Terrified of sexual intimacy? Follow our tips to overcome your fear in the bedroom.
By Karen Gordon
If you’re new to the dating scene or returning after a break, irrespective of your situation, if you’re out of practice then the concept of getting up close and personal with someone new can be intimidating.
We’ve all been there: feeling shy, bashful or even self-conscious in the lead up to a sexual encounter with a new partner. But for some men and women, the idea of sex can be so terrifying, they avoid it altogether.
We speak to psychosexual therapist at the College of Sexual Relationship TherapistsKrystal Woodbridge and sex and relationships expert Tracey Cox about facing your fears and learning how to enjoy sex:
Body confidence in the bedroom
Whether it’s due to a bad experience in the past, body confidence issues, sexual dysfunction or anticipation about future sexual encounters, many people find the thought of sex incredibly intimidating. According to Woodbridge, finding sex scary is often centred around body image issues, especially for women, and how they perceive their partner wants them to look.
Finding sex intimidating is often centred around body image issues.
‘Many women also don’t have the confidence to initiate sex,’ says Woodbridge. ‘It’s quite common, particularly for women who struggle in this area, that they haven’t actually explored their own body through things like masturbation or understood their own sexual fantasies, sexual desires or urges.’
But it’s not just women who suffer. Many men feel the pressure to perform and this constant worry about their ability in bed can lead to performance anxiety. ‘Men often feel like they need to act in a certain way, maintain an erection and take charge of the situation – and for some men this can be really intimidating,’ adds Woodbridge.
Is it related to sexual dysfunction?
‘Often these issues can put people off getting into a new relationship because when it comes to initiating sex, which would be something they normally do, they hold back because they don’t want their partner to know that there’s some kind of sexual problem,’ says Woodbridge.
If this is the case, you might benefit from speaking to a sex therapist. Ask your GP for advice or visit the College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists to find a therapist specialising in sexual and relationship issues
Are your fears of intimacy a phobia?
If your fear of sex or sexual intimacy is more than just pre-date nerves, you might be suffering from genophobia.
If your fear of sex is more than just pre-date nerves, you might be suffering from genophobia.
This is a condition that can cause such profoundly intense fear of sexual intimacy that it results in physical and psychological reactions that can ultimately interfere with your life.
If this sounds familiar, you might benefit from speaking to a therapist to better understand your phobia. For more information speak to your GP or visit Triumph Over Phobia, a charity set up to help sufferers of phobias.
6 tips to overcome your sexual fear
Feeling insecure and anxious about sex? This can be overcome. Tracey Cox offers the following expert tips on how to turn your fear into fun:
1. Only have sex when you’re ready
Forget any preconceived notions you have about having to climb into bed on date three. Have sex when you feel ready – when you know, trust and feel comfortable enough to sleep with them.
Also remember, unless you’re planning on dating an 18-year-old supermodel, your new lover’s body isn’t going to be perfect either. While you’re frantically sucking in your stomach or worrying about how big your bum is, he’s nervous about the light hitting that not-so-well-concealed bald spot or wondering if the arms you’re grabbing on to aren’t as muscular as your exes.
2. Explore your own body first
If you’re not already doing this, start having some solo sex sessions to get your body used to the feeling of orgasm – perhaps by experimenting with sex toys. There are some great beginners’ sex toys you can try.
The more you explore your body and know what feels good and what doesn’t, the more confident you will feel when you are in bed with someone else. Sex toys are a great way to discover how your body works and what it responds to, making you sexually happier and more confiden
3. Take it one day at a time
Start off slowly with foreplay. When you both really like each other, and are both nervous, this is the sexual equivalent of getting into the freezing swimming pool slowly rather than diving in at the deep end. The thought of having full sex after a few foreplay sessions together will feel a lot less scary.
4. Start with the basics
Another big concern for people who find sex intimidating is: what if I don’t know what to do? Aren’t people doing stuff in bed I don’t know about? Both sexes worry about this one – and unnecessarily. The way we meet people to have sex with might have completely changed but once you’re having it, it’s pretty much the same scenario. After all, there are only so many physical sex acts you can perform and most people stick to the basics first time around.
🤔 Requests for ‘kinky stuff’, if it’s going to happen, tend to happen a few months in so you’re safe for now. If they do suggest something you’re not comfortable with, simply say ‘I don’t think I’m ready for that now. Can we stick to basics until we know each other better?’
5. Change your attitude
Sex isn’t an exam. You’re not going to be graded pass or fail (and if it feels like you are, you’re with the wrong person). So, stop stressing and thinking: ‘this has got to be perfect’. Perfect sex happens to people in movies; normal people muddle through the first time.
6. Don’t be afraid to dim the lights
Lighting is crucial – especially if you’re feeling body conscious. Don’t be scared to say what you need. If you want it really dark the first time you go to bed together, say so. You can start turning up the dimmer switch when your confidence increases.
Sex and relationship resources
For additional help and support, try one of the following resources:
- Brook: for under 25.
- Relate: relationship counselling support for couples and families.
- Samaritans: free, 24/7 emotional support to anyone in distress.
- Spark: free, confidential relationship help.
- COSRT: therapists specialising in sexual and relationship issues.
- Institute of Psychosexual Medicine: charity providing education, training and research in psychosexual medicine.
- Triumph Over Phobia: a charity set up to help sufferers of phobias.