Let’s face it. Sometimes just the idea of sex is terrifying. There can be so much pressure to perform, to get hard and stay hard, to orgasm, to squirt, that all the fun gets sapped out of it.
Bodies can be so unpredictable! You’re going along and it feels good… it feels good… and then… nothing. You go limp. You dry up. You just hang-out in the plateau of pleasure-but-not-orgasm until you fade back to normal, trying to convince yourself you’re still sexy. It’s definitely not pleasant.
If this happens frequently enough, it can start a vicious cycle where you start to get nervous before things even get started. It makes you get in your head and worry before the clothes come off, before the kissing starts, or even at just the idea of going on a date.
Suddenly, sex becomes a realm of worry and embarrassment you avoid rather than a realm of pleasure and bliss you seek out. You may not even want that hot date coming up to go well because what if you end up having sex? What if you can’t? What if they laugh at you or judge you?
This is a particularly sensitive area for those of us with penises. Patriarchy swings both ways and, even though it’s viciously oppressive to women, it hurts men a lot too. It equates the entirety of a man’s worth with the size, aesthetic, and performance, of his penis. If your penis isn’t working “right” then all of a sudden you’re not a man.
Of course, performance anxiety strikes people with pussies too. The pressure to get wet instantly, and to orgasm quickly, ideally from penetration, is immense. To deal, some women fake orgasms and/or just slap some lube on it. But in addition to being a recipe for uncomfortable/painful (aka bad) sex, this is a recipe for creating massive distance from your partner.
No matter who you are or what genitalia you have, performance anxiety is ultimately the fear that your body is telling your lover you’re not interested. It’s the fear that you won’t measure up to expectations, and that you are ultimately an unworthy lover.
Given how incredibly vulnerable sex is, emotional wounding that happens in this domain can do some serious damage to how you see yourself and the world. It frequently spills into a reluctance to date, to form relationships, or even develop anxiety in general.
However, there’s an easy way to start unwinding the worry and tension of performance anxiety.
Make orgasm (or even erection/lubrication) OPTIONAL.
Have a conversation with your lover, explain that you’ve been getting in your head about sex, and that to hit the reset button you want to play around without any expectations.
Partners worth keeping will honor this.
Porn, movies, and shitty sex-ed teaches us that sex is a 1+2=3 equation, where arousal and friction equals an orgasm. This may be a common approach, but humans are not robots and genitals are not machines. We are complex, emotional beings and sexual intercourse is a nuanced, delicate experience. It’s shocking that things go according to plan as often as they do.
There is so much that you can do in sex other than gallop toward orgasm! You can suck, massage, tease, titillate, stroke, and kiss. You can explore pleasure, pain, and any form of sensation and find the sexiness inherent in it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve discovered something truly epic in bed because I’m not worried about orgasm.
An orgasm may happen. An orgasm may not happen. Erection/lubrication may happen. Erection/lubrication may not happen. It’s all absolutely ok. You can still have good, even exquisitely fabulous sex without any of the trappings we normally think of. Some of the best sex of my life had no penetration or orgasm at all.
When you abandon the requirement to have an orgasm, get erect/lubricate, or whatever physiological response is causing you anxiety, a whole new way to approach sex comes into being. Sex becomes much more spontaneous, creative, and fun. You can finger, tickle, explore, and revel in physicality with complete freedom.
You can do this just once, for a little while, or even make it your status-quo. But even if it’s only for a short period of time, it’s worth experimenting with.
If you seriously struggle with performance anxiety, it might be useful to make a game out of NOT orgasming (or whatever is causing you worry.) Tell your partner that for the next 30 days you are straight-up not allowed to orgasm, but you can still have sex. This approach can lead to some pretty epic spontaneous orgasms!
But all of this presents the question: What do you do with all that horny turn-on if you’re not going to orgasm?
You use it to nourish your nerves, your body, and become a gorgeous glittery energy that fuels your life! With this approach you can put this turn-on to good use rather than letting it become stagnant horniness inside you. Here are the steps.
When your sexual experience is coming to a natural sense of completion, do the following:
1. Visualize your pleasure and turn-on as golden glitter throughout your pelvis and body.
2. Invite this pleasure to start seeping into every one of your cells, nourishing your body and soothing your nerves.
3. Feel the pleasure absorb into your bones, muscles, and organs and notice how alive and vibrant you feel.
Sex doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Take orgasm off the table and see it in a whole new way.
When you embrace that the point is just to be together, to connect, to touch, to feel whatever pleasure you’re available to feel in the moment, your sexuality blossoms. No more expectations, no definitions, no labels, just the raw experience of your senses in the moment.