What is Sexual Frustration?
Sexual frustration is a feeling of discontentment when you’re unable to relieve sexual arousal, or feel in some way unable to explore sexually in a way that would be fulfilling to you. This could be for any number of reasons. It may be because you’re not orgasming, or because you feel shame around the sex you’re having or want to have. It could also be caused by a medical condition or feelings about your body getting in the way of your sexual expression.
Sexual Frustration In Relationships
If you’re experiencing these feelings in a relationship, sexual compatibility could be a contributing factor. Some people tend to desire sex more frequently than others. Sometimes there is a change in a partner’s libido during the course of the relationship.
It’s not shallow or crass to consider sexual compatibility when getting into or deciding to remain in a relationship: sex can be fundamentally important to lots of people, and it’s a fact that in reality we aren’t necessarily always going to be on the same page, sexually speaking, as our partners. Evaluate your level of distress by weighing what you feel your needs are against where you feel like you could meet your partner(s) halfway, in order to come up with the best solution for yourself and for them when it comes to your relationship to one another. Have open conversations with your partner/s, and, if all parties are agreeable, together you can explore ways of adding novelty, connection or experimentation to your relationship.
Sexual Frustration Kinks
Sometimes, there is no distress around feelings of sexual frustration, seeing as for some the frustration is in itself a point of pleasure. Anticipation can be very sexy, with sexual practices such as edging taking the concept of anticipation to a whole new level, whilst orgasm denial and ruined orgasms even further explore the delights of frustration and denied gratification.
Across the BDSM community, partners in Dominant and submissive roles can tell one another when, how and where they can experience pleasure. This can include edging, which can allow the pleasure to build and fall repeatedly before a partner potentially climaxes, often resulting in a more intense orgasm.
Signs of Sexual Frustration
Feelings can range from annoyance to anger. If you’re looking for signs you’re sexually frustrated, think…
- Symptoms of stress such as trouble sleeping, inability to relax, and muscle tension
- Thinking and fantasizing about sex more often than you typically do, perhaps including increased porn viewership
- Engaging in sexually risky behavior to meet your needs
- Lashing out against or feeling disconnected from romantic/sexual partner(s), specifically steering arguments with your partner(s) back to the topic of sex
What To Do If You’re Sexually Frustrated
If you’re sexually frustrated and find that it’s negatively impacting your life, your relationships or your sense of self, the good news is that you have options!
Visit A Sex Therapist
First and foremost, consider investing in a sex therapist. These professionals can help particularly in scenarios where the type of sex you’re having is what’s causing the frustration. They can open your mind to types of sex you may have yet to explore, such as BDSM and kink, tantra, and the use of specific toys and tools. They can also just lend a sympathetic ear, without the judgment you may fear from a conventional therapist.
If you don’t feel like opening up to a therapist, try communicating with yourself and (if you have one) your partner/s. Inquire as to why this feeling has arrived, and what you can do yourself to ease the frustration. Find ways of communicating with yourself such as journaling, taking the time to unpack where these feelings are coming from. You might think about channeling some of that sexual energy elsewhere, such as into meditation, exercise, dance or self pleasure practices.
If partnered, when bringing this to them, try putting yourself in their shoes. How would you want this topic brought to you if you were them? Remember that their comfort and consent is of more importance than your sexual frustration. They don’t owe you sex or relief from the frustration. You want to search for a resolution to this problem with them, rather than seeing your partner themselves as the problem.
Build A Healthy Relationship With Your Solo Play
Masturbation isn’t something you simply settle for when no one else is around, it’s a beautiful experience within itself. Masturbation is a safe place to explore your body and your desires. It can be a way to connect with yourself and show love to the body you were blessed with.
If your sexual frustration is coming from a place of discontentment with the types of touch you receive, masturbation allows you to touch yourself in the ways you truly desire. This could be about more or better orgasms, but could also be caressing yourself and prioritizing sensuality. You can be creative with your self pleasure practice, experimenting with toys, scene-setting, fantasies, audio-erotica, porn and more.
Can Sexual Frustration Cause Anxiety?
The short answer is yes, sexual frustration can result in feeling more anxious. In truth, this can be more of a cycle than a cause and effect relationship. If you’re already anxious, you may be less inclined to speak up about your sexual dissatisfaction which can cause frustration and further anxiety. You might also experience less arousal or libido due to anxiety which can be frustrating in itself, or you may have thoughts pertaining to desire with no desire manifesting in your body. If you are sexually frustrated your odds of experiencing anxiety are increased. A 2020 study demonstrated that sexual satisfaction is positively correlated with feeling less anxious.
Can Sexual Frustration Cause Depression?
The link between sexual frustration and depression, on the other hand, is not yet thoroughly understood as most studies around sex and depression focus on the impact of antidepressants on libido. Once again however, it is believed to go both ways. Depression can result in decreased sexual behavior and therefore frustration, and sexual frustration can result in feeling depressed.
In truth, society is to blame for many of the harmful narratives we absorb around sex. When you see the amount or type of sex you’re having as a reflection of your value there is more potential to remain unsatisfied, especially if you feel you are not living up to some kind of societal expectation. Understanding the link between sexual frustration and other mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression can be useful in alleviating some of these feelings.
Aim to understand why you’re feeling sexually frustrated in the first place, and try as much as you can, either through conversations with yourself, friends, partner/s or therapists, to release the aspects of those feelings that are rooted in societal shame and stigma.
Tara Michaela (she/her) is a black, queer sex educator based in New York. Her work focuses on how injustice manifests in sexual interactions, specifically racism. She also explores how stigma keeps us all from being our best selves, pleasure as a form of liberation, and how we can close the orgasm gap. She uses her social media platforms and written pieces to connect with her community on these issues. You can find more of her work on her website www.taramichaela.com, Patreon or her Instagram (@tara.michaela).