Not a boy, not yet a man...
September 13, 2008 11:42 AM   Subscribe

Help me overcome my fear of sex.

I am a college student who has only been in one serious relationship in his life. Said relationship was long term (4 years). Her and I had plenty of sex, but it came after at least a year and a half, and even then we were both relatively awkward in terms of performance and the mood of it all. In short, the sex wasn't great, and we both knew this. We had it because we were comfortable with eachother enough and it was good for what it was worth. We experimented with a few different foreplay toys and positions, but it still remained lackluster. She's never had an orgasm and I feel partially responsible. We've gone our seperate ways recently for a couple of reasons, but we still remain extremely close friends.

I would like to start meeting other women/dating, but one thing always pops into my head before anything else. I'm absolutley terrified of getting in bed with someone else. I have I have no qualms about any other forms of intimate contact, just sex. I'm sure that when I do get in another relationship, this topic will come up.

It's not body image or anything like that. I really believe it's due to my inexperience. Like I stated, in my past relationship, neither of us were skilled at sex, so I'm afraid that I just won't know what to do with another woman. I'm scared that I won't read her non-verbal cues, that my rythym will be off kilter, or that I will be a dissapointment or unsatisfying or something to that effect. I realize that setting my self up to fail like this is not productive, but I can't imagine what I would do when this situation inevetibly comes up. I know talking and communicating with the other person is very imporant in matters like this, and as scary as it may seem, of course I'd tell them everything. However, I know that with hours of talking, I'll still be scared when the time comes to actually do it.

In plenty of previous threads and especially in the college atmosphere, the general opinion is that sex tends to come earlier rather than later. I have no major qualms with this. I am not out looking for a fuck buddy or anything, but if I really get to know the right girl and the timing and chemistry is right, I would go ahead with it...if I wasn't so frightened.

Many of you are going to say that practice makes perfect. I'd rather not sleep around solely to get my mojo working. I'd rather not sleep around at all, actually. I see sex as something very meaningful and when done right, can very much increase the bond and relationship between two people. This is the point I'd ideally like to get to, once I overcome this hurdle.


Thanks in advance, hivemind.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (18 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

You aren't afraid of sex. You are afraid of being judged negatively by a future lover. One way to deal with this is to at some point (not the first date) say to your new potential mate that you don't have sexual experience with many partners and that while you have sexual experience, it was with one partner and you consider yourself as someone who is still learning! There is nothing wrong with that. It is called being honest and it is called communication. Relationships don't work out for alot of reasons. One of them is for lack of honesty and lack of communication.

If you get bad vibes or the brush off after telling someone you are still learning how to operate, that is someone you don't want to be with anyway as they would make you feel badly about yourself. Ashamed of yourself.

There are some things I would not do sexually and if it comes down to telling a possible suitor and I got put down or made to feel less than a person because of it, this is clearly someone who is not right for me.

Very few people are sexual gymnasts. I think when you are married even, you have to re-learn stuff and so on as people's likes change.

Sex can be embarrsing. So get this subject on the table as early as possible. But like I said, not on the first date. Good luck. I need help in this area myself.
posted by regularperson at 12:16 PM on September 13, 2008 [3 favorites]

It sounds like the pressure to seem more experienced and skilled than you are is what's scaring you. Some thoughts: You're in college. I didn't have sex at all until then (and I can't be the only one) so being inexperienced isn't unusual. You learn more about having sex when you're in a relationship and can try different things with someone you're comfortable with, so I wouldn't recommend one night stands anyway. Your previous partner's orgasmic ability likely has nothing at all to do with you, so don't worry about that. Some women just have a hard time, and it can take years to figure out what works for them.

Women don't expect a new lover to be incredibly awesome the first time out (and if they are expecting that, well, I'd be wary of that person). If you are clicking enough with a woman that a relationship is growing, once you are at the let's-go-get-naked stage, you might find that it will go along more smoothly than you fear. And if you do get to that point and you get anxious about it, talk to her. Women are nice people, most of the time.

And despite what MTV etc. would have you believe, lots of people have serious relationships in college, and NOT a lot of people are having one night stands every weekend. (The ones who do just happen to also be camera-loving famewhores and Girls Gone Wild.) [Note: I am female.]
posted by chowflap at 12:18 PM on September 13, 2008

When your next relationship gets to that stage, be honest with her; you're giving off a very anxious vibe, and being open with her will go a long way towards alleviating the psychological weight you're carrying (And if she doesn't respect/accept that, she's not looking for the same sort of connection or relationship you obviously are, so you're better off without her.). I've suggested this before, but I found that sleeping - just sleeping - with a person really does help with intimacy-related insecurities.

Practice does make perfect, but what works for a gal you meet at the bar may not work for someone you want a deeper relationship with - you're better off practicing and learning to be perfect with someone you care a lot about, rather than having one-offs all over the place.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:35 PM on September 13, 2008

First, if you've only ever had sex with one woman, then what's your basis for rating that sex "lackluster"? As chowflap noted, whether your girlfriend had or didn't have an orgasm may actually have had almost nothing to do with you; lots of girls don't until their mid-20s, and some never will, however studly the guy. If you're judging the sex based on what you've seen in porns or heard about in locker-room conversations, then the problem may be with your expectations, not your performance.

But regardless, as others have noted, the very best thing you can do now is to stop worrying about your sexual "mojo" and just concentrate on getting to know the girl in question. Every partner is different, so even if you'd slept with 1,000,000 people before this, you'd still be a novice as regards the needs and desires of this particular woman. Don't obsess about your skills and your performance and whether you'll measure up. Just focus on developing a nice, intimate relationship where you and your partner feel comfortable chatting about exactly what each of you finds pleasurable-- and then, well, do those things. If she doesn't know, then bonus: you get to figure it out together. The lovely thing about being a relationship guy, as you are, is that you'll have multiple, multiple opportunities to get things juuuust right.

Just keep reminding yourself that the sex is an experience you'll create, jointly, between the two of you-- it's not a personal quality of yours that she'll judge. Be eager, be teachable, be open-minded, and you'll do fine. Like most things, my sense is that this issue will become much easier once you make an effort to leave the ego out of it.
posted by Bardolph at 12:42 PM on September 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm scared that I... will be a dissapointment or unsatisfying or something to that effect.

Oh, don't worry, you will, because this is what happens in the vast majority of cases where one person has sex for the first time with another person. So stop being scared about this if you can, because it's close to inevitable. Best way to minimize anxiety is to get comfortable with the "bad" scenarios, not strain to convince yourself that the "good" ones will happen. (Although "bad" is a weird word to use to describe such a common and normal thing as un-amazing first-time sex.)
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 12:44 PM on September 13, 2008

I'll leave it to others to decide the significance of this, but your question does not tell us whether you're male or female. Not that the sexual dynamics would necessarily change one way or the other, but it's pretty glaring to me that you leave this piece of information out.

That said, it sounds like you're wallowing in perfectionism.
posted by rhizome at 1:08 PM on September 13, 2008

Oh, just saw the "Not a boy..." title, which I usually don't see unless I'm reading via RSS.
posted by rhizome at 1:09 PM on September 13, 2008

You aren't afraid of sex. You are afraid of being judged negatively by a future lover.

All you need to do is read the first sentence of the first answer. Just focus on why it would be so terrible if indeed a person did judge you negatively because of your inexperience. I suspect that it would hurt but that you would recover.

Now, assess the likelihood that this would happen. Low, especially if you are sensitive and ask her what she wants gently while you are fooling around ahead of time. While asking let her know why you are asking--becasue you think she is great and you want her to have fun.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:45 PM on September 13, 2008

Your ex-girlfriend may just have been anorgasmic. There are people like that, both male and female. Or she may not have been relaxed enough/in tune enough with her own sexuality/whatever to have an orgasm at that point in her life.

On the other hand, one or both of you could have been working from a place of low information--there are a lot of people out there who think that if a woman doesn't have an orgasm from penis-in-vagina intercourse alone, there must be "something wrong" with either her or with her partner, when studies suggest that 70% of women never or only very rarely achieve orgasm through vaginal stimulation with no clitoral stimulation.

There are a lot of good books about sex out there. Despite its totally cheesetastic title, How to Give Her Absolute Pleasure by Lou Paget is very direct and comprehensive.

Remember, too, that most of your fellow college students are probably embellishing or flat-out lying about how mind-blowingly awesome the sex they are having is.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:50 PM on September 13, 2008

The other thing is, though, that experience with another partner doesn't necessarily help you please your current partner. Most of the uncomfortable, un-fun sex I've had in my life was because someone was doing something that some other chick liked, and not listening to me about what I liked.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:51 PM on September 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Sex is one of those complicated, terribly intriguing things we can do. There are dozens of variables and everyone has different preferences and you basically work as a team with someone else who approaches it completely differently.

It's easy to get in your head about everything involved. I actually have talked through a lot with most of the girls I've been with beforehand. Usually, we talk online, and I gleam a lot of information from that in order to better understand what they like and what they might be interested in, and what works for them. It sounds a bit forward, but it's surprisingly effective, and I've armed myself with knowledge that keeps me from working entirely blindly.

Not that that hasn't happened before too. It's really a matter of starting slow and simple, and focusing on her. Don't worry about the actual sex component at the beginning. Focus on the foreplay, and really focus on giving her a good time. If you're not sure how to do this right, I'm going to say what no one else here has: relax. RELAX. Move slowly, take a deep breath, don't be nervous and enjoy the moment, where someone is turning themselves over to you. Don't apply too much pressure to yourself; the first time, things will inevitably not go perfectly (although those rare moments where that happens are awesome).

I tend to try to make it clear that I'd really rather she not "fake it", under any circumstance. If it's just not going to happen for her, tell me. But before that, tell me what works and what I can do differently. I've gotten pretty good at reading subtleties and knowing how to adjust and adapt, but faking it serves both of us absolutely no purposeā€”I end up thinking that what I did worked, you end up unsatisfied. Tell me instead and we'll work through it.

Open communication is absolutely a must. This is considerably easier from within a relationship, but trust me, a woman loves to know you care enough to ask what's up even if you're outside of one.

Practice may make perfect, but everyone is different. This changes the game some each time; it's like a wonderful hand of Bridge. Read a lot. There are plenty of "instructional" manuals on how to "find a woman's g-spot" or what have you; some of which are totally over the top and not all of which will apply to everyone. Some women get off more easily from penetration, some from clit stimulation. Different strokes, quite literally. That's one of those things I like to ask because it's not something easily derived without failing in one direction first (or sometimes succeeeding), and it shows that you know something about them and aren't just "poking". (From the foreplay/fingering perspective.)

I personally like to get a girl off before myself, through foreplay, if at all possible. It's not always as simple from the sex perspective, especially since you can get off and put a stop to her enjoyment shortly thereafter. Making sure she's taken care of, either before or after actual sex, is a good show that you care and that you're wanting her to have a good time. Plus, if you do it before hand, you typically prime things.

Again, you really need to relax. Read more, educate yourself, understand the mechanics of what works, so that you're not jabbing her or hurting her or whatnot. I somehow managed to get my exgirlfriend off on our very first try and my first try ever, because I had read enough about reading the signs, talking to her, and working methodically but having a fun time with it and still being a bit spontaneous.

Remember to pay attention to all aspects of her; there are plenty of places that will turn her on with a light kiss or bite or pinch or slap; learn which works best for her and get in the moment. Have fun with it. Ridiculous moments happen, things worth laughing about, and occasionally totally stupid things that make you want to cry. Take it in stride. Enjoy yourselves. Relax, already. Tell her that you're a bit inexperienced and that you would love for her to teach you, but don't keep falling back on the inexperience card; it will get old fast and she doesn't want to hear that, she wants to get off. Be open and honest though and communicate a great deal. Identify what she likes, make (mental) notes, adapt, react and really, truly, focus on her. If you're giving enough, she'll be absolutely thrilled. So many guys are selfish assholes that it will represent a true change of pace and you'll win points by virtue of being that dedicated to her pleasure alone. Then you can sort out the details and make sure you're doing it right.


Go forth, young man, relax, and have fun. You'll do just fine. (But read some! Take things with a grain of salt! Mix and match what you hear! Ask her what she thinks!)
posted by disillusioned at 1:57 PM on September 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

Think about this (and then stop thinking and just go with whatever happens): if you have another partner as inexperienced as you, she will be worrying just as much as you are. And if she is more experienced, she can teach you what she likes.

Oh, and you aren't responsible for your partner's orgasm. If you are a generous, willing-to-learn, open to everything person, your partner is much more likely to have an orgasm, of course, and I'm sure you want to feel that she has enjoyed herself, BUT she needs to let you know what she likes and how she likes it, because everyone is different. It's a two-part equation. You don't have to be a mind reader!
posted by misha at 2:09 PM on September 13, 2008

I really believe it's due to my inexperience.

Yes, this is it. Let me assure you that with experience sex will get better and better.

One thing that will help you is to not be shy about telling your partner what is good for you, and asking, experimenting, finding out what is good for them. I wish I had gotten to the point of open communication in the bedroom much earlier in life!

If you like to have your cock sucked, well then you had better ask for a blowjob! Don't just sit around nervously hoping it might happen. And similarly, be open and willing to do all kinds of different things with / to your partner.
posted by Meatbomb at 2:36 PM on September 13, 2008

I agree with Alvy about sleeping with the girl before having sex -- but you already said you have no problems with intimacy, just the sex part. So from what I understand your anxiety stems from performance, not intimacy. You're afraid of having mediocre or bad sex. And having the girl feel the same way. You're afraid of not being able to get her off. Sexual performance anxiety is quite common in western society because people tend to fixate on reaching orgasm. It's even expressed in our own language. We achieve orgasm. There's also the euphemism doing it -- like it's a chore. If you stop thinking of sex as an activity where the ultimate goal is orgasm, this might help you get over some of your anxiety. Also! As others have noted, you're basing it all on a single relationship. Notwithstanding the fact that your ex-gf may have been trying to figure out how to orgasm, there's also the possibility that you guys were simply sexually incompatible. Perhaps your ex and you simply weren't a match in the boudoir. In such relationships, communication is absolutely vital. The problem is, people have a hard time talking about sex in general, let alone when they're actually in the moment. It's not a skill you develop overnight, and one that takes time, patience, and practise. With this being your first relationship and all, it's not surprising that you were unable to communicate to a point where the sex was amazing (it takes a lot more than just "hey, let's try this sex toy" -- though that is definitely a good start).

So. The next girl you meet could actually end up being the best sex partner you'll ever have in your life (perhaps she is more experienced and leads you in all the right ways). Or it could be simply a notch up from your ex-gf. Or this hypothetical future partner could accidentally use her teeth during a blowjob. The point is, every girl you will ever have sex with will be a different experience. But there's no need to rush things. There are a few different things you can try that can help lessen anxieties and give you the confidence you need. The first thing you can do is to start reading up on it. I'm NOT referring to those stupid articles in Cosmopolitan and Ask Men. I'm talking about books published by sex therapists. People who've heard it all. One great book I've come across regarding cunningulus is She Comes First by Ian Kerner, a sex therapist who also experienced sexual anxiety because of premature ejaculation. I'm taking my second psych class about sexuality with a professor who does research on "great sex" so I can probably dig up a few more titles if you're interested.

Back to Alvy's suggestion of sleeping with the person -- as you said before, you have no problems with intimacy. One thing you already know is that sex is essentially an intimate act. But acts of intimacy that come before the sex stuff are not only a great precursor, they're also the perfect way to learn more about what your partner likes and wants -- how fast or slow she is, how she likes being touched and kissed, the positions she likes being caressed in, places where she enjoys being kissed and places where she enjoys being fondled (chances are there's a huge overlap). Keep away from the sex parts and focus on everything else. I promise you, it's one of the best ways to figure out what your partner actually likes so that you can feel more confident with what you're doing once you (or she) initiate oral or penetrative sex.
Make sure you also express this early on when things start heating up -- tell her you want to take it slow. Don't be afraid to try other stuff like full body massages, kissing her on *every* inch of her body, and licking food off one another (chocolate paint is great for this).
posted by Menomena at 2:45 PM on September 13, 2008

Have you ever been in love? When you fall in love with someone, your desire tends to be so intense that you both want to rip each others clothes off and performance isn't on anyone's mind. You are both so eager to have each other that it doesn't occur to you that the other might not be good in bed. If you just pay attention and aim to please in such a situation, you'll be fine.

And if you are in love, you should be comfortable enough with the other person that they can say "Hey, I like it better when you do x" or "Please slow down" or "Faster!"

Alternatively, there are therapists called "sex surrogates" who are not hookers but who will have sex with you as therapy in order to help you get over these kinds of problems.

But I do think if you just find the right relationship, this issue won't arise because as long as you aren't selfish and pay attention, you *will* be able to read her signals and if not, she'll tell you because she loves you and is comfortable with you. So the thing here is just to find a partner you really connect with-- and the sex will follow.
posted by Maias at 3:10 PM on September 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

One thing to do when you're uncomfortable or anxious about sex is to take sex in stages. First stage, make out. Second stage, tops come off. Third stage, you get naked but you just fool around with oral. Fourth stage, coitus uninterruptus. By the time you get to stage four, you're really comfortable with each other and the anticipation has built to a dizzying height.

Also, you need to realize that you can have radically different experiences with different partners. I was fortunate in my first three or four partners and found it hard to believe that sex could be bad. Then I tried it with someone I wasn't attracted to, and well, ugh. Chemistry is either there or its not, and it doesn't even have much to do with how attractive you think the person is when you look at them. You don't really know what it's going to be like until you start fooling around with the person. You may not have had a lot of physical chemistry with your ex, even though you really loved her (which is something else that can happen).
posted by orange swan at 3:12 PM on September 13, 2008

As a few people have mentioned, when your next sexual encounter is drawing near, tell her. Tell her that you're inexperienced, that it's important to you to please her and that you're a little nervous. I can't imagine this conversation would slow anyone fact, I would bet money that most will either a) find the whole thing endearing or b) take it as a personal challenge to teach you a few of their favourite "tricks."

This could totally work in your favour so don't worry so much!
posted by kattyann at 9:34 PM on September 13, 2008

in terms of pleasing her, ask her what she likes, be attentive and willing to do what she's into.
the best male lovers are not the ones who think they got the best techniques, it's the ones who are attentive and responsive.
posted by beccyjoe at 3:29 PM on September 14, 2008

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