It’s Not You, It’s Us : Putting an End to the Pressure of Sexual Performance


When it comes to sex, we often talk about individual performance. However, sex is something that involves two (or more) people… What, really, is a good lay?

Oh, sex. Such a slippery source of pleasure and… anxiety. Am I good in bed? Do they find me sexy? Did I make them cum? Am I going to come?

Sexual intimacy can quickly become a source of performance anxiety. We want to have the best moves and be the lay of the century (quite the ambition!). However, rather than focusing on our individual skills, what if we focused on… being together? Would that change anything?

Decreasing performance anxiety in bed

I have often focused on my performance or that of my partners as though it existed in a vacuum. I relied on the “natural” talent of the people I slept with to ensure my own pleasure. I was embarrassed to touch myself or tell them what I liked.

I also blamed my boring sexual encounters on my partners as much as I credited the exciting ones. It was always an individual success.

I’m far from being the only one to have done this. As Doja Cat says, it happened to me more than once to hear from a friend of a friend that “that dick” was a ten out of ten. No big deal. It’s a good rumor to spread, right?

That’s how I’ve always heard people talk about it, anyway: some people fuck well, others fuck badly. An absolute, yet individual measure that totally overlooks the fact that two (or more) people are involved in these nocturnal pleasures. Thinking that it’s up to each person to improve their own skills in order to satisfy the other.

It’s up to me to take note of the rhythm swaying that works best or of the position that once enabled me to give someone a mind-blowing orgasm. Cosmopolitan magazine publishes yet another list of the 42 best tips for sucking dick and I keep the main points in the back of my head. It’s up to me to find the key to good performance.

When viewed this way, it’s no wonder that sex can be stressful. Naturally, I have often been a prisoner of my self-evaluation, unable to fully savour our bodies’ encounter. I was too busy watching myself blow, writhe, lick, move. Assessing my partner’s sounds, wondering if the sex is boring or whether my skin looks okay or my rolls are showing. In short, I was everywhere except with my partner.

The key to a good fuck: breaking away from heteronormative scripts

Heteronormative scripts lead us down preestablished paths. That is what scripts are for. No need to talk to each other about our bodies or our likes and dislikes; we just need to act out the same scenario we learned by heart that earned us a very good grade according to Ms. Doja Cat’s friends.

Except that sex isn’t just a story of I doing unto you and of you doing unto I. In the sense that the licks that make one body vibe won’t necessarily work on another, the “perfect” size for one person may not be perfect for another, and so on. The only true “one size fits all” is communication.

Yep, it’s as deceivingly simple as that. While talking to each other doesn’t guarantee the greatest sex of the century (there’s that good ol’ realistic goal again!), the best sex sessions I’ve had are always the ones where my partners and I were… there. In the present. And I don’t think that’s just a coincidence.

When we break away from scripts, it forces us to talk to each other. What do you like? Does it feel good when I touch you like this? Do you like it when I bite you here? When I lick you there?

Seeing sex as something to create together rather than a skillset to develop individually can help reduce performance anxiety. Suddenly, there is no need to simply know everything and be at the top of our game. All we really have to do is talk to each other about our desires, our likes, and our fantasies.

There’s something magical about imagining yourself as “we” rather than “I”. And yes, this also applies to one-night-stands. I suggest imagining sex as a dance (a not-so-cliché metaphor). A dance that is improvised in the present moment, which requires paying attention to our partners’ words and bodies. A dance developed together, rather than a choreography that we impose on each other.

It might seem like nothing, but I swear that it releases the enormous amount of pressure generated by having to read minds and keep guessing.

Since we’re already intertwining our tongues, we might as well also use them to speak in each other’s ears, right?

  • Séguin, L. J. (2024). “I’ve learned to convert my sensations into sounds”: Understanding during-sex sexual communication. The Journal of Sex Research, 61(2), 169–183.