Stressed about sex? You're not alone—here's how to work on it

Forget those taboo notions society instilled in you

Sad woman in bed black and white
(Image credit: Getty Images/Image Source)

Feeling stressed about sex? You are certainly not alone—a shockingly high number of women experience anxiety between the sheets. Even though there are plenty of efforts to destigmatize female pleasure and reset our sex lives, there is still a long way to go.

According to the wellness app Ferly, a survey of 20,000 women revealed that nearly three-quarters of participants are nervous about sex, 71% to be exact, and those ages 31-35 are the most affected. 

The findings also uncovered that nearly 30% of participants are anxious before, during and after the act. It doesn't get any better either, according to the survey—and rather unfortunately—a staggering 85% of women will in turn judge or speak down to themselves as a result of their insecurities. 

Likewise, findings from Yoppie indicate that 50% of women in the UK are uneasy about being intimate: 51% experience anxiety regularly, 13%  experience it very frequently and 9% claim it happens every time, or nearly every time, they get into bed. What's more, 64% of women will avoid the act because of their fears.

Considering sex is supposed to be a positive experience that makes you more in tune with your body and your partner, it's rather concerning that these numbers are so high. What causes these issues, and how can we move forward?

Why do women feel stressed about sex?

From negative experiences and past trauma to high expectations and body insecurities, women's reasons for stressing about intimacy are lengthy and valid. However, it's time to take back the pleasure. 

How to stop feeling stressed about sex

Although there's no magic cure, we consulted the professionals to uncover the many ways to work through negativity in the bedroom. 

“Sex anxiety is incredibly common but, because it relates to one of our more private moments, it’s an anxiety that women will choose not to speak openly about," says Yoppie founder Daniella Peri. "This decision not to talk about it only works to create more vulnerability and more anxiety and all too often it can be solved with a little communication."

Let's dive in to the expert-backed tips. 

1. Establish trust with your partner

Women should never feel pressured to engage in any type of activity that makes them feel uncomfortable, nor a partner who insists on something that doesn't feel right. Talking about sex is the best way to get on the same page, and experts say it makes the act feel more pleasurable.

Should you at any point feel concerned about your well-being, reach out to organizations like RAINN that work to combat sexual assault and violence. 

2. Manage your expectations

Not all sex-related anxiety stems from abusive behavior, but there are still plenty of problematic areas that need to be addressed. For example, societal expectations. Whether it's achieving the "perfect" look or trying to match experiences to famous sex scenes, they're not only unrealistic, but they're unhealthy. 

How long should sex last? How often should you have sex? Throw the need for a magic number out the window. 

Unlike what you see in the movies, there are going to be embarrassing situations and times where you and your partner are not totally in sync, which is not only normal, it's expected.

Couples therapist and sexuality expert Dr. Katherine Hertlein shares her thoughts on the silver screen's most famous sex scenes, and chances are her insight will make you see these romance movies completely differently going forward.

3. Focus on other activities

Who said romantic encounters have to just be about sex? If you're worried, the experts at Yoppie recommend a little experimentation.

"Focussing on foreplay and removing the idea of penetrative sex can often calm the mind and perhaps lead to a moment where the anxiety can be overcome," they say.

Lesbian couple relaxing on bed, hugging, laughing

(Image credit: Getty)

4. Establish a self-love routine

Another factor that adds to our jitters? Taboo. The masturbation gap between men and women is starting to close, according to Womanizer's new study, but women are still on edge about engaging in self-love. 

Women should be enjoying their "me time" just as much as men. After all, our orgasms 101 guide indicates many benefits for reaching your pleasure points: a mood boost, better sleep, reduced pain when period cramps hit and so on. There's no reason to think that your self-love practice is any less important than others.

Even better news? Solo sex actually makes sex with your partner even better, according to Dr. Blair, a clinical psychologist and co-founder of the Lover app.

"Masturbation is an incredibly powerful way to optimize your sexual health by helping you unlearn unhelpful habits and replace them with ones that will get you closer to the sexual experiences you want," she says. 

Considering Ferly also revealed that nearly 42% of women are unfamiliar with what they desire sexually, the only way to find out is by doing. (And these hands-free vibrators might be of help.)

5. Work on your confidence

Though easier said than done, a self-esteem boost will make things less stressful between the sheets. Be mindful about the way you speak to yourself—you need to show yourself the same respect you show others. 

If this means cutting down on social media or flagging negative self-talk, per Yoppie, make note of what makes you feel insecure and try to remove it from your daily routines. 

We've wondered many times: Is Instagram bad for mental health? Will heavily edited photos make us question our beauty standards? Scrolling affects all areas of our lives, so we give you permission to take a little break if you need one. 

6. Seek help from a professional

There is no shame in asking for some help—especially if it can help rid your mind of the negativity.

"Talk to a professional who can shed light on the cause of anxiety and suggest exercises or techniques to improve it," Yoppie experts say. "GPs can often connect people with NHS therapists, or private options are, of course, available."

Things might not always be a breeze, romantically speaking, but we'll help guide you towards the most pleasurable experiences possible.

Danielle Valente
Digital News Writer

Need a TV show recommendation? Maybe a few decor tips? Danielle, a digital news writer at Future, has you covered. Her work appears throughout the company’s lifestyle brands, including My Imperfect Life, Real Homes, and woman&home. Mainly, her time is spent at My Imperfect Life, where she’s attuned to the latest entertainment trends and dating advice for Gen Z.

Before her time at Future, Danielle was the editor of Time Out New York Kids, where she got to experience the best of the city from the point of view of its littlest residents. Before that, she was a news editor at Elite Daily. Her work has also appeared in Domino, Chowhound, and amNewYork, to name a few. 

When Danielle’s not writing, you can find her testing out a new recipe, reading a book (suggestions always welcome), or rearranging the furniture in her apartment…again.