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Women can suffer from performance anxiety too! Here’s how to overcome female performance anxiety!
In this episode about female performance anxiety, we cover:
- how female performance anxiety is different from male performance anxiety
- how to slow things down so you can enjoy sex more
- different types of performance anxiety and how they show up
- making vulnerability sexy rather than scary
- how mindful sex practices can help you overcome performance anxiety
Here is the email that inspired this episode. If you have a question or topic you want covered on a future Speaking of Sex episode, be in touch! Click here for a complete podcast archive.
Thank you for this amazing opportunity to engage, share, learn and talk. I just discovered your site recently and am loving the info you provide and the way in which you do.
So here’s my question:
I recently broke up with my boyfriend after 6 years. We had a great sexlife; he made me come often and well. After my grieving period came to an end I started masturbating and I come quickly and beautifully. Sometimes in 3-5 minutes.
I’ve had sex with two men since and have not come with either- I’m anxious, nervous- what am I doing wrong? I even touch myself but I never reach quite the same pleasure mark as I do when I’m on my own or indeed as I used to with my partner. Sigh.
I dedicate my first orgasm with a man to all of you sex angels.
Transcript of Podcast Episode on Female Performance Anxiety
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Chris: 00:01 Hi, welcome to Speaking of Sex with The Pleasure Mechanics. I’m Chris.
Charlotte: 00:05 I’m Charlotte.
Chris: 00:06 We are The Pleasure Mechanics and on this podcast we share expert advice so you can have an amazing sex life. Come on over to pleasuremechanics.com where you will find a complete podcast archive as well as a wealth of resources for you to peruse.
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Chris: 00:52 Be sure to use the code speaking of sex for 20% off the course of your choice. On today’s episode, we are going to be talking about female performance anxiety. We often think about performance anxiety as something men have to deal with, but we got an email from one of our listeners reminding us that women too can have performance anxiety. And let’s see how it plays out.
Chris: 01:18 Charlotte’s going to get us started by reading the questions submitted by our listener.
Charlotte: 01:23 She writes, “Hi friends. Thank you for this amazing opportunity to engage, learn, and talk. I just discovered your site recently and I am loving the information you provide and the way in which you do. Here’s my question. I recently broke up with my boyfriend after to six years.
Charlotte: 01:44 We had a great sex life. He made me come often and well. After to my grieving period came to an end, I started masturbating and I come quickly and beautifully. Sometimes in three to five minutes. I’ve had sex with two men since and I’ve not come with either. I’m anxious, nervous. What am I doing wrong?
Charlotte: 02:05 I even touch myself, but I never reach quite the same pleasure mark as I do when I’m on my own or indeed as I used to with my partner. Please help. Thank you. I dedicate my first orgasm with a man to all of you sex angels.
Chris: 02:23 Thank you.
Charlotte: 02:25 I like being a sex angel.
Chris: 02:30 Immediately what was interesting to me about this is when we think about performance anxiety in men, we think about the anxiety and the emotions that shutdown erection, thus performance, and this is the construct of sex that we think about is if you don’t have an erection, you can’t have intercourse, therefore you can’t perform, therefore you are a failure.
Chris: 02:52 And we’ve taken that apart and previous episodes and our advice is to move on with different activities, to use your hands, your mouth, to take the pressure off the erection. But this listener is talking about performance anxiety when it comes to pleasure. Like she’s still able to receive intercourse and so we wouldn’t name it like performance anxiety, but her experience of sex, her pleasure, her orgasm is inhibited by her anxiety.
Chris: 03:24 She actually used the term performance anxiety. It was in the subject line of her email. And so that’s why I made that connection at all. I wouldn’t have approached this as performance anxiety.
Charlotte: 03:37 I think this is a really fascinating and important subject to look at and for us to reflect on because there isn’t an overt erection for women, we don’t necessarily think about them performing. I’m having trouble with performance anyway because I feel like it’s not about performance and we talk about it in a million other podcasts, but we can’t see that something isn’t working, like the arousal system isn’t working in the way that one might hope and expect or one’s used to.
Chris: 04:10 I sometimes wish that female arousal like it was like at the carnival and you lit up the lights and then it was like ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding and then intercourse is possible and like the pearly gates opened only when the arousal was enough like then it would be like, “Oh she didn’t perform it, only got to level three,” and I think guys would maybe like take it more seriously to get women aroused before penetration.
Chris: 04:31 This is the first episode of this podcast we ever did was about female arousal before penetration and intercourse. Like we feel really strongly about this subject, and we’ve talked about it a lot, but there’s no visual cue for a lot of people and there’s no marker of is she turned on enough to move forward with this sex act. And so-
Charlotte: 04:53 Because wetness is not a marker. Sometimes people think that it is and it’s not correlated to arousal or not being aroused. That is one of the main markers that people use and-
Chris: 05:06 Oh, she’s so wet, she was ready for it.
Charlotte: 05:08 Which isn’t necessarily the case.
Chris: 05:09 But for this person’s experience, for a lot of women’s experience, the deed of sex, the act of sex is not pleasurable, is not worth it and can even be painful or distressing if they’re not into it enough, if they’re not aroused enough to enjoy it. And so when we think about female sexual performance, we should really be thinking about female sexual pleasure and arousal and orgasm and how well the act is working for them as well.
Chris: 05:40 Let’s dive into this listener’s question. And what’s awesome about all of the questions that we receive from you is that no one’s alone in their struggle. So we get a lot of emails from women about orgasm during sex and not having orgasms with partners, even though they’re having orgasms during masturbation, and why is that?
Chris: 05:57 Let’s talk about this because what her information tells me is that the system is working. She’s having orgasms alone. And just like when we talk about male erection and we’d look at morning erections and erections during masturbation, just to see if the plumbing is working. Like that’s the baseline assessment. And so what she’s communicated to us and what so many women say is, “I can have orgasms, just not with my partner.”
Chris: 06:26 So we know that the system is working, her nerve endings are working, orgasms are possible. Where to from there?
Charlotte: 06:34 And then that you’ve had the experience of having orgasms with a partner. You know that that system can work. It’s just this new partner situation and I read it as there’re all these other emotional layers that are happening in a new relationship where perhaps there isn’t the trust or there isn’t the comfort or there isn’t the knowledge that they really admire and like you in this way that your previous partner had expressed and you guys had that understanding.
Charlotte: 07:06 It’s just there’s an emotional experience that is perhaps in the way of the orgasm. And we talked about this in the Turn Offs and Turn On podcast recently.
Chris: 07:20 Yes. If you haven’t already listened to episode 227 about the dual model control of arousal that is definitely relevant here. And the dual model control of arousal tells us that there are things that excite us and contribute to the arousal, your gas pedal. And there are things that inhibit us and detract from your arousal, your brake pedal.
Chris: 07:42 It sounds to me like the brakes are on and so when you’re adding the usual stimulation of touching your clitoris, that additional excitation isn’t enough to bring you to orgasm because you’re slamming on the brakes. So what are some possible breaks in this scenario?
Charlotte: 08:00 Just the newness of the relationship and not necessarily trusting them or knowing where the relationships going, not feeling the same level of connection.
Chris: 08:11 Well, she talks about anxiety, so an active anxiety means she’s worried about do they find her attractive? Is this a sex they want? Are they going to stick around for a relationship? What does this mean? Like all of those questions that go through our head with a new partner. Some of which are exciting and thrilling and build anticipation and others are kind of terrifying.
Chris: 08:32 Like you’re literally getting naked with someone new and exposing yourself and being vulnerable with someone new, and so of course your anxieties are flaring up. I think especially when you get out of a longterm relationship, you’ve been nestled in that cocoon of security and love and now you’re out in the world and dealing with life alone without a partner and dating and whether or not you’re just casually dating and exciting to be having sex with multiple people or you’re looking for your next partner, there’s still a vulnerability that comes with not having a secure partnership with the person you’re having sex with.
Chris: 09:10 And some of that is really exciting as I said, and some of it is scary, and so you really need to do an inventory of what your emotional states are with each new partner. In the meantime, I would recommend slowing it down, and I want to get there, but you keep mentioning this word trust. What does trust and orgasm have to do with each other?
Charlotte: 09:34 I think that for a lot of people having an experience of connection or trust can really allow one’s body to relax, and with that that can be more pleasure available.
Chris: 09:50 Yes, we know relaxation is essential for orgasm and what levels of trust are we talking about? So trust that they’re going to touch you well and not hurt you, trust that they are who they say they are and are they being authentic?
Charlotte: 10:07 Trust about where the relationship’s going, there can be concerns about STI or pregnancy, however you’re navigating that in a new relationship-
Chris: 10:15 Which might be a huge anxiety producer and like we shouldn’t glaze over that.
Charlotte: 10:19 No, it can be huge for some people absolutely.
Chris: 10:21 And just a side note, we don’t talk about sexually transmitted infections or unwanted pregnancies a lot on this podcast. We don’t really consider ourselves health professionals, we’re not trained medically. And so when we get questions about that, we refer you out to people who are experts in these topics, and a lot of our listeners are in dedicated longterm relationships and so we don’t talk about STI prevention and the sexual health side of things very often, but it is super important.
Chris: 10:53 If you’re navigating sex with new partners, preventing infection, preventing unwanted pregnancies is one of the highest anxiety producing things you have to navigate. And so making sure you are well educated about these things, that you have methods that you rely on, you know how they work and that you’re comfortable enough with them, that you can use them during sex, and if you have an infection, like so many people do, such as herpes or warts or something like that, that’s just kind of a chronic infection you have to know your own body well enough to know if you’re having a flare up, if you’re contagious or if you’re in remission, and then how to talk about that with new partners.
Chris: 11:36 We are going to try to tackle this topic soon. Bring in an expert on the topic because we don’t want to pretend like it’s not there, but if you’re having any anxiety about unwanted transmission of babies or diseases, then that of course is going to prevent you from having orgasms. It’s going to be distracting you. It’s going to be creating a fear response in your body. So yes, that’s huge.
Chris: 12:01 And then I think just the personal element of like, “Who am I fucking?” Like who is this person I’m letting into my body? Do they deserve to be in my body? Do they deserve to be my bed? Do I want to be naked with them? Sometimes we find ourselves having sex before we’re ready.
Chris: 12:15 A lot of adults kind of go through the bases. It’s like they kiss, they fondle, they do some touchy, touchy, maybe some oral sex and then they have intercourse. Like it’s this just natural progression of activities that you go through with each new partner, and I really want to encourage you to slow it down and not have sex with people so quickly even if you want to.
Chris: 12:38 I’m not saying be a prude and hold out. Even if you really want to be having sex, slow it down and see how that affects your anxiety. Keep your clothes on for a little while, stay in the make out session and notice what your body does when you slow down. Does it start relaxing into the person’s presence? Are you building that trust? Are you building the kind of communication where you feel like you can melt into the person’s embrace in the way that we have to do when we want to have orgasms with a partner?
Chris: 13:12 Because I think those are the orgasms of the partner that people are seeking. I think there’s this other way of having orgasms with a partner that you can use the friction and take your mind somewhere and distract herself from all the anxieties that you’re rubbing up against one another and using the friction as a sex toy kind of thing, and then you have orgasms in one another’s presence, but it’s not really together.
Chris: 13:35 You know what I mean?
Charlotte: 13:36 I do. That’s-
Chris: 13:38 Another-
Charlotte: 13:39 It’s nuanced. I think that excitement is so close to nervousness and anxiety. Fear is excitement without breath is what they say. Meaning the states of fear and the state of excitement are very similar in the body. The difference is when you’re excited, you’re a little bit relaxed as well, and you’re breathing fully and you’re able to stay present in the moment.
Charlotte: 14:04 When you’re afraid, you tense up around that excitement, your breath constricts, and you start going into the worry and the fear and the projected reality of what’s in the future. Like you can’t really be afraid in the present moment and be relaxed at the same time.
Charlotte: 14:23 Breathe baby, breathe. Breathe, and see if you can stay in the excitement realm, and if that means taking off less clothes or just doing play with your hands so that you’re exploring orgasm or exploring arousal together, but not necessarily having intercourse. Like maybe that could be a way that you’re exploring the connection and the excitement of building more trust, but keeping it exciting instead of anxiety producing.
Chris: 14:51 Yeah, for me, if I was writing the rules of sex from the ground up, I would recommend that everyone has orgasms with new partners before having any sort of penetrative intercourse.
Charlotte: 15:02 Yeah, that would be awesome. I think teenagers that’d be awesome also. Does a whole other stuff.
Chris: 15:08 It’s just a game changer. I don’t feel like someone’s genitals should be inside your body before you’ve gained that level of communication. And I say orgasm, I really mean high states of arousal. Some people cannot have the climax of orgasm, but they can get to high states of arousal that feel really great and cathartic if that’s where you’re at, great, but see how it feels for yourself to rewrite your own rules and slow it down and try to have orgasms with new partners before intercourse.
Chris: 15:42 Try all the other ways of engaging all the other things you can do. If you need help, check out our foreplay mastery course, but try to reach that level of intimacy and communication and relaxation with a new partner before you have intercourse and then see how the intercourse feels.
Charlotte: 16:00 Or go on more dates before you take off your clothes. I know that’s a crazy idea, but-
Chris: 16:07 She hasn’t really give us information about-
Charlotte: 16:08 Totally, but I think it’s just this point of like creating more of an experience of relaxation and trust before you’re trying to have an orgasm. Because if that’s what your body is needing … Like your body can have orgasms, you know how to do this. It’s really about it not feeling totally safe or this trust worth that I keep putting it to use.
Charlotte: 16:30 That’s I think the piece. And there’s nothing wrong with that, that this newness can be exciting, but trying to explore in the exciting realm instead of in the anxiety producing realm. And so doing what you need to do to create that situation, whether that’s more dating beforehand or more play that isn’t intercourse as Chris is suggesting.
Chris: 16:51 Well one thing we haven’t talked about is the partner’s skills, and so that’s of course this huge other factor is, is the partner you’re having desirable, sexy, exciting to you? Are they touching you well? Are they talking to you well? All of those things are in that sexual excitation category and then each new partner brings their own things in that inhibition breaks category.
Chris: 17:17 There is an element here where you might have to sleep with a few people before you find your next great partner.
Charlotte: 17:23 Yeah. And that can be part of the adventure and the fun.
Chris: 17:27 And there’s this balance here because I think our culture tells us, just find the right partner and everything will be okay. We know better than that. We know that there’s a lot to work on in your own sexuality, in your own relationship with your body to be able to have great sex, no matter who you’re with.
Chris: 17:41 You can be with the most skilled, sexy, amazing partner in the world and not have any fun if you don’t bring certain things to the table. The big advice here is to start managing your inhibitions, managing your emotional anxiety so you can be fully present, relaxed and aware as you’re having sex with new people and can start determining who you want to have sex with more often and invite back into your bedroom and into your body.
Chris: 18:10 And so do that by slowing things down, taking things one step at a time, focusing on your breathing. Breath is always good in the bedroom and in this case will help you stay relaxed and focused on the present moment, and notice what emotional anxieties are coming up. What can you deal with and what do you need to just be friends with and set aside and get back to your erotic experience.
Chris: 18:35 If it’s things like pregnancy, then you can deal with that by coming up with contraceptive methods that work for you. If it’s things like body image or emotional concerns about where the relationship is going, you may just have to gently make friends with that, set it aside and notice it’s there, but not let it overwhelm your erotic experience.
Chris: 18:58 Really just be gentle with yourself. You’re in a very significant process here of opening up to new intimacy after a six year relationship. That’s a big deal. So be kind to yourself as you move through this process and keep masturbating. I was so happy to read that part of it. Keep taking care of your own sexual needs. Keep exploring your arousal, keep exploring your fantasies and know that that is all fuel you’re going to bring into your next great love affair with a partner.
Charlotte: 19:30 And know that it makes total sense that your emotions are inhibiting your arousal, that that is an extremely reasonable and sensible thing that is happening in your body and in your experience of your sexuality right now. I love Chris’s advice of make friends with the emotions that you are noticing and see if that helps calm them so that you can be present to the physical experience and the excitement of what perhaps is happening.
Chris: 20:01 Let us know what works for you. We love hearing from you, and any other listener that’s having an experience where strong emotions are affecting arousal systems, we want to hear your story and what’s going on for you. Come on over to pleasuremechanics.com and explore the site and go to pleasuremechanics.com/hello to leave us a voicemail message or send us an email and let us know what’s going on for you.
Chris: 20:28 We love hearing from you. I’m Chris.
Charlotte: 20:31 I’m Charlotte.
Chris: 20:32 We are The Pleasure Mechanics.
Charlotte: 20:33 Wishing you a lifetime of pleasure.