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Ask Athena: I'm Worried I Might Mess Up Sex


Hey Athena!

So, I'm new to sex in general, and I'm exploring new things with both myself and my girlfriend. I'm scared of doing anything embarrassing in front of her and can't even think about doing sexual things with her because I get so flustered I might mess up. I know that sex is very messy in general and lots of things can happen — that's natural — but are there any tips or tricks that can put my mind at ease? I really want to be with her, and I feel like I'm ready. I'm just terrified that I could make a mistake or do something wrong.

Thank you!

Nervous and Forlorn

Dear N&F,

Anxiety is driven by fear of failure. Once you start stressing about your ability to perform, it's nearly impossible to be relaxed and in the moment — let alone make anyone else feel good. You're worried you'll disappoint your girlfriend if you don't do this whole "sex thing" right, but there's no one right way to do it. And sex with a partner isn't a solo show; you and she are in it together.

Here's what you can do: First, make sure she's on the same page as you and gives her enthusiastic, verbal consent to sex. Just because you feel ready doesn't mean she does. If and when you both agree to have sex, have the conversation about safe sex. You say you're new to sex, but is she? Are there any precautions you need to take? You want to start this relationship with honesty and trust.

When the romantic moment arrives, make sure your surroundings are appealing and conducive. Then, stop rating yourself. If you start to panic about "messing up," bring your attention to what is actually happening in that moment. Explore the fantasies and erotic thoughts that can come quite naturally when you cozy up to the experience. Notice what's happening with your body and hers. Take in her touch, her smell, her eyes. And breathe. Deep breaths will connect you to the present.

Also, communicate with her. Tell her what you want to try. Ask her what she likes. Share your nerves, and approach sex as an exploration, not a performance. Remember: She chose you as her intimate partner; trust her judgment! Think of any awkward moment or whoopsie as a chance to learn more about each other.

In time, you'll see that sex is like life: It's more about the journey than the destination. Enjoy the ride.