Why sex distraction is on the rise

Sex therapists explain why we overthink while banging and how to stay in the moment

Hero image in post
photo: Euphoria
Hero image in post
photo: Euphoria

Sex therapists explain why we overthink while banging and how to stay in the moment

By Darshita Goyal30 Aug 2023
6 mins read time
6 mins read time

It’s a sunny Tuesday evening and you’ve just returned home from a dreary day at work. Your partner welcomes you with a little nibble on the neck and before you know it you’re sprawled on the couch while he eats you out, gently but profusely. In between moans, you spot a spider web on the roof and think, “Whose week is it to clean the house? Wait, I want him to slow down and go deeper, maybe I should move a bit to guide his tongue there. Ouch, teeth!”

If you relate to that, don’t cringe, you’re hardly alone. Thinking or even overthinking during sex, whether about the sex or other things entirely, is awfully common. In May, sexual wellness brand Lovehoney surveyed over 2,000 adults ages 18-55 to understand where their minds wander while getting down and dirty.,

In research woo has obtained from the brand, they report that 73 percent of the 18-24 years olds interviewed often think about how their partner should be doing something different from what they are, while 39 percent are thinking of someone else. How long the sex will last is also top of mind for young people - 66 percent of the group wondered when they would get to orgasm while 62 percent tried to refrain from finishing too quickly.

Besides the act of having sex itself, 42 percent of people also think about how much work they have to do, or the chores at hand. Talia*, a 22-year-old nursing student agrees, “On some days I can’t wait to finish having sex with my girlfriend because that’s eating into my chill time. I wish I could be more present but it’s hard when I have so much on my mind.” If sex is supposed to be for pleasure, then why does it feel so difficult to pause our thoughts for a few minutes and truly enjoy it?

To understand why our brains work in overdrive while banging, we asked sex therapists and sexologists for their insight. From performance anxiety and vulnerability to lack of communication, they break down some of the thoughts that people have while having sex and suggest how we can be fully present. Take notes!

Why do we think so much while having sex?

There’s a lot of pressure to have good sex, regardless of what good means to you. As if being completely naked with someone isn’t hard enough, you also have to think about how long you last and if you’re thrusting fast (or slow) enough. This nervousness is hard to keep at bay and it manifests as distracting thoughts that take people away from the intimacy of the act itself. As per the Lovehoney study, 32 percent of 18-24 year olds think about their favourite sports team while having sex and Lyndsey Murray, a sex therapist and host of the Sex Positivity: Unfiltered podcast, associates this thought with performance anxiety. She says, “I usually hear of men thinking about sports when they are trying not to cum too quickly… it’s an easy mental distraction that they think will help them last longer.”

Having sex with someone can also be deeply vulnerable and for some it can be tough to communicate what you want without worrying about hurting them. This results in an inner monologue of what you wish your partner was doing or thinking about how to allude to that gently. This becomes a distraction and can prevent you from seeking or feeling pleasure in the moment.

Then there’s the hybrid working situation. Since the pandemic, most jobs require employees to work from home on some days. As this culture emerges as the mainstay, there’s little separation between the personal and professional. This extends to the space and environment around us, especially with the cost of living crisis, as most people live in small shared spaces and are forced to work from their bedrooms. Unsurprisingly, it can be hard to switch between the always-on work personality and the sexy, turned on persona if you’re attending meetings and getting head on the same bed.

Rhiannon John, a sexologist and writer explains, “When our minds are overwhelmed by daily tasks, we tend to lose touch with our body. Thinking about work during sex might reflect the challenge of balancing modern life's demands with intimate moments. It also underscores the importance of finding ways to manage stress and clear mental clutter before engaging in sexual activities.”

So what can you do to stop overthinking while having sex?

communication is key

Basically, before sex, tell your partner what you like so you’re not thinking about the dissatisfaction when you’re in the moment. Melissa Cook, a sex therapist at Sofia Gray & FunWithFeet says, “I always advise couples to communicate in a non-confrontational and non-judgemental setting. For example, it can be nice to start off with phrases like ‘I love it when you touch me here’ or ‘I like it when you do this but can we try something else.’ I would also avoid using phrases of blame and stress the importance of actively listening to each other.”

make a conscious effort to relax

Try meditating or doing a grounding exercise with your partner to slow down and clear your mind. John adds, “Write down any pending thoughts or tasks you have in order to rid the mental clutter before engaging in intimacy so you can truly be attuned to your partner’s needs.”

set the mood

To create a clear bifurcation between work and play, create a cosy, romantic mood - whatever that means for you and your partner. Dim the lamps, put on a kinky sex playlist, light some candles, whatever! John also recommends turning off your phones so you’re not drawn to notifications, it’ll help you truly disconnect from the outside world.

connect with your partner

Maybe don’t jump right into the sex, engage in delicious foreplay and hold eye contact with your partner so you feel intimate together. Cook suggests focusing on how your skin feels when you’re being touched, this is a good way to hold your attention and prevent quick distractions.

sex is not a chore

Finally, it does not matter how many times you have sex so don’t force yourself to get busy when you don’t feel up to it. It’s more important that you feel present while having sex than doing it passively just to tick a box. Make your own rules, be respectful of each other’s boundaries, and do what feels authentic to you and your partner(s).