How To Prevent Distracting Thoughts During Sex

We’re always hearing that we could be having better sex, a better orgasm, or a better relationship. But how often do we hear the nitty-gritty of how we can actually better understand our deepest desires and most embarrassing questions? Bustle has enlisted Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist, to help us out with the details. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off limits, and all questions will remain anonymous. Now, onto this week’s topic: how to handle getting distracted when you're trying to orgasm.

Q: “I’m a 25 year old woman who has never had an orgasm. I’ve been reading your other articles about orgasm, and practicing all of the tips. The main problem that I keep running up against is that I get so distracted, mentally. This happens when I’m alone (masturbating) and when I’m with my partner, but it’s usually worse when I’m with my partner. When I’m alone I typically get bored. Nonsense thoughts float into my head and distract me. It sounds so cliche, but I also think about the other stuff I need to do later. Sometimes I even start thinking anxious thoughts about big stuff, like what I’m doing with my life. When I’m with my partner, I get really in my head, stressed out about whether or not I’m getting close. It’s so frustrating. I can tell I’m completely sabotaging any ability I might have to have an orgasm. At the same time, I don’t know how to stop these harmful thoughts from ruining everything.”

A: Thanks for the question! Female orgasm is one of my specialties (you’ve probably seen me mention Finishing School, my online orgasm course for women, in past articles). Mental distractions are one of the biggest blockages to orgasm. Let’s talk about why this can be such a tricky challenge for so many women. I’ll also give you seven ways to mentally get yourself into the orgasm game, whether you’re alone or with a partner.

Why You’re So Distracted

Most women would agree that orgasm is one of the most enjoyable experiences we can have as human beings. So then why is it so freaking hard to stay present enough to actually get there, much less enjoy it? In my opinion, (and at a risk of sounding like a cranky old person), it’s a consequence of these modern times. We’re constantly bombarded by information, and our brains have gotten used to working on overdrive trying to process everything that gets thrown our way. When we want to take a break and relax for a few minutes, we realize that it’s not so easy to get our brain to stop working a million miles a minute. Our brains are just too used to their frenzied pace.

Distracting thoughts can also be a sign of unresolved issues that you have about sexuality. All of us — myself included! — have been socialized to be embarrassed and ashamed of our bodies and of sex. These kinds of messages may have come from your parents, your religion, your friends, your school, or mass media. Even if you reject those types of beliefs as an adult, they can still worm their way into your mind, especially during your most intimate moments. You may find yourself feeling worried about taking too long, feeling self-conscious about your body, or even feeling guilty about masturbating or having sex in the first place.

Now, let’s transition to understanding how to get better at preventing mental distractions from ruining your orgasm.

Set Yourself Up For Success

One way to prevent yourself from getting distracted by your thoughts is to remove any potential triggers. Try to make your bedroom (or wherever you tend to have sex the most) as relaxing as possible. Remove things that tend to trigger thoughts, like piles of paper, mail, or laundry. Always make sure to put your phones on silent, and leave them on the other end of the door. If you have pets, give them a treat to keep them occupied.

Setting yourself up for success may also include seeking out sex therapy, if it feels like you do have some unresolved issues. It might sound like a lot of work up-front, but it will definitely feel worth it in the moment.

Mindfulness Is The Key

Despite your best efforts at prevention, you’re definitely still going to have some distracting thoughts. The best antidote to a racing mind is mindfulness. Mindfulness is a broad term that essentially means learning how to slow down, manage your thoughts, and be more present in the moment. There are lots of different mindfulness techniques, but the one I like best involves acknowledging the thoughts that pop into your head without getting too involved in actually thinking about those thoughts. The thing is, you’ll never be able to prevent yourself from not thinking thoughts. The brain doesn’t work that way. So the best thing you can do is acknowledge the thought, but without getting caught up in it. It’s like you’re observing your thoughts instead of participating in them.

Practice Mindfulness Outside Of The Bedroom

For most people, staying present and focused is a huge challenge. It’s so huge of a challenge that, in fact, I typically recommend learning mindfulness and relaxation techniques outside of the bedroom first. It’s just too difficult to try to practice these techniques for the first time when you’re being intimate with a partner; there are too many other thoughts naturally racing through your mind.

I recommend getting started with 10 minutes of meditation every day. You can use an app like Headspace, look up videos on YouTube, or read Bustle’s beginner’s guide. I recommend trying to do this every day for at least two weeks to get started, but keep in mind that mindfulness is a quality that you could work on for an entire lifetime!

Practice On Your Own

In the same vein, it’s easier to practice mindfulness when you’re on your own. When your partner is there with you, there are too many other variables that can pop up and distract you. Once you’ve practiced mindfulness daily for at least two weeks, try using it when you're masturbating. When you feel distracting thoughts come into your head, say to yourself, “OK, there’s a thought.” The simple act of talking to yourself and pointing out a distracting thought in a neutral way instantly helps you be more present.

Focus On The Senses

So you’ve acknowledged the thought, now what? The next step is redirecting your attention to something more beneficial. Fortunately, there are plenty of sexier things to think about. I recommend trying to focus on one of your senses. Here are some ideas:

  • Sight. Look at your partner’s body. Visualize the places that you can’t see at the moment. Imagine what the two of you would look like from a distance (as if you were outside of your body, watching yourself).
  • Smell. Take in the scents around you, like your partner’s deodorant, cologne, or sweat.
  • Taste. Think about the taste of your partner’s skin or mouth on your lips.
  • Sound. Pay attention to the sounds you hear when your bodies slap against each others, or the sounds of your own moaning or your partner’s moaning. Talk dirty to your partner, or ask them to talk dirty to you.
  • Touch. Really hone in on what your partner’s body feels like. Where are your bodies coming into contact with each other? What does their skin feel like? What other textures are around you?


Finally, fantasizing is one of the absolute best ways to get your head in the game. Your fantasies give your brain something to focus on, while also giving you additional stimulation. Think about some of your favorite sexual experiences from the past. Visualize a threesome. Think about a hot sex scene you saw in a movie. The more you can get wrapped up in your fantasies, the more likely you’ll hit your peak.

Have fun!

Images: Bustle; Giphy