Does the thought of sexual contact make you shudder? Do you tend to avoid or limit sexual activity? Do you find sexual touch or even romantic touch, such as hugging or kissing your partner, unappealing or even repulsive?
If this sounds like you or your partner, it may be a case of sexual aversion. Sexual aversion is your body’s heightened response to sexual anxiety. First, it’s helpful understand why you might be experiencing it. Then, you can explore how to begin resolving it.
Where Does My Sexual Aversion Come From?
Some individuals who experience sexual aversion may have experienced sexual trauma or another type of trauma. They may have had one or more experiences where sexual contact was forced. Especially in formative years, such as childhood and adolescence, the brain is creating pathways to understand sexuality. If a sexual trauma occurs during these years, the brain may link sexual arousal or sexual touch with threat, danger, anxiety, or pain.
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However, some individuals I work with who experience sexual aversion cannot pinpoint any trauma. For these people, the issue is even more confusing because they do not understand why they feel so anxious. Usually, when such individuals look into their past (especially childhood and adolescence, when sexual connections are beginning to formulate), they find small messages of guilt, shame, or blame associated with sexual arousal or touch. Perhaps small comments from parents or school institutions created an atmosphere of body shame or shame about sexual arousal.
How Sexual Aversion Can Influence Your Thoughts and Emotions
Sexual aversion may be experienced even if you have a great relationship and find your partner attractive. Some common thoughts and emotions associated with sexual aversion may include:
You feel out of control.
Control is an essential component of aversion. Remember, aversion is an extreme form of anxiety. It is your body’s way of saying, “I do not want that. I do not like that. Stay away.” It protects your body from harm. When you feel that someone wants sex, expects sex, or even has the “right” to sex because you are married, you are feeling out of control.
You do not feel relaxed in sexual encounters.
Your body is almost in a state of “beyond anxiety” where you don’t necessarily feel nervous, but you feel repelled. Pay attention to your body. Do you feel nauseous or have stomach issues when you think about sex? Do you feel fluttery or nervous? Do you feel nothing at all and just sort of frozen?
You do not feel aroused, yet you engage in sex anyway.
Engaging in sexual activity when you are not aroused is harmful for your emotional well-being. If you are not aroused, your body is not connected with your mind during the act. You might do this because you feel guilty that you are never in the mood to be with your partner. However, it could be causing long-term damage.
5 Steps to Reduce Your Sexual Anxiety
It’s important to understand that sexual aversion is common, especially among women. You are not alone. To work on your sexual anxiety, follow these steps:
Assert your control over the situation by setting boundaries and ground rules.
Agree to limited sexual contact. If you experience sexual aversion, engage only in a type of sexual contact (hugging, holding hands, etc.) that you feel comfortable with. As you get more comfortable, increase the activities slowly over time. Take it week by week or month by month—whatever you’re comfortable with.
Practice mindfulness and relaxation techniques prior to and during a sexual encounter.
Stop engaging in intercourse until the aversion has subsided.
Consider finding a sex therapist, as this does not typically go away by continuing to engage in sex.
Understanding why you feel averse to sexual touch even if you love your partner is the first step in lowering your sexual anxiety. Work through the tips above to be more connected with your body and feel more comfortable when sexual contact occurs.