly through your letterbox, so that's at least one pretty darn big load off your mind.

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