Have you ever paused in the middle of a sexual encounter, and realized that you’re thinking less about the experience, and more about… thinking about the experience?
If you’re ever found yourself overthinking sex while having sex, you’re not alone. The phenomenon has an official term: Spectatoring. It's essentially the monitoring and evaluating of the self during sex, which can get in the way of pleasure. Maybe you find yourself worrying that your partner is getting bored during oral sex, instead of focusing on the sensations at hand, stressing that your partner might not find your body attractive, wondering if they are having fun, or thinking about tomorrow's workday.
As you might imagine, this is a real mood killer, and can impact everything from your libido and sex drive to an increase in anxiety and sexual dysfunctions. More specifically, researchers found that people who engage in sex spectatoring are
So How Do We Fix This?
While these moments of spectatoring are common and almost bound to happen, there are plenty of strategies to reduce the number of times you experience them
Step 1: Awareness.
Awareness is key. It’s critical to notice when you are engaging in spectatoring in order to address the issue. For me, giving these moments of anxiety or self-consciousness an official name helps to understand what's happening right as it begins.
Step 2: Mindfulness.
In Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters — and How to Get It, author Laurie Mintz explains that sexual mindfulness is the process of putting your mind and body in the same place, or creating a state of total immersion of body and mind
Sometimes it seems frustrating that the majority of the solutions — regardless of what the problem is — comes down to the keywords of awareness, mindfulness, or relaxation. That is why one of my favorite self-help inspirations had already reflected on this topic in a way that made plenty of sense:
The Difference of Should Vs Could
“The word ‘should’ is negative because instead of motivating you, which is what we intend it to do, it reinforces what you are not doing. It indicates guilt or regret and is subconsciously telling you that you are not enough. ‘Could’ indicates a choice — a guilt-free, in your control, decision to be made.”
I know it sounds almost too simple to be effective, but I promise it's worth a try. If I feel like I “should” meditate, it feels heavy, like a chore. But when I tell myself I “could” meditate because it helps in X, Y, Z ways, I am much more likely to do it.
Go a few days identifying all the “should”s in your routine and switch them to “could.” I think you will really start to feel a difference.
In a sex-specific context, it can be helpful to acknowledge the spectatoring. Instead of feeling panicked that you are doing something wrong and telling yourself “I should not be thinking this way,” try to take a breath and replace that self-talk with “could.” In other words, remove the guilt, and remind yourself that you hold the power to return to feel-good thoughts.
This simple practice can hopefully ease you back into the moment. If not, keep looking for more on-the-go shifters that work for you — anything that feels like an easy anxiety reducer is a good place to start. Because as Mintz explains, “it is not a coincidence that ‘mind-blowing sex’ is a commonly used term. Mind-blowing sex means that your mind is not working.” Instead, it’s feeling — and giving itself over to the present moment.
- Mintz, Laurie B. Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters--and How to Get It. HarperOne, an Imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 2018.