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Yana, I need your expertise!

I’m a 19-year-old guy in a hetero relationship. I was pleasuring my partner last night and I realized I stopped being present and could not become present again. She picked up on it and, well, I really wanted to be present for it but I seemed to be stuck in my head, which didn’t make her feel good and wanted. Do you know how I can become more present while sexually active?

— Spaced Out Sexually

There are many reasons why someone might check out during sex: sometimes it’s for reasons like sleepiness, boredom, or nervousness. Other times it’s for bigger reasons like fear, anxiety, or trauma.

Do you feel a similar kind of non-presence or stuck-in-your-headness in other areas of your life? Is it similar to the glazed-over feeling you get during a long lecture at school? Maybe you’re bored with your sexual activity. Is it similar to when you’re about to give a presentation or take a small risk? Maybe you’re having performance anxiety about being in the “pleasurer” position.

If this spaced-out feeling is accompanied by or preceded by racing thoughts, a quickened pulse, tightness in the chest, or the desire to flee, perhaps your non-presence is more closely related to your mind shutting down to protect you from unresolved trauma, high anxiety, or fear.

Doing some self-searching — whether independently or with the help of a therapist, mentor, or spiritual guide — is an important part of this. If you’re feeling bored or nervous due to performance anxiety, this can be helped by speaking frankly with your partner about the sex you have together. We aren’t often taught that good sex requires conversation before, during, and after, so this can feel awkward at first — especially if you’re new to sex. However, the outcome is always worth the bravery and initial awkwardness. A worksheet like the Yes/No/Maybe list can be a great way to break the ice.

Taking steps to discover what you’re both really excited about can go a long way in squashing boredom and nerves, and it is also a key component of keeping it consensual! You’re more likely to get that hot fantasy fulfilled if you put it out there, and you’re more likely to feel confident in the pleasure you’re dishing out if your partner has stated before, during, and after the act-du-jour that “YES that feels so good and is exactly what I want!”

Practicing enthusiastic and well-informed consent is extremely important and will likely inspire you to become more engaged in the sex you’re having on-the-whole and in-the-moment…continue reading…