• Devyn Molina

Does being on top give you anxiety?

Reclaim your pleasure and feel empowered being on top.

Image courtesy of Teen Vogue.

‘I always felt self-conscious and aware of my body.’

Sex with a partner can be a vulnerable experience. Your body is on full display for your partner to see so if you already have poor body image, it’s likely to negatively affect your sexual arousal and performance. According to multiple studies, women often equate how their partner perceives their physical attractiveness to better sexual function. Poor body image can be linked to weight concerns, sexual satisfaction and other physical conditions.

While loving our bodies is no easy feat, it does help make being on top a more pleasurable experience for the body and mind. Sex blogger and sex coach for Blex, Tatyannah King, says, “One reason why some women don’t like or want to be on top during sex is due to a lack of confidence in their physical appearance. It’s not called the cowgirl position for no reason. That imagery alone implies a fun, exposed yet dominant and care-free action, but for many, it’s the exact opposite. Aside from body image, some may feel insecure in their ‘O-face,’ making it hard to be fully in the moment even when they orgasm.”

Like so many women, twenty-three year-old Steph* found herself in a losing battle with being on top. Whether it was a one night stand or a serious relationship, she couldn’t bring herself to do it, saying, “I never liked being on top. I always felt really self-conscious and aware of my body. I thought it was such an unflattering angle. It didn’t matter if I was sleeping with a guy I just met, I would try to avoid it as much as possible.”

What is sexual performance anxiety?

Often due to societal pressures, women can feel like that have to “be good” at sex, which means being on top becomes more calculated instead of comfortable. With the added pressure in addition to poor body image, women aren’t able to be on top due to sexual performance anxiety.

While sexual performance anxiety is more typical in cisgender men, it’s not usually talked about for women. This also tends to be prevalent in women with existing anxiety disorders or those with relationship problems.

There are definitely other factors that can affect your anxiety with being on top. Tatyannh believes a lot of women become anxious to be on top, due to the type of patriarchal media that is consumed. From sex scenes in movies to porn, women are seen as overtly sexual objects for the male gaze and almost never shows a woman having difficulty with being on top.

She goes on to say, “Everything looks put together and flawless. The media doesn’t usually show the times when we still have our hair in a messy bun and residual eye crust during morning sex.They don’t show women on top with average-sized boobs that have a natural sag. They typically don’t show anything that may be perceived as imperfect. It can be hard not to compare yourself to the sexual representation you see.”

Image courtesy of SheKnows.

What can your partner do to help?

More likely than not, your partner has at least one insecurity of their own when it comes to sex. In reality, we all want to feel accepted and appreciated during sex, so it’s important to communicate this with your partner.

“When I was on top, I didn’t feel sexy or empowered. It’s like I stopped enjoying sex as much. I was so focused on my boyfriend’s reaction to see if he liked it,” recalls Steph. But after communicating with her struggles with her boyfriend, they both decided to find ways to allow Steph to feel better about being on top. She says “After we talked, he started to make me feel more sexy and realize it was more about the connection with each other.”

Rather than looking at being on top as your partner being able to see all of your flaws, think of it as your partner getting the opportunity to see you at your most sexual. Experts suggest that you experiment with letting your partner grab a hold of your hips while you move or your breasts to stimulate the erogenous zones. Another tip is to have your partner do all the work while you’re on top, that way you can get used to the feel for the position.

Tatyannah points out that a woman’s partner can positively or negatively affect how a woman perceives themselves during sex. She explains, “If a woman’s partner is aware that they’re struggling with thoughts about her appearance, then her partner can show their appreciation for her body through her love language. For example, if her love language is physical touch then her partner can touch and caress her all throughout the upper part of her body in awe to signal that they like what they see. If her love language is receiving gifts then her partner can buy her some sexy lingerie and leave a heartfelt message beside it that says, “You would look amazing in this…amazing enough for me to rip it off you immediately.” If she likes words of affirmation, tell her “I want you to look at me while you come. You look breathtaking when you come.”

Change your mindset and overcome your anxiety on your own terms

Whether you’re in a relationship or having casual sex, the best way to help yourself enjoy being on top is to change your mindset. Mounting your sexual partner doesn’t have to be performative. Albeit, positions like the cowgirl elicit an overly sexual image and you might be wondering things like where you’re supposed to put your hands, remember that sex is about pleasure over skill or experience.

Tatyannah suggests, “Instead of thinking, ‘I hope I look good doing this’ or ‘I hope this feels good for him’, start focusing on what feels good for you. Instead of putting yourself in a bubble that’s only fit for making the other person come, take up more space sexually.”

While it might sound hard to believe, sex is a learning experience. Try not to get discouraged if being on top is difficult for you. Whether it’s physically or mentally challenging, your overall comfort and pleasure are what matters most.

As Tatyannah says, “Consider cowgirl your time to shine like the superstar that you are!”