Sexual Anxiety: Advice for Playing

Community Aug 18, 2022

A friend recently asked for my advice on initiating clown play and it got me thinking about how everything I had to say is applicable to kink and to sex in general. Whether it’s the pressure to “perform”, not knowing how to approach bringing kink into the bedroom or the conversation around it, there’s many things that can get in the way of play when they get into our heads.

Sexual anxiety is incredibly common and is something everyone faces in some way throughout their life. Pretty much the same thing goes for any type of play, but everything ultimately boils down to communication between you and your play partner. Negotiating the ins and outs of everyone’s limits, desires, fantasies and safewords, and knowing that comfortability levels can change and everyone has the power to stop anything at any point, are the safety net above which we get to act out these desires.

While there’s a lot of freedom to that, it can also be daunting. The thing I love about clown play is letting go of any notion you aren’t “sexy” enough and just being a silly goon! Goofing around takes bravery and so ensuring as relaxed an environment as possible is the best way to access that headspace. The same goes for ABDL, pup play, or any form of kink involving the vulnerability of headspace.

The same can be said for filming any play. If everyone involved is up for it, knows that they can change their mind at any time and feels that they have agency over their footage, it can be a fun thing to do. I used to be an actor, so the advice I give for filming is similar to performing for an audience: forget the camera is there. It’s not important and what you do with it afterwards is totally up to you. Just let it roll in the background.

Awkwardness is an inherent part of any play and we all just have to roll with the punches in that respect, but prior commitment to discussing wants and limits mitigates so much of this. It’s all about laying down the groundwork first so that there aren’t surprises. That’s not to say one should plan ahead; sex should be spontaneous.

In my experience, these things can never be planned and trying to always takes the fun out of it. It’s important to first discuss desires, fantasies, limits, wants, likes and dislikes, but if you try to plan what you’ll get up to, you’ll only end up disappointed. It becomes a chore, expectations become daunting and nerves set in. What’s in your head won’t play out perfectly and it shouldn’t, or else you won’t take the time to enjoy what is playing out in real time.

Play consists only of consenting acts, and so discussion of boundaries should be the first step to having fun, but spontaneity is everything from there. Part of the prior discussion should be about nerves or anxiety, or the fear of being unable to do something. It relaxes those gnawing expectations, it invites breath. That’s why it's so crucial to meet first, to hang out, to gauge each others’ interest and comfortability, but anything in the bedroom should always be spontaneous!

Regardless, no amount of prior discussion is going to completely alleviate sex shyness. First of all, the word “perform” is an incredibly loaded one. It suggests that there is a right and a wrong way to engage in sex and kink, and that is absolutely not true. There shouldn’t be any expectations in the bedroom and anyone imposing any is not a healthy play partner. Expectations are nothing more than premeditated resentments and by imposing them upon ourselves, we automatically set ourselves up for failure.

Sex does not have to be penetrative. Play does not have to involve climax. Completing mutual masturbation is not the sole goal of kink. You can try things and enjoy them, even if they aren’t working out, and then move on. You can stop and start, or end without an ‘ending’. There are no rules, no goals, no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. Just take the time to enjoy each others’ company, however feels natural.

If you are concerned about getting an erection, know that your concern is what’s causing the problem. Erectile “dysfunction” (another loaded word) is incredibly common and rarely a physical issue. It can become more common with age and the physical side of things is both nothing to be ashamed of and easily remedied with medication. Suggesting a person is ‘defunct’ is not only untrue, but unhelpful because it reinforces the problem.

Sexual anxiety is just that; anxiety. It’s a part of our brains trying to protect us by overriding our bodies in an unhelpful way. So the only way to overcome it is to acknowledge and accept it. Let it be the case. Allow yourself and your partner to engage in play that does not centre around your penis being hard. Don’t hide it or pretend that it is. It should not be a problem and making it one is what’s causing the shyness.

That may seem bold and brave to some, but it’s the key to overcoming any sexual trepidation. It might help to think of it as, “the only way to get confident is to be confident”. If it’s not working, it’s not working. Do something else, don’t be ashamed or embarrassed. No reasonable person should make you feel that way, either. Relaxation is the key to arousal, so give yourself a break and if your erection happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t, and that is just fine.

I’ve only experienced erectile non-compliance once in my life and it was very telling of my psychological state. I was nineteen years old and I had just begun to rekindle a sexual relationship with my now partner. I was sexually involved with several other men at the time, none of whom I had any trouble in the bedroom with. However, whenever I would meet up with him I’d get so excited I would run to his place.

Then it happened. I couldn’t get hard. The man I wanted more than any of the other people I was sleeping with was engaging me in intercourse and I could not get it up. It had never happened before and it boggled my mind. I couldn’t understand how that was even possible. Helpfully, he was entirely nonplussed and it didn’t hamper our time together, but it lingered with me. The fear that it might happen again.

That fear stayed with me, the uncertainty of whether something was “wrong” with me. The problem didn’t persist with any of the other men I was seeing, so I figured it must have been a one-off. Until it happened again. This time I was upset. Why only with him was I unable to get an erection? Was I really so intimidated by him that I psyched myself out of arousal? Not only that, but we’d be intimate in the past without issue. Why was this time different?

I had a choice to make: feel bad about this or move on. The problem persisted a few more times, I think about five in the end. Each time my heart would sink. I’d ask my friends if this had happened to them. I knew the problem wasn’t physical because I could be physical with others. I wanted him, so what was the issue? Luckily, our sex life remained unhindered and I simply had to choose to get over it. To stop thinking about it, because I was making it worse.

I knew the problem was in my head, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t real. Eventually, though, it happened. I got hard. After the fact, of course, but at least it was happening. I was able to, and not because of anything I’d done other than let that fear go. Allowed myself the time to get comfortable and breathe, to relax. It hasn’t happened since that time, not with anyone I’ve been with and never again with him.

Something far more common for me is not being able to climax. It can take me hours to get myself to finish and unfortunately I’m the best there is at getting myself off. On top of which, I now take medication that can make it almost impossible for me to finish sometimes and it can be a real source of frustration, because no matter how turned on I am, I just can’t seem to orgasm.

It doesn’t help that my sexuality is all cerebral. Sensations, textures, sex acts, physiques, body parts and genitalia do nothing for me. I have no interest in the feeling of rubber or leather and particularly any moist sensations. I don’t experience attraction to someone else’s physical presence or appearance. I only get turned on by the dynamics between me and another person as we get to know each other, as well as situations involving my fetishes and other kinks.

To which end, I also have a very insensitive penis. My shaft experiences no sexual sensation whatsoever, so only the base of the head gets stimulated. I have no erogenous zones either, so I don’t appreciate my testicles or nipples or thighs being touched. I don’t like being nibbled or toying with hot and cold on my skin. Being spanked or electrocuted alone doesn’t turn me on and neither does sensory deprivation, the feeling of being bound or suspended, or any auditory stimulation. This is also why I don’t like sensual play, nor the vibrations of a wand or the feeling of being sucked off.

Because of this, anal stimulation and a vivid imagination was the only way I learnt to enjoy vanilla sex. Even with all of my kinky fantasies being played out in a session, I have been unable to orgasm. While endlessly frustrating, no one requires biological ‘proof’ of my enjoyment. No more is it necessary that the play end with mutual orgasms than it is the play involve unanimous arousal. It may feel frustrating, especially since edging does not work for me (a denied orgasm basically ensures the next one will be ‘ruined’), but the same principle applies. There is no right or wrong way to have sex, nor is there a need for physical arousal and completion.

My advice remains the same, that a safety net of trust, communication and honesty is the most crucial part of play. Beyond that, give yourself licence to take the time to get comfortable with your play partner. Judgment and resentment do not belong in the bedroom and anyone attempting to bring them in are not people you should be playing with.

Give yourself the freedom to ‘fail’ at sex. Let it be as awkward and silly and ridiculous as it is. There’s no shame in being yourself and in letting yourself be the way your mind and body feel in the moment.

Breathe. You’ll figure it out. Trust yourself and wait for your mind and body to align the good feelings. Pleasure cannot exist if any part of you is uncomfortable, or saying “not now” or “no”. Listen to yourself. There’s an endless ocean of pleasure to explore within you.