Yes, Women Can Get Performance Anxiety Too

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 based in San Francisco, to help us out with the details. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off limits, and all questions remain anonymous. Now, onto today’s topic: how to overcome sexual performance anxiety about your orgasm.

Q: I’ve been with my guy for about six months. Things are great, but there’s just one issue with our sex life. I feel so much pressure to orgasm during sex with him that it feels like I’m giving myself performance anxiety! I used to be able to orgasm from sex pretty readily, but it has been so much different with him. He asks me, “are you close yet?” during sex. I never used to worry about how much time I was taking, but that question made me feel like he was getting impatient and wanted me to hurry up. It’s like I can feel myself freezing up when he asks it. Then he says that he feels inadequate because he can’t make me orgasm. I know he means well. I don’t know why I’m being so sensitive about these tiny things. Why am I having so much performance anxiety with him when I’ve never had problems before? How can I get myself to go back to normal?

A: Thanks for the question! I spend a lot of time talking about female orgasm, and even have an entire online course dedicated to teaching women how to orgasm, but I sometimes feel conflicted about focusing on climaxing because I know it’s so easy for women to feel pressured to orgasm. When orgasm becomes something that’s expected, it’s so much harder to actually have one. That said, there are definitely things you can do. Here are six steps for getting your mojo back!

1. Recognize That Your Orgasm Has Needs

You’re really lucky that you’ve been able to orgasm reliably in the past! However, one dynamic that I’ve noticed with my clients who are able to orgasm regularly is that they can sometimes take their orgasms for granted. They expect their orgasms to just keep happening regardless of changing circumstances. It sounds like this might be happening for you.

The reality is that orgasms (and our sex lives in general!) are sensitive. Our bodies respond to the dynamics occurring in our relationships and in our lives. Your new boyfriend has different expectations of your orgasms than your past partners may have, and your orgasm is responding to that pressure by saying, “hell no! I don’t want to hurry up! I don’t like this!” Your orgasm hasn’t disappeared forever, but it needs your help in re-creating a supportive environment.

Stop Blaming Yourself

You’re asking how to get back to “normal,” but I think the reactions that you’re describing make a lot of sense. Your orgasmic difficulties didn't come out of nowhere; they were a response to your boyfriend questioning you about your orgasmic timing and telling you that your lack of orgasm was upsetting him. Even with the best of intentions, his comments made you feel pressured to hurry up and make him feel like an adequate lover. I think most women in your situation would react the same way — by shutting down.

The very first step you need to take is to acknowledge that your body is responding in a way that makes sense. Stop feeling like this is your fault, or that there’s something “wrong” with you. Beating yourself up is only going to to make things worse, so try being gentle with yourself instead!

Get On The Same Page

I can understand that your boyfriend feels upset about his inability to make you orgasm. It feels good to make your partner climax, and it’s hard not to take it personally when they don’t. That being said, he’s putting you in a pretty unfair place by putting so much pressure on you. Telling you that you’re making him feel “inadequate” is harsh.

At the same time, I want to give your boyfriend the benefit of the doubt. There are lots of reasons why he would ask “are you there yet?” He might be worried about his own orgasm happening too quickly, and may be trying to get a sense of where you are so he can attempt to last long enough. He might be unsure of whether or not you’re actually enjoying yourself. Or he might simply be checking in with you during sex! It’s worth asking him what that questions means to him, before assuming that he’s saying “hurry up!” Say something like, “during sex, when you ask me, ‘are you there yet?’, what’s going on in your head? I think I’ve been assuming something that you may not necessarily mean.”

Support Your Orgasm, Together

Talk to your boyfriend and tell him that you’d like his support in taking the pressure off your orgasm. Say something like this: “I love that you care about my orgasm so much, but sometimes I feel a lot of pressure to orgasm and that makes it impossible to actually have one. It’s hard to hear that me not having an orgasm makes you feel inadequate. I’m not judging you or thinking you’re a bad lover. It would really help me to know that you’re invested in making me feel good, but that it’s OK with you if I don’t orgasm.”

The next step here is probably obvious — ask him not to ask you “are you close yet?” ever again! Try finding new ways to communicate about where you both are in your orgasmic process. Maybe you can try being more direct with him, and saying things like, “that feels so good,” “don’t stop doing that,” or “I’m getting so close.” Or you can say, “I want you to come” as a way to let him know he doesn’t need to wait for you. If he’s feeling anxious about being too close to orgasm, he can let you know he needs a break, or can ask if you’re OK with him orgasming first.

Make Sure You’re Getting The Right Kind Of Stimulation

When I read your question, I was curious about whether or not your boyfriend was giving you the kind of stimulation your body needs to reach orgasm. This isn’t a judgment on him; each time you’re with someone new, you have to learn how their body works. It takes time and trial-and-error to learn how to please your partner. There isn’t a single person out there who is going to be a fantastic lover to every brand-new person they sleep with!

I wonder if your anxiety about your orgasm is preventing you from getting the kind of stimulation you need. You may want to try giving him feedback during sex, or teach him more about what your body likes. If you’re honest with yourself, you may be able to recognize that you’d like him to touch your clit when you’re having intercourse, or to thrust a little deeper.

Change The Focus

I think it might help if you asked your boyfriend to make you orgasm through manual stimulation or oral sex, just for the next few weeks. This will help take some of the pressure off you during intercourse, and will help him feel more confident about his ability to pleasure you. The interesting thing about giving a partner an orgasm during manual stimulation or oral is that you can enjoy the experience of bringing your partner pleasure even more. He’s won’t be distracted by trying to stay hard, trying to last long enough, or feeling his own pleasure. He can focus completely on you and see exactly how you respond to his every touch or lick. This may help you both feel more at ease, and that relaxation may translate to intercourse as well.

I know it might feel hard to acknowledge this right now, but being intimate with someone is supposed to be about feeling connection and pleasure, not about “performing.” Try to remind yourself of that the next time you guys are together!

Images: Martin Voltri/Flickr; Giphy