Performance Anxieties

While performance anxieties can have many contributing causes, their symptoms are rather predictable. People with performance anxieties experience a mental pressure (internally and/or externally imposed) to have their body (more specifically, usually their genitals) “perform” in a specific way. This can include thinking that a man needs to get and maintain a powerful erection through the entirety of his sexual activities, culminating into a wonderful crescendo of orgasmic release. This man might also expect himself to ejaculate plenty of seminal fluid, and may even have expectations that his ejaculate be of a certain viscosity, color, projectile power and/or distance. Play partners will sometimes also have similar expectations of their male partners, which adds to the pressure and anxiety, therefore increasing the likelihood that neither will get what they hope to achieve.

Women’s performance anxieties tend to revolve around being sufficiently wet, wanting her body to be or look a certain way (or only seen from certain angles). She might believe the false narrative that she is responsible for making her partner climax, especially if her partner is male, and that failure to do so means that she did a “bad” job, that her partner doesn’t find her attractive, or both. On top of that, she may also think that she needs to have an orgasm. Of course, many woman have internalized a societal pressure to look flawless and sexy during this acrobatic exercise and mental plate spinning.

Now, dear reader, imagine trying to have sex while being either one of these people. Sex might begin to feel more like a chore or work than a place where you can creatively connect with your partner, be in the moment, roll with unexpected events with grace, and accept that genitals don’t always do what we wish they would. Terming these unmet expectations as a sexual “dysfunction” does not seem to be helpful or accurate.

After all, when we put pressure on our genitals to perform in a certain way, the fact that we experience difficulty achieving these unrealistically strict standards is actually to be expected. You can imagine that an Olympic figure skater who tells themself to “stick this landing. You better stick this landing. Do not mess up this landing. People are watching. Don’t embarrass yourself” would feel more rigid, less fluid, and less natural on the ice and in their routine, thereby creating the exact difficulties they hope to avoid.

A better description than sexual or genital “dysfunction” is an unwanted genital response that is, barring any medical factors, functioning just fine. After all, the more anxious and stressed we are, the more we are taken out of the moment (and our bodies) and into our heads, and the less aroused we become. Our genitals are actually functioning exactly as they should. Most of us wouldn’t want them working in top form when we very frightened, sad, or furious, which are emotions, just as anxiety is.

So, let your body do what it does best: responding to what you’re choosing to focus on, and then practice acceptance when it doesn’t do exactly what you’d prefer it would do. We can learn to appreciate our bodies and minds as parts of us that need certain conditions to be met in order to increase the chances of them doing what we’d like them to, rather than being simple machines waiting for orders to fuck and cum.

In the process of this acceptance, many people experience the paradoxical pleasure of having more or longer-lasting erections, more orgasms, more lubrication, and feeling sexier than when they placed harsh expectations on themselves. Let’s be sure, though, not to return to being outcome-focused, leaving the process of acceptance as the main goal.