I Think I’m Too Anxious to Have Sex!

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Dear Dr. NerdLove:

I am a 31-year-old woman who hasn’t done a lot of dating in my life. I had 2 boyfriends in high school, but due to a combination of reasons, haven’t been in a relationship since then. The main thing I want to talk about here is that I have never had sex – never even close!

I started dating a wonderful man a couple months ago. I know he has more experience than I do, and he knows my (lack of) experience, and he has been happy to let me set the pace of our intimacy, both physically and otherwise. And as much as I am really enjoying getting to know him, spending time with him, kissing him, talking to him, etc., I have started to have some creeping anxieties related to physical intimacy.

I was raised in purity culture, and have been deconstructing that for a few years now (and I’m in therapy for that and other reasons!), but it left me with a lingering fear of being touched by most men. My boyfriend is incredibly patient, and he makes me feel safe and comfortable, and I love him touching me – to a certain point. And it’s one thing to deconstruct a belief about sex, and quite another to face the reality that it might actually happen after all this time.

How do I deal with this anxiety? I’m afraid of pain, of course, but I’m also afraid I’ll freeze up, or make it bad for him, and even though I personally have deconstructed, I’m a little afraid of being judged for going on overnight trips with him in the future if those happen. While I am happy to show off some cleavage for him, I am also terrified of him seeing my naked body, and possibly not finding it attractive. I am very attracted to him, and I like him a lot – I want sex to happen! But I have a lot of fears to deal with first, and I don’t know how to do that.

First Time Jitters

Anxiety weasels are annoying, FTJ; you may know intellectually that they’re just annoying little bastards that only exist to make you miserable, that there’s nothing real about them and that everything is actually fine… but that doesn’t necessarily make them go away.

Unfortunately, with a lot of forms of anxiety or nerves – especially ones that come from long-standing beliefs or an upbringing like yours – is that you’re trying to uproot things that’ve had decades to dig in. It’s kinda like trying to pull up a tree stump only to realize its root network’s twisted up with the other trees around it and now trying to uproot that one means pulling against other, equally established beliefs.

Which is why I’m a big believer in the “fuck subtlety” school of uprooting and prefer dynamite.

But not everyone wants or need the “where’s the earth-shattering kaboom?” approach to dealing with anxieties… and in your case, I think that part of the problem is that you have an all-or-nothing view of sex that’s causing you to lock up.

Now before we talk about what you can do, let’s take a second to talk about your boyfriend here. You, FTJ, have a really good guy on your hands. He’s being incredibly kind, gentle and caring, giving you time to acclimate, taking things at your pace and generally allowing you to take on these experiences (and their attendant anxieties) at a speed that you’re comfortable with. All of that suggests to me that you don’t need to worry about how he’s going to react. In fact, I suspect that the first time you two do have intercourse (not sex, intercourse), he’s going to be making sure this is all about making sure it’s a good experience for you, not worrying about him. Which, frankly, makes him the sort of partner you’d want for your first time.

Now I think part of what’s tripping you up is that you’re seeing sex as something that’s going to happen all at once – you’re going to go from “letting your boyfriend see your cleavage” and “fun happy make-outs” to “OK, time to demonstrate I’ve read the Kama Sutra” and it really doesn’t have to be like that. In fact, I think you’d do better if it didn’t go like that.

What I would suggest instead is that you continue doing what you’ve been doing: taking things slowly and incrementally at a pace that you can handle. You don’t, for example, have to go straight to “naked in front of him for the first time, now it’s time for penetration!”. You can take things in stages – more intimate physical touch, more sensual make-outs, moving to taking off clothes at a time – as you get more comfortable with each stage. So just because you aren’t necessarily ready for penetration doesn’t mean that you can’t, say, move to touching his penis and letting his hands explore your body over and under your clothes, but with your underwear still on.

You can also try other forms of sex that might be more comfortable for you right now. You could, for example, go old school and try phone sex together; you can let it all happen in the theater of the mind while you and he talk and rub one out in separate rooms. When it’s literally all just in your heads, it can be much easier to let some of your hang-ups go and let everything be as smooth and perfect as you want; it’s all just words and imagination. You can do anything with words and imagination.

Once you’re comfortable with the idea of being sexual, then it becomes easier to to take it from the mental to the physical. And again: you can take it slowly as you get more confident not just in yourself but in your connection to your boyfriend.

You can also detach some of these stages from sex entirely. Instead of making the first time you get naked be right before sex – thus increasing your anxiety – you could make it a more playful but less immediately sexual. You might find it easier to, say, go skinny dipping together, especially if it feels more spur-of-the-moment. A dark night, a pool with a reasonable amount of privacy and oops neither of you brought a swimsuit OH WELL… and then the two of you are splashing around and enjoying yourselves without feeling the need to perform and you’re too distracted by enjoying yourself to worry about being judged.

But about that: I don’t think you have to worry. First and foremost: people generally don’t stick around for months – especially months of relatively restrained physical intimacy – with people they don’t genuinely find attractive and desirable. People who do this also don’t generally do this unless they’re actively invested in the relationship or to put all this time in because they’re just… I dunno, trying to win a particularly fucked up bet or something.

Your boyfriend has been gentle and patient and kind with you every step of the way. I would be shocked to my goddamn core if he were to then immediately blow all of that, look at you and say “eww” or something equally heinous.

I’d also point out that by the time clothes start coming off, it’s fate accompli. If he wasn’t into you and didn’t think you were hot, he would’ve bounced before now. Clothes can mask a lot of sins but to be perfectly blunt, they don’t hide that much. You’d have to have Kuato coming out of your midsection to really get a “ugh how could I ever have thought I was into you?” reaction. The minor flaws and imperfections that we all have – the ones that we’re convinced are the most horrific things everrrr – are all things that we zero in on because we know they’re there. 99.9% of the people you’ll be intimate with won’t notice and if they do they won’t care. If he’s the sort of person who’d be that crass or cruel, I think he’d have tipped his hand way before now.

But what if the sex is awkward or you’re not the best he’s ever had? Well… so? Not to downplay your worries, but the first time with anyone is always going to be something of a learning experience, because everyone’s coming to sex with different experiences, different desires, different needs and different hard-no’s. Part of being intimate with someone is learning about those differences, how to accommodate them or how to avoid them if needed. In fact, this is one area where queer people have a leg up on us straights: they don’t default to “this is what sex is for everyone”. A lot – even a majority – of queer sexual encounters start with “what are you into?”

What if you make it bad for him? Like i said: I suspect your first couple times will be all about you – he knows what he likes and is into, after all. You, on the other hand are visiting this land for the first time and he’s clearly volunteering to be your tour guide. And as your tour guide, he’s going to want to show you all the cool stuff and maybe some personal favorites. If you can let yourself relax and treat it as someone showing you around a place for the first time so you can get familiar with the area, I think you’ll have a good time. You’ll learn, you’ll experience and you’ll be able to return the favor to him too. As I’m always telling nervous virgin men: a willingness to listen, to pay attention to verbal and non-verbal signals and not letting your ego (or your anxieties) get in the way will help immensely there.

What if you freeze up? Well… you freeze up. And then your boyfriend stops, strokes your hair and your back and you two cuddle until either your nerves have eased or you both decide to get some sleep and try again later.

But you know what makes sex – even for a total newbie – less awkward and more fun? A willingness to just embrace the awkward and have funSex is absurd. Sex is ridiculous. People make the dumbest faces, say the weirdest things, parts poke in places they weren’t supposed to poke, the Spotify playlist skips straight to “Go Go Power Rangers” or the cat decides that it’s going to get incredibly comfortable on the small of your back… even while you’re otherwise occupied. You basically have to laugh at it all because come on.

Sex is too important to take seriously is what I’m saying.

So take a long, slow breath. Take another and breathe it out even slower. Remember that you’ve got a really good guy here and this is something you both really want. You want it to be good for him. He wants it to be good for you.

I think between the two of you, you’ll be able to make things work for each other.

Good luck.


Dear Dr. NerdLove:
I saw this handsome guy who had braided his hair around Takoradi market circle seated in front of a shop with another guy who had also weaved his hair. we gazed at each other a lot. He start to follow me around but he couldn’t talk to me neither did I cos I was with my dad and bro now I regret not approaching him and I don’t know where he is now and I can’t stop thinking about him.

What do I do now Dr?

Want A Second Opportunity

This is going to sound like an odd digression WASO, especially if you didn’t live in America in a very specific point and time, but stick with me for a moment.

You know what I kinda miss? I miss the “Missed Connections” section of personals. Whether it was the classic alt-weekly page-filler or the best part of Craigslist, Missed Connections were just a gold mine. For every “you blinked twice at me while also being unspeakably hot, clearly we’re soulmates” entry, you would have dozens of flash-fiction stories, little moments of human connection in 200 words or fewer. So many little points of time when you can practically see the branching arcs of their stories, little hits of possibility that range from brief conversations to living lifetimes in the span of one evening, Before Sunrise style.

And so many of these stories hinge on the tension between a burgeoning attraction and the fear that these moments are more ephemeral than a soap bubble and more easily lost than tears in the rain.

And most of the time a reminder that you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

(The rest of the time, they’re a reminder that computers and phones will go dead at the most inconvenient times, so keeping pen and paper on hand will never go out of style.)

But while the romantic in me likes those stories and I can turn off the dating-coach part of my brain long enough to appreciate them as stories, they’re still often a case of someone making a mountain out of a molehill and mistaking physical attraction for… well, something far less fleeting.

Now I mention this precisely because that’s what we have here, WASO. For all that it feels like the opening lyrics to an old standard – some enchanted afternoon, you’ll see a stranger… – this is just a moment. You saw a really pretty man and had a moment where your stomach did flip-flops. That’s ultimately all it was. Everything after that is your brain filling in a whole lot of blank spaces and “what ifs” based on nothing more than “really handsome guy at the market looked at me”. It’s very easy to regret those because now that missed connection is literally anything you could want it to be. He could be a gangster with a heart of gold who needs the love of a special woman to show him a different way of life. He could be a tech entrepreneur visiting his old haunts with a friend from back in the day, whose life of wealth and influence is lacking someone to show him what’s important in life. Or he could be the impulsive, devil-may-care kind of person who lives every moment of his life to the fullest and wants to show you the beauty and adventure of the world around you.

None of this is to say that he might not have been an awesome guy, don’t get me wrong. It’s just worth remembering that you don’t know anything about him other than his looks and that you missed your chance to learn more. Everything after that is just an exercise of your imagination, letting him become whatever he represents to you.

So what do you do now? Well… you can always revisit the market and hope that fate’s willing to smile on you twice. There’s a non-zero chance that you could run into him again if he and his friend hang out there regularly. But if I’m being honest… this is a long shot, and the odds that you’ll run into him are very, very low.

What I’d suggest is that you take a lesson from this: fate (or God, the Force, or the Universe) may show you a door, but you have to make the choice to walk through it. Luck is more than just random chance taken personally; luck is what happens when you’re in a position to make the most of an moment that presents itself to you. The people who we see as being “lucky” tend to be the ones who don’t hesitate when they see an opportunity and try to take full advantage. If you see someone who gives you those butterflies and flip-flops, and your family isn’t going to prevent you, then swallow those nerves and go say “hello”. If you’re having a conversation with someone you’re into and its going well, be willing to take the initiative and ask for their number or to connect on WhatsApp instead of hoping that they’ll do it first.

Yeah, it can be scary and intimidating, but that’s the thing about leaps of faith: you’re taking a leap without knowing what’s going to happen next. You’re making yourself vulnerable in the moment, with someone you don’t know. That means you’re opening yourself up for the possibility of being rejected or the chance that they’re a case of Crouching Nice Guy, Hidden Douchebag. You run the risk of falling when you make that leap and you have no idea how far down the bottom may be.

And sometimes when you make those leaps, you fly.

But that can’t happen until you take that leap. So enjoy the stories of What Might Have Been with this handsome stranger in the market place. But let it be a reminder that you’re ultimately the one in charge of your own fate; mysterious forces may put you in the same place, but you’re the one who has to make it all happen.

Good luck.

This post was previously published on Doctornerdlove.com and is republished on medium.


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