Image by Maghan McDowell

In life, we have obligations and responsibilities. One of mine is to write a blog post.  Not just any blog post, but my first post ever. There is a voice telling me that I had better write something helpful, interesting, intelligent, sexy, and new… or everyone will think I don’t know what I’m doing.

I have performance anxiety.

Nearly all of us have experienced the anxiety associated with public speaking on some level, whether it was a book report in front of your eighth-grade English class, or a presentation at work. Someone probably offered you advice like: “Just picture everyone in their underwear, or even naked.” I do not understand this at all, since nudity tends to make even the most confident people uncomfortable.

Although not inherently sexual, nudity is inexorably tangled with sexand our culture’s attitudes about sex are incredibly anxiety producing. First, we are expected to be really good at it, but what does “good” even mean? Secondly, we are only supposed to experience it with very specific people in a very specific context - ideally, with a spouse in a heterosexual marriage. Third, there are right ways and wrong ways to do it, although no one ever sat us down and explained what is right and wrong. Men are supposed to constantly want it, while women are supposed to demurely protest. Then there’s the whole issue of orgasms. Which is the goal, right? We are supposed to have ALL the orgasms.

So. Much. Pressure.

Have you experienced the electric thrill coursing through your body as you and the person you desire move closer and closer to that perfect moment? It may be after hours of seduction, or days, maybe weeks and in some cases years, but eventually you reach the moment in which you both know that something is about to happen. You move from words, to gentle touch, then to passion and the shedding of clothes. All the while, feeling arousal move through your body and propelling you forward, until something happens, or maybe something doesn’t happen. And it all falls apart so much faster than it took to even reach this moment.

We are taught, that when two consenting adults decide to engage in sexual activity - everything is just supposed to work. I am turned on – my cock should be hard. I want to have sex – but my pussy isn’t wet. I have waited so long for this moment – but something doesn’t feel right. Performance anxiety is not just about prowess and skill; it can also be about basic functioning. And the pressure to have a mind-blowing sexual experience can be overwhelming for the body. Let alone the pressure to provide a mind-blowing sexual experience for another person.

So. Much. Pressure.

The anxiety that floods our brain has a knack for overflowing into our bodies and disrupting our experiences. The anxiety itself is enough to disconnect us from our bodies, limiting our capacity for pleasure and connection. Unfortunately, this is a ubiquitous experience for many people. Fortunately, it is totally normal and you are not alone. Everyone I encounter in my practice has had this experience at least once, both men and women.

While there are innumerable practical guidelines written on ways to deal with anxiety, I can leave you with an option that is often overlooked – just feel the anxiety. That’s it. And I promise, it won’t kill you. In fact, it will make you stronger. Way before sex, when you first started experiencing anxiety as a child, you found ways to avoid the devastation that feeling anxiety in your body caused. Some people learn to disassociate, some people dull the feeling by seeking out more intense feelings, some people mastered shutting down feelings all together. And although these strategies worked then, they are preventing us from getting what we want now.

What helped me the most in writing this blog post was writhing around (sometimes on the floor) feeling my anxiety, and telling other people about the anxiety. Then, once I allowed myself to have the experience, and even had a few witnesses, the anxiety passed away like every other feeling I’ve ever had. Just try it once; stop resisting the feelings you do not want to have. Name them, feel them, then watch them move on.