Some wild thoughts have no place in your bedroom.
Where does your mind wander during sex? To the ever growing to-do list or the deadline you just realized you passed, it can be hard to be mentally present every minute of the day. Sometimes you might even feel as if you're an outsider observing yourself going through the motions. This even happens to some people mid-coitus. Don't worry, you're not alone. This out of body feeling you're having might be spectatoring.
Masters and Johnson, the inspirations for the show Masters of Sex, defined the term as experiencing yourself and sexual activity from a third person perspective. This is often accompanied with negative internal dialogue with oneself. The conversation is usually about how your partner perceives your body or your sexual performance. This feeling is very similar to males who experience performance anxiety during intercourse. A barrage of self-critical thoughts about their skills makes it difficult to obtain and maintain an erection.
It has been scientifically proven that spectatoring can prevent you from enjoying those euphoric feelings. Intense self focus just fuels any anxiety you may already have. Researchers Faith and Schare (1993) observed individuals who chronically, negatively focused on their bodily appearance would tend to be sexually avoidant and would therefore demonstrate lower levels of sexual experience than less self-focused individual. So how do you let this feeling go? Here's a couple of quick tips to help fight spectatoring.
Mindfulness isn't just for Buddhist or for those who practice yoga. Practice thinking about nothing, but what's happening in the moment. Start with very short time frames, maybe 30 seconds, and be mindful for only 30 seconds at a time. Then you gradually increase the time frame in steady increments daily. Imagine it as weight lifting for your brain! Strengthening this skill in a non-sexual setting will help when it comes time for intercourse. You can't expect to do something during sex that you never attempted beforehand. Practice, practice, practice!
Pay Attention To Your Sensual Pleasure
Focusing on your senses can help anchor you in the moment. Instead of the thinking about the act in its entirety, break it down. What are you smelling, feeling, or tasting in that moment? You can even take each sense apart and focus on it in smaller parts. How does your partner's skin feel under your hands? Is it soft, hot, or both? Utilizing this technique can help affix you in the moment and avoid mentally drifting off.
Address The Issue With Your Partner
Have an honest and frank conversation about what you're feeling. If your partner is intuitive, they may already know that something is off during your sexual rendezvous. Conveying how you feel aloud could help achieve some clarity. Was this feeling sparked by something that they said? Not communicating directly about a problem can manifest in different ways. A couple's therapist may also be a viable option.
Lastly, but certainly not least, be kind with yourself. Everyone feels self-conscious about their bodies at one time in their lives. Yes, even Beyoncé. Sometimes it sneaks up on us at the most inopportune times. It might take work, but you can overcome this feeling.
Header image illustrated by Marcy Gooberman
Janielle is a sexuality educator, women's health advocate, and content creator. As the founder of The Sex Exchange, she uses shame free conversations to help others reclaim their sexuality and enforce that pleasure is a basic human right. For entertaining health information follow The Sex Exchange on Instagram & Facebook.