story: sexual anxiety


There was a time, a little over two years ago, when I was on a sexless streak. I hadn't had sex since my high school girlfriend broke up with me and I had no idea what to do to get a girl. I kind of assumed she'd fall into my lap without me having to do anything, and it would be love at first sight. Plus, I was terrified of girls. The idea of approaching someone on the street, or going on a date, or getting naked with someone sent my heart rate racing. Women were ethereal, unattainable. They could see right through me, I thought, and find me lacking. I was boring and nervous and skinny and my dick was too small and I wasn't sexually experienced and they all knew it.

 When I found the red pill, game and pick-up, things changed for me. For the first time, I started understanding human behaviour, and I realised you could change yourself, become more attractive. So, I started doing all the things I knew were attractive. I was honest and assertive on tinder. I initiated dates. I went for the kiss. I was cocky and funny. I was sexual and I played push-pull. I played the role of the Guy That Was Good With Girls. But I never felt the part. I was stuck in a weird limbo state: I desperately wanted sex, and I felt like I had all the information I needed to get it, but I also felt like a total fraud. As a result, I went on a lot of good dates that went nowhere. One time I brought a girl home and we sat in my bedroom for an hour talking. To this day I can remember the expectant look in her eye, like she was waiting for me to make a move. And the disappointment when I didn't. But I was terrified of sex. When I thought about it, my heart rate increased, I felt a knot in my stomach and I imagined everything going wrong, my embarrassment and my failure.

This turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. I had met a girl who agreed to a friends with benefits relationship. We got naked. I reached for the condom, heart pounding at the perceived significance of what was happening. By the time I tried to put it on, I was too soft. I tried everything. But I had never felt more unaroused in my whole life. I cracked a joke, she laughed, we got dressed and went out to lunch. I acted like it was a one-off and I didn't care, but I cared more than anyone in the history of the world had EVER cared about their sexual performance. It stayed on my mind for days. What if it happened again? We stopped seeing each other not long after.

New Year's Eve rolled around, and I found myself in bed with another girl, heart racing with the thrill of bare skin, a part of me really unbelieving that someone could actually want to sleep with me. And again, the anxious hand squeezing a little at my guts, the worry at the back of my mind. I pulled out a condom. Unwrapped it. Raced to put it on. You can guess what happened.

"Sorry," I said. "My dick doesn't want to cooperate."

Keeping a light, joking tone as always, while my insides crumbled.

"That's okay," she smiled, wearily almost. She rolled over and fell alseep. I sat in the darkness and thought about how much of a fuck-up I was. I needed to change this. I needed to get past such a dumb psychological roadblock.

The problem, as I'm sure any guy who has experienced this recognises, is that the more you think about your dick going soft, the more real a problem you seem to make it. The more real, the more likely, the more anxious you get. It's enough to make you just want to swear off sex altogether and become a monk.

But we both know you want sex. You want intimacy and connection and physical affection like all of us. You just want to give up because you're scared you might embarrass yourself with your own inadequacy. 

So how did I get past it? 

When I started dating my girlfriend, the same thoughts were hanging over me. Getting past it was basically a mix of shifting the way I thought about it, and simply getting more acclimatised with sexual experiences. First, I was honest with her. Or at least, I learned to be honest. I acted cocky and experienced at first, but I knew how incongruent that was with how I was feeling. So I told her that I was nervous about being good enough sexually, about going soft again, about everything. And guess what? She was nervous too. This is a reality check: girls are insecure as well. About their bodies, about being good in bed, about themselves as people. If you're nervous, you're probably not the only one. We're all good at putting on fronts. Be honest with girls.

As I started going further sexually, I got more of a perspective about sex itself. When we get anxious about it, it's usually because we've turned sex into this glorious, otherworldly, awe-inspiring, terrifying thing. In reality, it's two humans doing a normal thing that feels nice, like going out to eat lunch together. It's just body parts and sensations. And yeah, it's easy to say that. But it's the truth. Sex can be wonderful, but it's not a big deal. We make it a big deal when we tie our self-esteem and sense of worth into it.

Another realisation I had was that it didn't really make sense to care so much what one person thought about me and my penis. Even if I went soft, and I was bad at oral, and she was bored, what then? One person would have an opinion about me. A person that, like me and all our mutual acquaintances, will be dead in less than a century. 

Here's something that's a big deal: thinking you're enough, just as you are. You and I know neither of us are perfect. But you know what? You're okay. You're enough, just as you are, with all your messed-up thoughts and anxieties and freckles and your dick that leans a little to the left. That sounds corny as fuck but so many of us spend our lives chasing some kind of validation that we're good and likable just as we are. So why not just tell yourself that you are? I started doing that, and it reduced a lot of sexual worry. "No matter what, I'm alright. I'm good enough."

Basically, I eased myself into sex. I allowed myself to feel insecure and nervous and embarrassed at times. And the first time we had sex guess what? It wasn't Hollywood material. It wasn't even pornhub material probably.  But I almost felt like crying I was so relieved. I could have sex. I wasn't a fuck-up. And over time, I got a lot better at it. I started feeling confident. All the things I was telling myself about being enough became easier to believe, as if by practise.

The next New Year's Eve rolled around. My girlfriend and I hung out with Daniel and his Finnish friend Anna. We watched the fireworks, drank champagne, waved them both off, and went to bed. Clothes came off slowly, unhurriedly. One year on and all my angst and worry had been replaced with confidence, affection, desire and ease.

Since the first time we had sex, I've never gone soft again. But even if I ever did, I'd be able to laugh about it. And this time, I'd actually mean it. 

- Conor