Sexual anxiety is common and can be experienced by anyone in any form of consenting, sexual relationship ( in the words of sage Naira Marley: “ Omo Iya mi, ma fo!)*
In a new relationship, nervousness before, during, and after sex and/or sexual activities is not uncommon. However, when in a long-term relationship, frequently experiencing sexual anxiety is a sign that you need to talk to a professional health practitioner, say a sex therapist. Fortunately, you are not alone and there are ways to ease the pressure.
What is Sexual Anxiety?
The term is also referred to as sexual performance anxiety and is loosely defined as a feeling of unease that comes from engaging in sex and/or sexual activities. This feeling can be subtle or otherwise and is dependent on several factors.
Sexual Anxiety Examples
The following are real-world examples of what sexual anxiety may look like in people of different ages and life experiences.
Uche is a 20-year-old male struggling to achieve an orgasm with partners. He has no issue maintaining an erection and enjoys oral and penetrative sex. However, he finds he can never orgasm under these circumstances, and instead he always finishes through masturbation. Afterward, he experiences emotional turmoil and shame.
He begins to think of himself as inadequate and fears his partner questions his virility. After repeated and similar encounters, he finds himself no longer able to achieve an erection.
Thoughts: Uche’s difficulties with orgasm may be due to an idiosyncratic masturbatory method. This means he is habituated to orgasm through one specific method of masturbation, such that it is the only way he can climax. This is common for many people who have trained their bodies to respond only to certain stimulation patterns. His preoccupation with his performance decreases sexual arousal and increases anxiety, thus resulting in erection difficulties.
A 40-year old female was socialized to see sex as a vehicle primarily for men’s pleasure. She has internalized this belief. In bed, she expresses it by dismissing her desire for orgasm, never initiating sex, and focusing exclusively on the needs of her male partners. Hadiza has found herself shocked to be in a relationship with a man who wants an egalitarian bedroom and is just as eager to please her as he is himself. After he climaxes, he consistently attempts to perform oral sex on her. Although she enjoys it, she finds herself plagued with thoughts of being a burden and that he is engaging in a sort of sexual chore. Rather than discuss this, she retreats from sex altogether or hurries the encounter to reduce or flee the situation.
Thoughts: Hadiza might do well to explore how her sexual beliefs and attitudes are self-imposed and no longer serving her. She already has a partner with whom to work through her anxieties, so incorporating him into treatment would be beneficial for them both.
Causes of Sexual Anxiety
There are several causes of sexual anxiety, which differ from person to person and at different stages of sexual encounters. The several factors of sex worries are, but not limited to; relationship factors, power struggles, fears, mood disorders, and other mental health issues. Cultural or religious factors are also culprits of sex-induced anxiety, especially for women. Other causes can be body image issues, comparison between real life and media, low sex drive, among other factors.
Tips to Overcoming Sexual Anxiety
Sexual worries, more often than not are just that, worries. Here’s how you can work your way out of the situation.
- Intrapersonal Communication: This means communication with self. “Awareness is the beginning of all change.” Karla Helbert said. The first step is realizing and acknowledging the problem and the need to change the status quo.
- Interpersonal Communication: Having ‘the talk’ with your partner(s) may feel like an uphill task, but that is the one sure way to acknowledge the elephant in the room. In this article, I help you navigate ways to talk about sex with your partner(s).
- Mindfulness Practice: This includes acts such as setting intentions, setting up the mood, being present in the moment, etc.
- Mutual Masturbation: When partners watch each other masturbate, it’s a great way to see what the other likes physically. You get to show your partner what feels amazing for your body. This way, they know what to do to get you pleasured and vice versa.
- Stop Seekin Perfection: You’re not a porn star, neither are you acting porn. Real life sex is all things except what the media makes of it. So get real and allow yourself experience real time pleasure.
Sex should be a fun and enjoyable experience for everyone. However, sexual performance anxiety can really put a damper on sexual pleasure and intimacy. Remember, almost everyone will experience sexual performance anxiety at one point. What is important is how you go about the feeling.
* Omo Iya mi, ma fo – Yoruba street lingo for I’ve got your back, fam.
The views expressed in this article intend to inform and induce conversation. They are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Red Edit Magazine. They are for informational purposes only, even if and to the extent that this article features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.