Feeling anxious before sex is normal. But how about feeling nervous that you cannot have or enjoy sex for fear that you will be unable to “perform” during sexual activities? Sex therapist David Khalili talks about sexual performance anxiety, predominantly among men, and what can be done to overcome that fear or condition.
“Men don’t ask for help”
David shares from personal experience how men would come in looking for certain toys, prostate massagers, cock rings, lubricants, and the like – shrouded by shame and anxiety. Mostly men are affected by sexual performance anxiety because of society’s expectations of what they should be doing during sex. Because of the men-don’t-ask-for-help narrative, they are afraid to come into sex shops to look for things that could amplify pleasure or to seek intervention from professional sex therapists and admit that they are having trouble in sex.
There’s a whole body to explore, not just the penis
The pressure that men are under usually focuses on the “performance” of their penis – to get hard fast, stay hard for a long time, etc. As David puts it, penises are wonderful, and they’ve got lots of purpose and pleasure. But you are whole as a human and there’s also the rest of your body to play with and that could give you pleasure. The body is a whole map, and we need to learn how to explore that map. There might be lots of nerve endings in the genitalia, but there are lots of nerve endings all over the body. So, relieving that penis-centric pressure on men really opens their repertoire and their definition of intimacy, connection, and pleasure.
How to cope with performance anxiety
The first step to coping with performance anxiety is recognizing and normalizing that the penis, just like any other body part, cannot always perform as expected. Also important is removing any shame you might be feeling about not having an optimal sex life. David also underlines the fact that men who do not hit one or all the criteria/markers associated with “expected sex performance” should not feel like it’s their failure as a man. Men should build that self-compassion and accept that it’s not going to be perfect all the time and that good is enough.
Be creative in getting sexual
The truth is you can be sexual without needing an erection. David explains the circular model of sex versus the linear model that most people know about. With or without penetration, learn how to spice up that sex life and how to potentially help in relieving performance anxiety.
Get help and communicate your anxiety
Sexual performance anxiety is a valid concern but should not be a reason to avoid having sex altogether. Figure out a way to communicate it to a partner or potential partner in a way that it’s normal and that it’s okay to go slow to soften expectations. If you feel safe enough with the other person, it is important to talk about the anxiety and explore it together. It is a normal ebb and flow of human function and getting sex therapy intervention is perfectly normal. Learn more about different treatments or interventions you can use to help with performance anxiety.
David F Khalili, LMFT is a sex and relationship therapist licensed in California. He works with individuals, relationships and runs groups for men who experience anxiety around sex and dating. His principal areas of focus are sex and anxiety, kink and open relationships, multiheritage couples, and first-generation American-born individuals. David recently released a workbook called “Sex Worriers: A Mindfully Queer Guide to Men’s Anxiety Around Sex and Dating.”
- Sex Health Quiz – https://www.sexhealthquiz.com
- The Course – https://www.intimacywithease.com
- The Book – https://www.sexwithoutstress.com
- Podcast Website – https://www.intimacywithease.com
- Access the Free webinar: How to want more sex without it feeling like a chore: https://intimacywithease.com/masterclass