There are a lot of reasons one might be feeling sexual frustration. It’s really not many people’s idea of a good time, walking around annoyingly horned up and unable to do anything about it. Having all this pent-up energy flowing through your body — it just, well, sucks.
Not only that, but it’s actually theorized that sexual frustration may be linked to adverse physical outcomes like aggression, depression and anxiety, and even lower workplace productivity. So taking care of sexual frustration is actually a bigger deal than just getting your fix in.
While some people are good at doing the whole no-strings-attached sex thing and it's fulfilling and enjoyable, you might be the type of person or be in a phase in your life where casual sex is not at all your bag — and that's OK. Sometimes the type of sexual relationships you like will change depending on what period of your life and your sexuality you are in. Honoring whatever best serves you sexually can be a challenging thing to learn how to do. If that's the case, and you happen to be sexually frustrated and single, the options for satiating your sex drive might seem limited. But trust, there are things you can do!
What Is Sexual Frustration?
Put simply, sexual frustration is “an unmet desire for sex,” according to Carol Queen, Ph.D., sex educator and staff sexologist at Good Vibrations. “[It] could be especially [desire for] sexual contact with another person, with a desire for touch, connection, affirmation, and such — or more specifically desire for arousal, release, [and] orgasm.” She notes that these could stem from both emotional and physical desires. “It can be associated with loneliness and yearning for a partner,” Queen tells Bustle. “It can also feel like a specifically physical want or need.”
This phenomenon isn’t just something that happens to people who are “involuntarily celibate” (aka incels) either, as a 2021 Journal of Criminal Justice (JCJ) study points out. An incel is a dangerous subculture of deeply misogynistic men who place blame on women for their lack of sexual activity. But as this study notes, the vast majority of people who experience sexual frustration are your regular, everyday (not at all incel) people. They simply have unfulfilled desires or an unsatisfying sex life, often because of temporary circumstances. In whatever case, the gist is that feelings of sexual frustration arise from a lack of sexual satisfaction.
How To Combat Sexual Frustration
If the problem comes from the fact that you’re single and uninterested in casual sex, and therefore lacking a partner, sex therapist Janet Brito reiterates that it is so beyond OK if you don't feel down with a no-strings situation.
"First thing is to normalize it and don’t shame yourself," Brito says. "You may feel that because your friends are having casual sex, then you must do it too." If that is not what you are into or feel comfortable or safe doing, that's completely your choice to make. Here’s what to try instead.
1. Treat yourself to a solo date night.
Brito’s first tip is to get in touch with solo sex, whether for the first time or just to reinvigorate your masturbation experiences. "If you are sexually frustrated, I recommend you arrange a date with yourself, the way you would plan a date with someone you like," Brito says. Get ready, go out, and then come home and set the mood. "Being single is the perfect time to figure out what you like, and if you like, to self-pleasure."
2. Get a wearable vibrator.
Sex educator Jamie LeClaire also has some great tips for solo sex. "No matter the reason you are trying quench your sexual thirst, there are many ways to spark some extra joy in your nether regions through solo sex," LeClaire says. "Keep a charged vibrator waiting for you, or on you!" There are more and more wearable vibrators out there, making a solo quickie easier than ever.
3. Try edging.
Another thing LeClaire suggests is edging. "This practice involves getting yourself almost to the point of orgasm, getting to 'the edge,' then pulling back," they explain. "Implementing this practice several times during masturbation produces a more powerful, satisfying orgasm."
4. Switch up your masturbation routine.
Try new positions, too. "Try humping or riding something, throw in a toy, or try butt plugs," LeClaire says. "Alone is probably the best way to learn more about your body and its capabilities [for] pleasure."
5. Watch ethical porn.
LeClaire says that watching ethical porn that depicts more passionate, realistic non-casual sex — sometimes with actual real-life couples — on places like MakeLoveNotPorn, Four Chambers, or Crashpad Series (all NSFW) is another exciting option for upping the adventure.
6. Consider seeing a sex therapist.
If you do have a partner and are feeling this way, Queen suggests seeing a sex therapist. “If you have a partner but sex isn't happening,” they tell Bustle, “a sex therapist can sometimes help with that, and if you are just distressed by this frustration I'd also point to the good a sex therapist (or sex-positive therapist in general) can do.”
7. Put yourself out there to meet someone new.
If you are single and looking to have partnered sex in a way that feels stable to you, even if not in a relationship, there are ways you can approach this.
"You might want to consider a 'friends with benefits' type of situation with someone you can trust," LeClaire says. Solo sex is not the only option, and neither are one-night stands or sexual relationships that seem too offhand or without emotional safety.
"As long as you are communicative and upfront about your intentions and boundaries, and all on the same page, these 'situationships' can often be a [good] option," LeClaire says. Ask yourself about your specific boundaries and what types of arrangements definitely are not for you, then go from there.
Brito says that cuddle parties might be a good place to meet people and practice consensual, safe, and non-sexual touching. These can be found in online forums, or you can host one. "Going to a meetup and participating in your favorite hobby or activity might also expose you to other like-minded people with whom you can develop a relationship and explore whether art can become a sexual relationship," Brito says.
Beyond that, simply staying involved and active in your life is a good idea. "Stretch yourself to experience pleasure in more ways than sexual," Brito says. "Don’t hyper-focus on the sexual frustration, but instead take this opportunity to stretch your imagination to fantasize and be sensual."
Remember, sexual frustration is totally normal, and it happens to pretty much everyone. Have faith that you can find a way to be sexually satisfied and find situations that feel good for you!
Lankford, A. (2021). A sexual frustration theory of aggression, violence, and crime. Journal of Criminal Justice, 77, 101865. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcrimjus.2021.101865
Carcedo, R. J., Fernández-Rouco, N., Fernández-Fuertes, A. A., & Martínez-Álvarez, J. L. (2020). Association between Sexual Satisfaction and Depression and Anxiety in Adolescents and Young Adults. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(3), 841. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17030841
Khalil, F. Sexual frustration, religiously forbidden actions and work efficiency—a case study from the Pakistan perspective. Cont Islam 10, 477–487 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11562-016-0364-4
Carol Queen, Ph.D., sex educator and staff sexologist at Good Vibrations
Janet Brito, sex therapist
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