Sexual performance anxiety is automatically attributed as a male problem. This is due to the visual body changes – erection and ejaculation – that are observed during sex. Reality is, women equally struggle with sexual performance anxiety. It just so happens, it’s less evident and tends to go unnoticed!
Sex in today’s society is viewed as: goal-oriented, performance-driven, orgasm-centric and erection focused. Sounds like a productivity quota one has to accomplish at work doesn't it?
In fact, most people perceive sex as work! A task. A job they need to complete. Geez! Just the thought of that will instill performance anxiety in anyone!
All of us know sex is supposed to be a pleasurable experience. Sexually enjoyable. Intimate. But it’s hard to feel sexy or intimate when thoughts of performance anxiety creep in, “Am I pleasing her/him?” “Do I look fat?” “Am I hard enough?”
People often forget that sex is more than just a physical response. Arousal is tied into emotions. When the mind is too stressed out to focus on sex – the body can’t get excited either!
Sexual performance anxiety is caused by many different worries. Work. Money. Body image. Relationship issues. Kids. Friends. Life in general and the stress related to it are enough to induce anxiety. Most common stressors related to sex tend to be:
- Fear of not performing well enough in bed
- Fear of not being able to satisfy your partner
- A man’s worry that his penis won’t ‘measure up’
- A man’s concern about ejaculating prematurely or taking too long to reach orgasm
- A woman’s worry about not being able to have an orgasm
- A woman’s worry that her body is not ‘sexy enough’
During sex, these anxieties cause your body to launch a response we are all familiar with – fight or flight. Stress hormones – epinephrine and norepinephrine – are released. A series of reactions follow that were actually designed to prepare your body to run or confront a threat.
Is your partner a threat? Of course not! This is why stress is so counterproductive to intimacy and so threatening to a relationship.
There are many great resources offering tips on how to manage performance anxiety (two of them listed in below sources.) As a fan of Brene Brown work on shame, I want to share the following excerpt from her book Daring Greatly:
“Own the story! Don’t bury it and let it fester or define me. I often say this aloud: “If you own this story you get to write the ending. If you own this story you get to write the ending.” When we bury the story we forever stay the subject of the story. If we own the story we get to narrate the ending. As Carl Jung said, “I am not what has happened to me. I am what I choose to become.”
How is this related to sexual performance anxiety you might ask? Our sexuality is a part of our life story. We can either choose to bury it and ignore it, pushing ourselves further away from intimacy, our partners, and obtainment of sexual pleasure. Or we can grab it! Own it! And by doing so rewrite it.
So go ahead, rewrite your own ending. Do you want to be measured up to a performance driven idea of sex or create one of your own? Live up to cultural projections of what ‘ideal’ woman should look like or accept and love your beauty? Remind yourself – every time you give in to life and sexual stressors you are giving performance anxiety editing rights to write the ending for you!
Overcoming Performance Anxiety. Dr. Hernando Chaves. http://www.askmen.com/dating/love_tip_60/79_love_tip.html
Sexual Performance Anxiety. Web MD. http://www.webmd.com/sexual-conditions/guide/sexual-performance-anxiety-causes-treatments
Brown, Brene. Daring Greatly. New York, 2012.