While sex may evoke positive adjectives, feelings, and memories for many – it can also be associated with anxiety for some. Luckily, both sides of the spectrum are in good company.
Getting up close and personal with another human being is intimate and exposing. To make matters even worse, there’s a lot of shame surrounding sex, which is why it’s something that’s not often discussed. This lack of conversation (and education) can lead to intimidating myths that make sex seem less enjoyable and more worrisome.
Yet, the good news is: Sex anxiety is common and these worries aren’t isolated. Let’s discuss some common examples and get these fears out in the open…
1. Fear: Sex will hurt.
Painful sex (or Dyspareunia) is a common issue that’s experienced by 20-50% of women. Fortunately, according to Dr. Debby Herbenick, “Most conditions that cause painful intercourse are very treatable.” Lubrication, taking things slow, and even talking to your doctor (and your partner!) can help to alleviate such an issue (and such an understandable fear).
2. Fear: Not being “good” at sex.
“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” is a saying for a reason! If you’re worried that you may not be good at sex, think of it this way: No one (at least, almost no one) is an expert at anything the first time they try it. In other words, you’ll probably need to experiment and practice when it comes to your sex life and that’s totally okay (and totally fun!). More importantly, as long as you and your partner are communicating and responding to each other’s wants and needs, you’re already halfway there.
3. Fear: Your partner not being attracted to your naked self.
With photo retouching so widespread, it’s no wonder why people are worried that their birthday suit isn’t up to par. Yet, despite what you may see in the media, you have to remember: Every single one of us has a unique body type (and grooming preferences). This means that our body is its own special snowflake. And if your partner doesn’t like it, then they don’t deserve to see you naked anyway. *flips hair*
4. Fear: Giving or receiving an STD.
If the above fear applies to you, you’re definitely not alone – because this is an actual phobia called Cypridophobia, which is seen as an anxiety disorder by several professionals. To address this issue, you should have an honest discussion with your partner. You should also practice safe sex and ensure that you’re consistently (and correctly) using condoms.
5. Fear: Not being able to orgasm.
Around 75% of women cannot orgasm from intercourse alone, which means that it’s important for those interested in climaxing to experiment with different methods. Using sex toys, tongue, hands, and even masturbation as a tool can definitely help, but if you’re at a loss, you can also consult a sex therapist.
6. Fear: Disappointing your partner.
If your partner asks to try something different during sex, you shouldn’t see that as criticism. Sex is essentially an ongoing experiment between two people who want to learn more about their desires. And how does one go about doing such a thing? Answer: By communicating (you prob saw this one coming, right?)! If you’re not sure what you’re partner wants, just ask!
7. Fear: Trying new positions.
First of all, you should never do anything that makes you uncomfortable. With that being said, if you are comfortable and you still feel nervous, that’s perfectly natural. After all, change can be scary! If your partner suggests a new position that gives you anxiety, ask to take it slow. Try something less adventurous and work your way up to the desired position. Or, you and your partner can pick a completely different position – one that will satisfy both of you – together.
8. Fear: Saying or doing something awkward.
Let’s get real: Sex can be super awkward and it definitely isn’t choreographed like it is in the movies. That’s why it’s important to remember that sex should be fun –not perfect. And what could be more fun than laughter? If you say or do something you consider to be embarrassing, just laugh it off and move on.
9. Fear: Protection not working.
There are many different forms of protection one can use to prevent pregnancy (and STDs) and many of these forms are both safe and effective. When it comes to fears that relate to birth control, it’s important that you tackle such worries with education. Take the time to learn more about each and every type of birth control, so you can decide if it’s right for you. Then, speak with a doctor to address any additional questions and concerns you may have.
10. Fear: Bleeding.
“It is true that sometimes a small amount of bleeding occurs during the first time – or first few times – that a woman has vaginal intercourse. Usually the bleeding is due to tearing of a woman’s hymen, which is a thin layer of tissue that’s rich with blood vessels and may cover a portion of the vaginal entrance,” explains Dr. Herbenick. “These are reasons why it is important to continue checking in with each other. You might even choose to have sex on a towel or dark sheets if concerns about bleeding interfere with feeling relaxed and open to pleasure.”
Then again, if you continue to bleed during sex, you shouldn’t ignore it and should try to pinpoint possible causes. “You might be near the start of your period. You might be very dry. Your partner may have scratched you with untrimmed nails or been clumsy or rough when touching you,” states Dr. Petra Boynton. “Bleeding isn’t unusual during sex in pregnancy – could you be pregnant? Might you have an STI? Where is the bleeding coming from? What does the blood look like, how long does it go on for, and is it accompanied by pain?” If you’re worried or not sure, consult your doctor ASAP.
11. Fear: What to do after sex.
So, you and your partner just had sex. Now what? Should you leave? Should they leave? Do you cuddle? Should you go to the bathroom? Stare at each other? WHY ARE THERE SO MANY OPTIONS?
Dr. Kristen Carpenter states that, post-sex, it’s beneficial for partners to talk about what felt good and what didn’t feel god, so future experiences can be improved. However, if you don’t plan on having sex with a certain partner again and you do not want to talk about it, then do what feels right. If you want to sleep over you partner’s home, ask if they’re okay with that. If you want to leave, leave! The world is your oyster!
No matter what your worries are, it’s perfectly normal to have sex-related fears. But, in the end, the best thing to do is to talk about them – whether it’s with a doctor, a sex therapist, a friend, or (most importantly) the person you plan on having sex with.