Let’s be honest: Sex isn’t all smooth moves and easy ecstasy. Making love can get awkward, especially if you’re sleeping with someone for the first time or are trying a new position with a long-time partner. Sometimes, problems of coitus coordination can kill the mood or even result in injury. Sex is a deeply personal joint effort – no wonder it doesn’t go off without a hitch every time.

In this article, we set out to discover the most common awkward sex experiences and what causes them. To do so, we surveyed 800 men and women in Europe and the United States about their intimate encounters that proved less than ideal. We also studied the methods they chose to solve or avoid these issues in the future. Our results reveal that awkward sex is quite common – but improvement is definitely possible as well. To see how your awkward sex experiences compare to everyone else’s, keep reading. 

Amorous Accidents

Things can get pretty painful when lovers aren’t on the same page: In the heat of the moment, accidents can occur. In fact, roughly 99 percent of respondents said they’d experienced some mishap of this variety, and the most common form of misfortune was bumping heads with one’s partner. Additionally, about 45 percent of men and women said they had fallen out of bed during sex – although this setback could simply attest to the enthusiasm of the lovemaking taking place. Getting accidentally hit by one’s partner during the act was also quite common, although men were more likely to report being dealt an inadvertent blow.

In some cases, our data seem to suggest more physically demanding sex positions. Fifteen percent of men said they had dropped a partner in the past; over 22 percent of women reported being dropped as well. While many of these scenarios likely seem humorous in retrospect, some, no doubt, required medical attention at the time. Unfortunately, individuals who suffer sex injuries are sometimes less than transparent with their doctors about how their ailments occurred. But if our findings are any indication, sex accidents are so common that those experiencing them have nothing to be embarrassed about.

Clumsy Sex Causes

Our findings suggest awkward sex experiences are virtually universal: Over 99 percent of respondents could recall one of their own. But if it happens to everyone, what are some common reasons these uncomfortable sexual moments occur? Among men and women alike, the top cause for awkward sex was an issue of coordination, either in terms of the motion required to maintain a given position or a lack of alignment with one’s partner. A lack of flexibility was the second most common problem, suggesting that people often encounter their physical limits when attempting a new form of intimacy.

Problems with sexual stamina or endurance were relatively common as well, with 12.3 percent of women and 19.8 percent of men saying an issue of this kind had caused an awkward sex experience. Although premature ejaculation is relatively common – roughly 4 in 10 men experience ejaculation problems at some stage of their lives – many find addressing this subject with their partners uncomfortable. Additionally, 11.7 percent of women and 12.8 percent of men said their body shape or size hindered their sexual encounters. Sex experts suggest slight adjustments can make sex more enjoyable for any body type – in many cases, a simple pillow can work wonders.

Avoiding Past Pitfalls

Do awkward sex experiences or accidents prompt us to avoid those very scenarios in future encounters? Our data indicate that many people now abstain from certain positions, places, and sex acts because of an uncomfortable past experience. Some such positions were relatively ambitious: 29 percent said they avoided 69 standing up after encountering problems with a previous attempt. Others were less athletic, but seemed to entail penetration from behind – doggy style, reverse cowgirl, and the kneeling wheelbarrow each made the top five. Additionally, 17 percent said they were disinclined to engage in anal sex again.

Some people wrote off entire broader categories of sexual encounters, including approximately a quarter of respondents who wrote off bondage due to past negative experiences. Others were more concerned about the location of their lovemaking: 27 percent said gaining membership to the mile-high club was not an experience worth repeating. Exhibitionism was not for everyone, either, with many people avoiding sex in outdoor spaces and the beach. Though a recent British survey indicates approximately half of people have enjoyed a quick romp in an automobile, 24 percent of respondents said they wouldn’t attempt sex in an vehicle again. There’s good reason for their reproach-- experts say car sex can be unpleasant without the requisite preparations.

Un-Awkward Alternatives

In response to awkward sex, many respondents opted to stick with classic positions moving forward. More than half said they preferred the missionary position after an uncomfortable experience, and 46 percent opted for doggy style. Oral sex was also a common solution, with 26 percent of respondents selecting this option after an awkward experience. Indeed, experts suggest oral sex is one strategy men affected by premature ejaculation can use to continue to pleasure their partners.

Interestingly, however, some of the options on this list were the very same positions that other respondents said they’d never try again because of an awkward experience. For example, 18 percent of respondents said they now opted for face-sitting, and another 12 percent said they got into bondage after a prior awkward experience. These findings attest to the diversity of human preference in all things sexual: What some people dread trying again, others experience as a serious upgrade in pleasure with their partners.

Injury Accommodations

Of course, an awkward experience or two need not dissuade you from seeking improvement. Our respondents tried a range of methods to make sex more enjoyable, including some quite simple tools. Forty-six percent of women and 39 percent of men used a pillow to increase their comfort, for example. About a quarter of men and women credited a vibrator with easing the awkwardness. Some reported lubricant had been helpful – interestingly, men were more likely to say so than women. Another simple adjustment related to ambiance: Thirteen percent of women and 11 percent of men adjusted the lighting to set the mood.

In many cases, however, respondents needed to approach sex itself in a different manner: More than 30 percent of each gender had changed the position they used. Twenty-two percent of women said they’d learned they needed to be lying down, and 15 percent of men reached the same conclusion. Conversely, 7 percent of women and 9 percent of men found they needed to be above their partner. These varied conclusions suggest no universal rules for eliminating awkwardness: We all must explore our own needs.

Keeping Sex Comfortable

Our findings suggest most people encounter awkward sex and lovemaking mishaps at some point in their lives. Accordingly, these experiences shouldn’t be interpreted as the fault of either partner: Like most things in life, sex often entails imperfection. The good news is that progress is possible. As in many aspects of our romantic relationships, awkward sex is a challenge best dealt with through open communication. The solution may be as simple as a change in position or the addition of a pillow. But if your concerns remain unspoken, you’ll never have the chance to know. 

Open communication is also essential to good health care: Getting well begins with sharing your health needs with a trusted medical professional. Moreover, if your doctor isn’t as convenient or accessible as you’d like, you’re less likely to utilise the services you need. Superdrug Online Doctor solves both those problems, giving you access to the care you need from wherever you are. With our digital consultation and discrete prescription services, you’ll never have to feel put out again about getting the care you need.

Methodology

Utilising Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and Clickworker, we collected 802 responses from sexually active participants. 49.4% were European, and 49.6% were American. Of those respondents, 45% were women, and 55% were men. Participants had a mean age of 34. Of these participants 

The data we are presenting rely on self-reporting. There are many issues with self-reported data. These issues include but are not limited to the following: selective memory, telescoping, attribution, and exaggeration. 

European survey respondents are comprised of those on Clickworker listing their country as a part of the European Union. German Clickworker respondents held a majority, and, therefore, results may be more representative of Germany than Europe as a whole.

Fair Use Statement

Let your friends know they’re not the only ones having awkward sexual experiences. Feel free to share this content on your website or social media for noncommercial purposes. Simply link back to this page when you do to credit our team properly. 

If you’re a journalist hoping to learn more about this project, please contact [email protected] for all inquiries.