While for many people sex is generally regarded as a natural – and pleasurable – aspect of life, for others it can be a source of stress, guilt, and even fear. Worries centred on issues such as potential consequences of intercourse, body insecurities, consent, and embarrassment may cause both men and women to dread (and even to avoid) sexual encounters.
To learn more about this phenomenon, we asked 2,000 people – both Americans and Europeans – to share their sex-related fears via a survey. Which fears top the list for respondents from different regions and people of different genders? Read
on for an intimate look at a subject that is infrequently discussed.
Most Serious Worries About Sex
We asked survey respondents to rank each specific sex-related fear on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most serious concern. The two top worries involved serious consequences of sexual encounters. The most significant fear (ranked nearly 7 out of 10) is having intercourse with a partner who has a sexually transmitted infection (STI), who could presumably transmit the condition. The second-most-serious fear (scored nearly 6 out of 10) is that of an unintended pregnancy.
Surprisingly, nearly as worrisome as an unintended pregnancy is the fear that a person’s partner won’t find him or her attractive. The next-most-common fears centre on issues related to low confidence and self-esteem: being unattractive, failing to satisfy a partner, and being generally bad at sex. Other fears in the top 10 run the gamut from serious (a partner’s wanting to participate in something that pushes personal boundaries) to embarrassing (such as the occurrence of a bodily function or a partner’s dislike of body hair).
Sex Fears by Gender
After asking respondents to rank their sex fears on a scale of 1 to 10 based on seriousness, we were able to pinpoint the top 10 fears for each gender. Male and female respondents possess some fears that overlap and others that decidedly do not. For women, the top three fears involve potential consequences: a partner who won’t wear a condom, a partner with an STI, and a broken condom that leads to pregnancy. While STI and pregnancy fears comprised two of the top three fears for men, surprisingly, the No. 2 fear (above even the worry of unintended pregnancy) was that a partner will not achieve an orgasm or feel satisfied.
As for the rest of the list, the majority of men’s sex fears related to insecurities: ejaculating prematurely, feeling unattractive, being unable to “perform” or “bad” at sex, or penis size worries. On the other hand, women’s fears about consent are more pressing than most of their insecurities: that a partner won’t take no for an answer or will press to do something that makes her uncomfortable.
Sex Worries Among Americans and Europeans
Examining the responses from Americans versus Europeans yields clear correlations among the genders that transcend geographic location – save for a few surprising differences. Among women, Europeans and Americans shared several fears: an unintended pregnancy, a partner who refuses condoms, a partner with an STI, and an unattractive naked body. The differences? The fifth-most-serious fear for European women is that their partner won’t take no for an answer (a concern not among the top five for U.S. women). And the fifth-most-serious fear for American women is a partner’s noticing cellulite or stretch marks – a worry that does not make the top five for European women.
As for men, male respondents in Europe and the U.S. had the same five most serious fears: a partner with an STI, an unintended pregnancy, a partner who doesn’t have an orgasm, premature ejaculation, and having an unattractive body. However, U.S. men ranked the worry over a partner’s not climaxing in No. 2 spot (above the fear of unintended pregnancy), while European men ranked it in third place (after the fear of pregnancy).
Sexual Fears Focused on Fallout
Two potential consequences that can result from sex – unintended pregnancies and STIs – were deemed serious concerns by both men and women in the U.S. and Europe. American women have the most concern about having sex with a partner who has an STI, followed by European women. On the other hand, European men were comparatively the least concerned about this issue.
As for a broken condom resulting in an accidental pregnancy, European women were the most worried. American women are just slightly more concerned than European men, while American men appeared least worried about the possibility of a pregnancy.
Sexual Fears Surrounding Body Issues
Both men and women worry about how their bodies will appear to a partner during sex. The common fear is body hair, which averages a 4 ranking on the 1 to 10 seriousness scale. As for gender-specific concerns, insecurity about breast size and penis size are the most common.
Specifically, the most pressing concern is having a penis that their partner will consider to be too small – among men, this fear topped 4 on the 1-to-10 seriousness scale. Next is having breasts that are perceived to be too small breasts, which women ranked just under 4. Having breasts that a partner might feel are too large achieved just over 3 among women on the ranking, while having a penis that their partner thinks is too large scored just under 3 among men.
Embarrassment-Focused Sexual Worries
During sex, couples may experience unfavourable bodily functions, encounter misunderstandings, and even blurt out unintended words or noises. Although these occurrences are perfectly natural, some people may find them embarrassing. We asked our respondents to rank their concern level regarding these types of occurrences on a scale of 1 to 10.
Save for one category, European men and women worried more about embarrassment-related sex fears than their American counterparts. The highest-ranked worry was women’s concern about the occurrence of an embarrassing bodily function (American women actually worried slightly more about this than did European women).
Other top embarrassment-related worries were European women’s worry about the noises they might make, European men’s stress over potential bodily functions, and European men’s concerns about a partner finding them too kinky or rough.
Satisfaction-Related Sexual Concerns
When it comes to achieving orgasms and empowering a partner to achieve orgasms, male and female respondents in the U.S. and Europe possessed varying levels of concern. Overall, it appears men prioritise their partners’ satisfaction, while women are most concerned about achieving their own orgasms.
The top fear, ranking nearly 6 on a scale of 1 to 10, is American men’s worry that a partner won’t be satisfied – followed closely by the same worry by European men. Next is American and European women’s fear of not achieving their own orgasm; both ranked it nearly a 5 on the seriousness scale.
The least serious fear was men’s worry that they would not be satisfied. (American men ranked it less worrisome than European men.) Just slightly higher on the seriousness scale was European women’s fear that their partner would not achieve
Consent-Related Sexual Concerns
During sexual encounters, it’s vital that all parties feel empowered to say no or halt the activity at any time. Our survey revealed some sobering findings regarding fears centred on consent during sex. Women in Europe, followed by American women, were most concerned about having a partner not take no for an answer – ranking the worry well over 5 on the 1-to-10 seriousness scale. The No. 2 fear was the worry for American women (closely followed by European women) that a partner pushes boundaries past the comfort level.
European men ranked consent-related fears more worrisome than American men. Among both genders and regions, the least serious worry was by American men: They were quite unconcerned that their partner would refuse to heed their wishes if they
said no – and ranked the issue lower than 3 on the seriousness scale of what they fear. European men scored this fear markedly higher (nearly 4 on the scale).
Prioritise Communication and Sexual Health
Sex should be a positive and healthy experience for all involved – and an experience that involves open communication between partners about sexual health, contraception, boundaries, and other important topics. Don’t let embarrassment get in the way of discussing important issues or taking care of your sexual health issues.
As our survey revealed, the two biggest fears people have about sex centre on STIs and unwanted pregnancies. At Superdrug Online Doctor, we can help you conquer those fears: We provide test kits and treatments for common STIs, as well as a range of birth control and emergency contraception options. We can also provide confidential advice and expert medical care to help you navigate difficult situations. Visit Superdrug Online Doctor today for the answers and help you need.
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We surveyed over 2,000 respondents on questions relating to their sexual fears. 1,212 respondents identified as male with 916 respondents identifying as female. Of these respondents, 1,009 were from the United States and another 1,072 were located within Europe.