Performance anxiety and pressure around pleasure in sexual activities can be a significant concern for many of us, men, women and non-binary people alike. Performance anxiety exists for all genders and even professional porn performers and sex workers in general experience it – you are not alone. We were raised in a society where people don’t talk about sex, especially not when it involves being vulnerable or being perceived as weak or unable. Often it is not acceptable for penis owners to speak openly about their struggles with performance anxiety.
The Importance of Talking About Performance Anxiety
But talking about this topic and de-shaming performance anxiety, is an important first step towards finding ways to overcome it. This is why I decided to use this article to approach the subject from a personal point of view. I interviewed some of my colleagues and fellow porn performers to find out how they cope with performance anxiety. The strategies, thoughts and practices we share here can be practiced by people from all genders and sexes and will hopefully make you understand that there is nothing to be ashamed of.
The desire to satisfy your sexual partners and to feel confident in your sexual self is not only very human and normal, it’s also likely to make you a more thoughtful and mindful lover for your partners and to yourself. If you maintain a positive approach to the desire of pleasing your partner, you can use this mindset as a gateway to learn, overcome and re-educate yourself, leaving behind the pleasure-lacking sex ed and many sex myths and ideas we’ve all been taught growing up.
Let’s dive into it head first – literally and figuratively.
Myth 1: I need to have an erection to satisfy my partner or to express my own pleasure
Having an erection is not the only way to please your partner or to express your own pleasure. This was a surprise for me too some time ago. Today I believe it is a construct, created by poor, male-centric and heteronormative sex education. As a matter of fact, from my own experience, I know that one can give and receive full-body orgasmic pleasure without having an erection. Our bodies are a playground full of magical pleasure points, our arousal doesn’t need to be focused on our genitals.
There are many ways to give sexual pleasure, the possibilities are endless. Putting the focus on your erection can even distract you from your experience. Moreover as a porn performer and in my personal life, I came to the understanding that the more I focus on my pleasure and the sensations I experience, the easier it is for me to express my arousal through my genitals as well. Enjoy the moment, enjoy sex with all your senses, focus for example on the smell and the sounds. This is where pleasure really lies and not necessarily in the practice of penetrative sex or in the intensity of your erection. Let go of the thought that the only way to have sex is by penetration and just enjoy sharing an intimate moment with someone you like. Erection doesn’t always go hand in hand with pleasure.
Myth 2: The intensity of my sexual encounters depends on how long I can perform for
Premature ejaculation or on the other hand the difficulty to climax is also a concern I used to experience myself. As a performer I realized that pressure plays a big role here.
It can be a first step to find out if it is a medical issue related to a variety of conditions that might affect you or if it is emotional and stress related. However, it is important to understand that many penis owners share this concern and we are here to walk you through it. In this process you can hopefully find a way to release the shame around the subject.
In my personal opinion I believe that the idea that sexual encounters must end with an orgasm or on the other hand must end when you climax is inherently wrong and has been constructed by the media we consume. Receiving and giving pleasure can be timeless and if we let go of our focus on orgasms we can experience our sexuality more intensely. The aim can then be more to feel into the moment than to get to a certain point in the act.
Myth 3: Asking for consent or talking during sex is a turn off
Absolutely not. Communication with your sexual partners is a must – whether it is a one night stand or a long term relationship. For sure it can be difficult when you start practicing communication in sex for the first time, but in the end it will be for your own and your partner’s benefit.
The lack of communication can have a deep connection to your anxiety levels – for me it was the fear of being rejected. Of course it can be difficult to receive a no from your sexual partners, but sexual exploration requires a deep level of consent and trust, which we earn through communicating.
The belief that we should be able to make love naturally without words can be terrifying. Communication is key here, because sexuality is not something that comes naturally to us – it is learnt. Asking your partner what they like and how they like it will wipe out many insecurities and help you move with confidence. Each one of us is special and likes to be touched in their own special way.
Ways to Ditch Performance Anxiety
Now that we’ve debunked the myths that might add to your troubles, here are some practical tips on what you can do to ease your performance anxiety and enjoy your sexual encounters to the fullest.
Tip 1: Find safe places and partners you feel comfortable with
In this matter just like many other subjects surrounding sexuality, trust is key. When you can speak openly with your sexual partners this can be highly liberating. Sharing emotions and fears will open up a more intimate and safe space in which you can explore your sexuality freely. Intimacy and open communication are a turn on, and a big part of the path leading to your sexual liberation.
Tip 2: Hire a sex worker
A common opinion about sex workers is that we are here only to satisfy one’s pleasure or sexual fantasies. I strongly support the opinion that working with the right sex workers can help practicing communication and processing unresolved trauma. The natural mindspaces and the freedom from judgment that come with practicing sexuality with a sex worker can help you find out how to overcome sexual and intimacy related challenges and through this tapping into your body and sexuality.
Tip 3: Check out pleasure mapping and anatomy
Pleasure mapping is a technique that is used to explore and understand one’s own body and sexual desires. It can also bring you to a better understanding of your sexual partner’s preferences and desires.
Anatomy moreover plays a crucial role in pleasure mapping, as it helps us understand the different structures and functions of the body that contribute to sexual pleasure. Pleasure mapping can be done alone or with a partner and it can be a simple self-exploration or a guided session with a therapist or a body worker.
The idea that we should know naturally what our sexual partner desires is a big component in performance anxiety and yet another misconception that should not have a place in healthy sexuality.
Tip 4: Listen to diverse voices & stay playful
In my research around the subject I have decided to look a bit out of the box and instead of only giving you the opinion of a penis owner, I wanted to also include the opinion of a vagina owner. I asked my colleague Malou Sauvage for her opinion on the matter.
Malou is a full service sex worker and body worker and here is what she had to say:
“Stay playful. Come into your experience with the simple purpose of finding out what turns you and your sexual partner on at this moment. Try to be present in the moment from a mindset of curiosity. Leave out goals or ideas of how your sexuality should look like. Wipe out words like foreplay or “real sex” in comparison to non penetrative sex. The purer you are willing to step into the encounter the easier it will be for you to experience pleasure and enjoy your body to ecstasy.“
Tip 5: Listen to diverse voices & be easy on yourself
Another precious opinion on the topic I received from Bishop Black. Bishop is a non-binary performer for adult content, in porn as well as on stage.
Here are some of the tips they shared with me:
„One thing I like to do is watch my partner pleasure themselves. To see them enjoying themselves in front of me is something that I find very hot and maintains this sense of connection. In one way I can take a break from trying to hit two rocks together and get a spark, and for another thing, I can learn what things turn my partner on when they play with themselves. It turns the focus outwards and takes the pressure off.
Another tip would be to take a bit more time and let the guards down, and that would be receiving pleasure in ways that are not genitalia focused. Massages are great to help oneself calm down and feel more grounded. Playing with other erogenous zones like my nipples also help. Or just straight up body contact and hugging or kissing”
In conclusion Bishop added (and this is maybe my favorite part):
“In a society in which we seem to be demanding with results, we don’t get the chance to slow down and be present. Sex is not a checklist, nor is it something to conquer or even master. We are human and have human bodies that respond to internal and external stimuli in different ways. It’s okay to take a break. It’s okay to drink water. It’s okay to just chill and talk for a bit. Some days things don’t work out the way we want. But things are not so set in stone and there is always a work around.“