Sexual performance anxiety: I overcame it and so can you!

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I’m proud of the Sex Hacker Pro course.  I envisioned it to be the most game-changing sex education content in the world, and, although I may be biased, I think I achieved what I set out to do. 

It’s beyond gratifying when I receive messages from people whose lives have been transformed beyond recognition as a result of their commitment to absorbing the concepts, techniques, and hacks I cover in the course. 

But another emotion grips me when I review the 12-hours of tutelage my collaborators and I produced: sheer astonishment. I’m astonished that the guy on camera, the guy making his assistants moan with pleasure, orgasm, and squirt, the guy with the big smile and the rock-hard erection, confidently imparting pearls of wisdom,  is me. 

How I overcame my performance anxiety

See, to put it lightly, I was an unlikely candidate to become a guy who fucks on camera. I immigrated to the US from Hong Kong as a kid. At the same time as I was becoming a preternaturally horny teenager, I was also discovering from cues in pop culture that Asian men didn’t seem to have a sexual identity. When I saw porn, I was struck by how none of the guys looked like me in terms of both ethnicity and penis size.  (Meanwhile, I saw that Asian women were well represented, albeit often in a fetishized way.) 

I stumbled through my teen years, convinced that my ethnicity and what appeared to be a small penis would—like my dyslexia—be a huge handicap for me. I later discovered that at 5.6″ in length, my penis is larger than what the most extensive study of penis size demonstrates as average (Veale, 2015).  

At twenty, I was still a virgin wondering whether I should lean in for a kiss on a date. At the same time, I was becoming insanely horny.  I wondered if I was destined to be caught between my horniness and apparent lack of sexual value forever. Eventually, I just got enough sexual experiences under my belt to realize that I was pretty bad at sex. I remained  insecure about my own body.  I was confused and felt like a mess, yet I had this overwhelming desire for sexual novelty. 

Then, on a Match.com date, I met the first sex-positive person I’d ever had in my life. She was the first person with whom I could talk about sex in a celebratory way. With this new partner, sex wasn’t a shameful topic—it was an interesting one worthy of serious discussion. She invited me to a sex party.  While I was beyond excited at the prospect, I was incredibly nervous too. 

I remember walking home from high school, fantasizing about sex parties and orgies, but I always shut myself down. I could never go to a sex party, I told myself, I don’t have a porn star cock. Thank God I agreed to go with my date to the party! I told myself that, while I might not be the most impressive guy in the room, that at least I wouldn’t get kicked out. Talk about setting a low bar!

Leading up to the party, I was so stressed out about being able to enjoy it that a friend gave me an Adderall. I took it in the morning on the day of the party, and when it kicked in, I felt amazing. When you deal with dyslexia, as I do, it’s hard to pay attention to things, but I suddenly found myself blazing through all my work. This is the shit, I thought. I was excited about the party.

When I walked in the door, there were people walking around naked, casually socializing or milling around between couples who were engaging in kink scenes. I was simultaneously turned on and totally blown away to watch people express their sexuality so openly.

As I walked around the party with my date, I was surprised I wasn’t getting hard in the wake of all this sexual activity. I usually had no trouble getting an erection. I assumed I was just my nerves getting the better of my sexual arousal

Partway into the night, my date proposed a threesome with another woman—it was my teenage fantasy come true. They were both so hot, and I was ecstatic to play with them, but even as we started to roll around together, my cock refused to get hard. It was like I’d skinny-dipped in an ice-cold pool. My worst nightmare had come true at the worst moment possible!

I excused myself to go to the bathroom. Once inside talked to my reflection in the mirror. “What’s wrong? This is everything you ever wanted. Don’t be nervous. Man up!” 

I slapped my cock a few times, trying to get it to respond, but it just hung there. Defeated, I walked back to the girls and told them I was nervous and couldn’t seem to get it up. It was only later that I learned one of the side effects of Adderall is an inability to get an erection. I was incredibly embarrassed, but my partners were incredibly sweet and loving about it, and we enjoyed the rest of the evening enjoying foreplay activities without the pressure to have sexual intercourse.

As the night was winding down, I saw a beautiful woman standing by the door. She was naked, and her boobs were gorgeous. I love boobs; they’re one of my favorite things on the planet. As I approached her, I drummed up the courage to say something. I wanted her to know how much I appreciated her beauty.

“This is my first time at a sex party, so I’m not sure if this is appropriate,” I began, “but you have beautiful breasts. They’re amazing.”

“Oh, honey,” she said and broke into a smile. Before I could say anything more, she shimmied her shoulders, grabbed my head, and pressed my face between her bouncing boobs. 

This moment, with my face cradled in a beautiful woman’s breasts, shifted my sexual paradigm. In that instant, I realized all the fucking painful rejection I’d experienced from women had actually come from rejecting myself. It was the best sex therapy I could have ever received. I swore an oath to never cock block myself again. It was a promise I’ve kept to this day.

I tapped into the growth mindset I’d adopted around physical fitness, and I started to nerd out about sex. After that first party, I dove headfirst into the sex-positive community, where I found a wealth of information about sex science and sexuality just by talking to people about their techniques and pleasures. When I saw someone doing something cool or exciting at a sex party, I would ask them: How did you do that? What did it feel like? 

It turns out that people really like to tell you why they’re good in bed. And sometimes, a conversation that started with, “Hi, I’m new to this community and still learning how to navigate—do you have any tips for newbies?” would end with the other person saying, “Oh, you’re cute—let’s play!” I felt a sense of belonging in the sex-positive community that I’d never felt anywhere else. When I stopped rejecting myself, I also stopped getting painful rejections from the outside world. After all, it’s really hard to be a douchebag when you’re half-naked.

I wish I’d had access to this kind of encouraging, positive sexual culture when I was in my teens and twenties. Throughout the formative years of my sex life, I’d had a shitty relationship with my dick, and my relationship with myself fucked up my sex life. Through sex parties, I gained access to the kind of sex education that changed not only my life but my entire mindset about sex. This was the beginning of my journey towards mastery. Once I’d mastered several aspects of sex, I decided I wanted to share what I’d learned in the hopes of saving guys from feeling like I had. This journey culminated in the Sex Hacker Pro course

Causes of Sexual Performance Anxiety

It’s often said that the brain is the biggest sexual organ, and I’m here to tell you that’s absolutely true. If your mind is too stressed out to focus on the sensory stimuli right in front of you, parts of your body won’t work like you expect them to. 

Some of the most common causes of sexual performance anxiety in men include: 

  • A negative preoccupation with your body image
  • Self-esteem issues resulting from problems with your job or your social life
  • Being self-conscious about the size of your penis
  • Worried that you won’t be able to satisfy your partner sexually
  • Worries about ejaculating too early or taking too long to reach orgasm
  • Anxiety about an inability to have an orgasm

The results of these negative thoughts aren’t just confined to what’s going on between your ears. Concerns like these can lead your body to pump out stress hormones like adrenaline, cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. These hormones are the ones responsible for the fight, flight, or freeze responses we can have in the face of danger. 

Notice that “fuck” isn’t among these F-word options. That’s because when we perceive ourselves to be in mortal danger, fucking gets deprioritized by the body. And rightly so!

Symptoms of performance anxiety

Stress hormones can precipitate a number of incredible changes in the body. They can cause your peripheral vision and hearing to get sharper, cause the heart and lungs to get more oxygenated blood to the major muscles; your blood can thicken, in preparation for a potential injury, your perception of pain may be reduced. 

All of these sudden physiological changes kept our ancestors out of the bellies of predators and around long enough to, well, fuck! Ironically, the traits they passed down to us can get triggered, not by a pride of hungry lions—but by a sexual partner who you really want to please. Maddening, isn’t it?

Inability to get or maintain an erection 

While stress won’t necessarily thwart your sexual desire for someone, it can fuck with your body in all sorts of horrid ways. One of the effects of stress hormones is to narrow blood vessels. This is called vasoconstriction. When there’s less blood flow to your penis, it’s more difficult to have an erection. Even men who normally don’t have any trouble getting excited might not be able to get an erection when they’re overcome by sexual performance anxiety. Interestingly the Adderall I took on the day of my first sex party is a vasoconstrictor too.

Drugs like sildenafil (brand name Viagra) and tadalafil (Brand name Cialis) are phosphodiesterase (PDE) inhibitors. That means that they are vasodilators and work by making blood vessels widen to keep more blood in the penis. This widening causes blood pressure to drop, which is why they can make some people feel lightheaded and should not be taken with beta blockers which are taken for other medical conditions. While the causes of erectile dysfunction can include everything from prostate cancer to death-grip masturbation technique, research has demonstrated that a fear of sexual failure and other psychological factors may be behind 10% to 20% of erectile dysfunction cases (VA, 2013).

Premature ejaculation 

Sexual performance anxiety can also cause you to come sooner than you or your partner would like. This is known as premature ejaculation. You can think of this sexual dysfunction as your body saying, “Get me out of here.” One study found “a significant correlation” between performance anxiety and ejaculating prematurely (Rajkumar, 2014).

The inability to have an orgasm

Performance anxiety can also make it tricky for you to reach orgasm. Why? Being preoccupied about whether you’re big enough, hard enough can diminish the sexual experience and make it feel far less good than it should.

So anxiety created by porn and pop culture more generally can cause problems in functioning like erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, and orgasm problems. These problems can, in turn, evoke yet more anxiety and dread. This feedback loop can crystalize over time, and it’s hard to know how to break out of the cycle and salvage your mental health

The feedback loop I just described leads to what psychologists call “learned helplessness,” which is when humans and other animals get the sense that there is no way out of a situation, and they no longer try to alter their environment to stop a painful stimulus from reoccurring. 

A lot of this unnecessary pain and the needless harm it causes is due to a lack of legitimate sex education and sex-positive culture and community. Look, I’m the living proof that you don’t need to have a porn star cock, look like Channing Tatum, or drive a Ferrari to have a fantastic sex life. Yet, that’s what mainstream culture preaches. Here’s what you do need: competency and empathy. That’s why I created the Sex Hacker Pro course. It’s why I do what I do for a living.  

Overcoming sexual performance anxiety

If you’re an average guy struggling with worries and concerns about your sex life, believe me, I get it. I lived with this crippling, immobilizing fear for most of my sex life. I used to be someone who wouldn’t even let a girl touch or see my cock for fear that they would actually laugh.  While I was once beset by these sexual problems, now I can perform on porn sets and fuck right next to mainstream porn stars at gangbangs!

It’s crucial to remember that the pressures we often feel around sex come from standards that are artificial. We’re emulating things that were fake to begin with. But sometimes, just knowing that is not enough to reduce anxiety, especially if this anxiety has been with you for a long time. 

Let’s face it: when you’re trying to have a good date with a lover and your penis isn’t hard, you’re not going to feel great about it no matter what statistics I throw at you or how common it may be. Sometimes, you just want to perform.

There are treatment options for sexual performance anxiety: cognitive-behavioral therapy, mindfulness practices, and, yes, drugs such as Viagra and Cialis.  But giving medical advice is above my pay grade. I’m here to impart what I’ve learned through my own lived experience, providing data to back these learnings up where I can.  My biggest learning is that a change in mindset can pay miraculous dividends. 

I want to convey how essential it is that you start with a growth mindset. Georges St. Pierre, UFC champion, says that confidence is a choice; it’s something you can work on and build up, even if bad things happen to you. As you develop the skills I discuss in the course, you will start to collect more positive experiences and competencies to develop lasting confidence.

We can learn a lot from elite athletes when it comes to confidence and performance anxiety. Because athletic performance has been studied extensively, we can take proven lessons and methods from the science and apply them to sexual performance. When an athlete experiences performance anxiety, they often experience a failure to perform because of the perceived pressure, also called “choking.” This is a very similar situation to what happens in sexual performance when we experience anxiety. 

Bruce Lee says that obsessive ego-consciousness takes you out of the moment. That’s the reason anxiety is the silent boner-killer. Because there’s a limited bandwidth on attention, paying attention to worrying about your hard-on takes away from your ability to pay attention to your partner. 

Just like in sports, the key is to reduce the perceived pressure and focus back on the game. In bed, the same applies. We want to reduce perceived pressure and focus back on the erotic. 

Here’s my play-by-play guide to overcoming choking in the bedroom.

The first step might sound counterintuitive. When you’re experiencing choking and tell yourself you shouldn’t be choking, it only perpetuates the anxiety loop and increases the self-imposed pressure. The hack here is to do a Jedi mind-trick with yourself. Tell yourself that your dick doesn’t need to be hard right now and that it’s ok if your dick isn’t hard and you’re anxious. What you resist persists, and the more you resist these two things, the worse they’ll get. Instead, feel into the anxiety and allow the experience to exist exactly as it is, without trying to change it. By allowing and accepting the moment, you allow it to pass. 

Next, use your breath to actively relax. Focus on lengthening the breath, breathing in and out for longer periods. Breathwork is the foundation of the self-regulation skills used in martial arts, sports, yogic practices, and more. In addition, relax your face, shoulders, solar plexus, abdomen, and pelvic floor. 

It may take time to be able to access, feel, and control internal structures like your solar plexus and pelvic floor. The first step is to try to feel them: direct your attention to where your solar plexus is at the top of your abdomen, for example, and focus on any sensations you can feel there. These structures are typically under involuntary control, but sex hacking is about gaining voluntary control and mastery. Learning to feel and relax these inner structures is one of the most powerful things you can do to change your experience of sex from the inside out. This is the key to feeling deeper feelings inside yourself. 

I learned the power of relaxation from Chelsey Fasano, who taught me that when we relax, our natural bodily processes take the reigns. She taught me that the body knows what to do if we give it the space to feel and function naturally. When we stop imposing on and trying to control our bodies and let the body guide us, it can naturally self-regulate and is capable of more pleasure than we ever imagined. She says that it is also through letting go of unnecessary tension that we see what the body is capable of in terms of performance and how it can guide us with a unique form of intuitive genius. Relaxation is a skill and depends on paying attention to our breath and body, slowly coaxing them to let go over time.

The final step is to focus on something other than getting your dick hard. Thinking about how you wish your dick was hard is about as effective as trying to force yourself to feel sleepy when you’re experiencing insomnia. Instead, re-focus on an area where you do have control. 

Allow yourself to get in touch with what is occurring that is erotic to you. Direct your attention back to what feels good about the moment. Engage your five senses and actively notice what kinds of smells, sights, touches, sounds, and tastes are enjoyable. Luckily, there are a lot of these to focus on in sex (if the sex is good). Notice things like the softness of her skin, what kind of noises she’s making, the shape of her body, the curve of her hips, the beauty of her eyes, the smell and taste of her vulva. 

Eventually, this sensory experience will take on a life of its own, and you will be immersed in your sense of eroticism, all thoughts and feelings of anxiety far away. And then voilá, you’ll notice that your dick gets hard as easily as when you are at home alone, consumed by your favorite porn.

The second most common anxiety that men feel is about lasting long enough. Unfortunately, this is not my personal area of expertise because it has not been a personal challenge of mine. However, in my quest to attain all the knowledge about sex I can, I have had the fortune to learn from one of the best in the industry, Destin Gerek, who runs a course called “Sexual Self-Mastery” for men. He teaches all the tools you’ll need to experience ejaculatory choice (aka come when you decide to), experience full-body orgasms, non-ejaculatory energetic orgasms, and even male multiple orgasms. 

When I did his program, I witnessed a group of men who struggled with premature ejaculation all of their lives break through this problem, learn to achieve ejaculatory choice, and completely rebuild their confidence.  Some even learn how to have multiple male orgasms! 

For some of you, your sexual performance issues may stem from biological roots in addition to or rather than psychological. There’s tons of great biohacking treatments and options available—everything from optimizing testosterone levels to ED drugs such as Viagra and Cialis to fitness and nutrition protocols—and I have had tremendous success with them personally. Unfortunately, it’s too much to cover here, but this is a topic I will continue to write about on my blog, so follow me at kennethplay.com if you want to learn more. 

These skills might take time to acquire, but practice makes perfect. When you’re feeling stressed during sex, practice the three techniques described in this section. Accept yourself and the moment as they occur, focus on your breath and relax your body, and pay attention to what feels good through the five senses. Learning is a process, but you can trust that by engaging with these three practices, change will slowly begin to occur, and eventually, those nagging insecurities won’t be keeping you from enjoying a very enjoyable experience.

A Recipe for Pleasure

In the end, orgasms require more than just the push of a button. I had the privilege of taking a workshop with sex educator Betty Martin, who taught me that sexual pleasure is derived from a combination of three important ingredients: 

  • Tactile data
  • Mindfulness
  • Erotic context 

All our sensory input—from touch to sight, smell, sound, and taste—contributes to our pleasure in the moment. When we think of the sensations we like during sex, we usually focus on genital stimulation, but tactile data can come from anywhere, turning your partner’s whole body into an erogenous zone. 

Of course, tactile data doesn’t matter if you or your partner aren’t in the moment to pay attention to it. If your partner is caught up in the stress of her workday or the length of her to-do list, it’s much harder to connect with the pleasurable sensations in the moment.

And finally, erotic context is where psychological arousal happens—a necessary step before physical arousal can come online. Erotic context can be as simple as a flirtatious text or as elaborate as a script to perform and an outfitted dungeon to play in. But when done well, erotic context allows you to tap into your authentic sexual identity to turn on your partner.

 

References

  • Erectile dysfunction information sheet for bhps version 3 – veterans affairs. (n.d.). Retrieved October 20, 2021, from https://www.mirecc.va.gov/cih-visn2/Documents/Provider_Education_Handouts/Erectile_Dysfunction_Information_Sheet_for_BHPs_Version_3.pdf.
  • Rajkumar, R. P., & Kumaran, A. K. (2014, July 31). The association of anxiety with the subtypes of premature ejaculation: A chart review. The primary care companion for CNS disorders. Retrieved October 20, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4318671/.
  • Veale, D., Miles, S., Bramley, S., Muir, G., & Hodsoll, J. (n.d.). Am I normal? A systematic review and construction of nomograms for flaccid and erect penis length and circumference in up to 15,521 men. BJU international. Retrieved October 20, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25487360/. 

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