Anxiety in the bedroom can hold you back from sexual bliss. Try these expert-backed strategies to overcome worries about your body, your partner, and more.
Having lots of sex isn’t just fun—it also has health benefits like soothing stress, boosting immunity, and maybe even extending your lifespan. But for some of us, doing the deed can be a source of guilt, fear, or anxiety. That’s why Superdrug Online Doctor, a London-based telemedicine company, conducted a survey of 2,000 Americans and Europeans to uncover their most serious worries about sex. Here’s what they found:
To learn more about where the top fears women face in the bedroom—and how to tackle them—we sought advice from Emily Morse, a sex and relationship expert and host of podcast Sex with Emily.
Your partner won’t want to wear a condom
Yes, sex without a wrapper feels different—and, some would argue, better. Still, protecting yourself against STIs and unwanted pregnancy is more important than ensuring your partner an extra few degrees of pleasure. If he insists on going bare, Morse advises snapping back with: “Is no sex more enjoyable?” That way you leave him with absolutely no option, she says. If he wants try to pull the “but you’re on the pill” card, just remind him the pill doesn’t protect against STIs. And don’t be afraid to carry your own supply of sheaths to combat the oh-so common “I don’t have a condom” excuse, advises Morse.
Plus, even though many people assume condoms are major pleasure-busters, there are a ton of great options available, she says. “Definitely play around and find out what you like—I always recommend Skyn condoms, because I’m obsessed with them, but Lifestyles are also great!”
When it comes down to it, you shouldn’t have to spend too much time persuading someone to put on a rubber: “If your partner is offended in any way, or tries to make you feel bad for wanting to wear a condom, I say put your clothes back on!” says Morse.
Your partner has an STI
“So I know this isn’t the sexiest thing in the world, but try to talk about it beforehand to quell your fear,” says Morse. Granted, not everyone is going to be honest about STIs or even know they have one—whether that’s because they haven’t been tested or they’re a carrier with no sign of symptoms. Which is why it’s crucial to use a condom, just to be safe and give you peace of mind, advises Morse. “Why risk one night to carry around an STD for the rest of your life?”
The condom will break/sex will result in unintended pregnancy
There’s only a slim chance a properly used condom will break, and that shouldn’t keep you from enjoying your bedroom romp. Just take a moment before you get it on to check that the rubber fits properly and is rolled all the way down. “It’s also great to put a little lube on the inside tip so it has enough lubrication,” says Morse. “Sometimes if there isn’t enough lubrication, the condom could break.” Don’t forget about taking the condom off properly: Morse recommends removing it immediately after you’re done by holding on to the base and pulling it off to ensure all sperm stays within the condom.
Your partner will find your naked body unattractive
Let’s face it: We all have insecurities—whether it’s that pound you gained or dimple on your butt cheek, says Morse. But rather than fixating on these unimportant flaws, try to focus on the pleasure you’re having instead, she advises. The reality is, your partner isn’t paying attention to any of that. “He’s just excited to be there with you and your hot body in the bedroom,” Morse says.
Your partner will not take “no” for an answer
Before putting yourself in a sexual situation, Morse advises you ask yourself: Do I trust this person? Does he or she make me feel safe? While many women tend to focus their attention on pleasing their partner, she advises flipping the situation on its head and recognizing that if your partner isn’t willing to respect your wishes, then he or she is certainly not someone you want to be with. And, according to Morse, the answer to this fear is simple: “If your partner will not take no for an answer, then you’ve got to put your clothes back on and leave, because you should never give in to something you don’t want to do.”
Your partner will do something you’re not comfortable with
Think about your own personal boundaries before you start taking your clothes off, says Morse. “For example, I am not going to have sex with someone I don’t know; I will not have sex without a condom; I’m not comfortable with anal sex. Whatever it is, you stick with those things,” she advises. Experimenting and trying new things is an important part of a healthy sex life, but again, it should be with someone you know you can trust and who won’t pressure you past your comfort zone.
Plus, it’s important to verbalize your feelings. “Men aren’t mind readers, so it’s really okay to stop and sit up and say things like ‘This is making me feel uncomfortable and I’m not ready for it now,’ or ‘Tonight this just isn’t working for me,’ or, ‘Maybe we can try this instead of that’ for alternatives,’” Morse suggests.
An embarrassing bodily function will occur during sex
Fact: Sex is messy. “There’s going to be any number of things that happen—noises, emissions from your body, liquids—but you just have to laugh it off and keep going,” says Morse.
If your partner is judgmental or grossed out by anything that happens with your body during sex, then they’re likely pretty immature and not someone you want to be with, she points out.
Your partner won’t have an orgasm or be satisfied
Orgasm shouldn’t be the goal—and if you or your partner doesn’t climax, that doesn’t automatically deem your time between the sheets a failure, explains Morse. “There are a lot of satisfying things that can happen during sex even if you don’t have an orgasm.”
If you want to boost your partner’s chance of getting off while you two are getting it on, communication is key, Morse says. She recommends asking questions like “What would turn you on right now?” or “Should I go faster or slower?” or “Should I use my hand or my mouth?” Be sure to give your partner options, advises Morse, rather than simply asking: “Do you like this?”
You are bad at sex
Morse wants to get one thing straight: No one is bad at sex. Maybe you’re a little less experienced, or haven’t been super active in a while. As long as you’re willing to communicate with your partner, says Morse, you have absolutely nothing to worry about.