Not Feeling Present During Sex? The Reason Is More Common Than You Think

Not Feeling Present During Sex? The Reason Is More Common Than You Think

“My stomach looks huge in this position.”

“Did I remember to take the trash out?”

“I forgot to call that client back. Shit!”

“He doesn't look like he’s enjoying this at all.”

“This doesn’t feel good. Is something wrong with me?”

“Why am I taking so long to ‘finish’?”

At some point or another, I’ve had these thoughts during sex. If you’ve ever battled distracting thoughts when you’re supposed to be enjoying sex, you are not alone! We are thinking about everything from our cellulite to whatever random noise is happening in the background.

This phenomenon is known in the world of psychology as “spectatoring.” Essentially, we are “watching” ourselves engage in sex and pleasure, while also having an anxious dialogue about everything that is or isn’t happening.

And I know what you’re thinking, “The sex can’t be that good if you’re so distracted, sis!” But spectatoring can happen even with the most skilled and attentive partners.

But why? How?

We Don’t Live Mindful Lives

All day long, our minds are going a mile a minute. We are constantly toggling between Zoom meetings and laundry, to social media and social engagements, to lengthy daily to-do lists, and back again. This creates a “busy brain” which is not good for sex! The busy brain life we live is hard to shut off once we hit the sheets. We all spend a lot of time in our heads and we rarely connect with our bodies.

Tell me if you’ve ever been driving home from work, only to arrive at your destination with no memory of how you got there. Your body may be on autopilot while your brain is off doing other things. This happens in a lot of other scenarios. Fast forward to when I actually settle down to self-pleasure or have sex with a partner, it’s hard to trigger the mind to suddenly be reconnected with the body and focus on the sensations that are happening.

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Not all trauma that I’m speaking about is sexual trauma but a good portion of it is. If you are someone who has had some level of sexual violence happen to them, it can show up in your consensual sexual situations. This can cause you to go into a protective mode and disassociate or not feel present during the act.

Our brains are very complex, but they are also really good at trying to protect us from harm. If you are someone who has experienced harm, it’s not uncommon for you to experience disassociation, or feeling disconnected from your body.

Being Performative

Orgasms aren’t the only things people fake in bed. We fake moans, body language, and facial expressions. It isn’t always because we aren’t into the sex we are having. Instead, it's because we have a particular image in mind of what pleasure looks like. So we try to perform pleasure for our partner. And if you’re performing, there's no way to be truly in tune with your body! 

Oftentimes that means not giving our bodies enough time to really warm up before sex or self-pleasure. So then we spent a lot of time in our head trying to perform! This leads to us wondering why we are taking so long to orgasm, or why we don’t feel pleasure in a deep and authentic way.

Regardless of what the cause is, I’m sure the question on your mind is, “What the hell can I do to fix it?” 

Sexual Mindfulness: 4 Ways To Be More Relaxed & More Present During Sex

1. Turn to your breath.

Our breath is powerful! Deep breathing is the most underrated sex tip out there. You wanna feel more focused? Breathe deeply! You wanna experience more pleasure? Breathe deeply! Do you want to feel more present? Breathe deeply! There is a reason people pay good money to sit in silent meditation. There is a lot to be gained from intentional breathwork.

During sex we often find ourselves tensing up or even holding our breath without realizing it. And while some tension is necessary for orgasm, our bodies need to have a balance of relaxation to allow proper blood flow. The next time you find yourself feeling distracted or busy brain during sex, try taking a few deep, slow breaths into your diaphragm to help you feel more present and more relaxed.

2. Focus on your senses.

Get out of your head and into your body! In order to fully access pleasure, we need to focus on grounding ourselves in our own bodies. If you find yourself wandering off during sex, try this grounding exercise: Think of one thing you can see, one thing you smell, one thing you feel, one thing you hear, and one thing you taste to help ground you. Our five senses are an incredible way to bring us back into our bodies and we can easily use them to ground us during sex.

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3. Change your environment.

You may roll your eyes when you read this but “setting the mood” can be a game-changer. Get the lights just right, turn up your favorite playlist, light a candle! And make sure the door is LOCKED. Be free from any distractions and submerge yourself into the moment with your lover.

4. Reflect

A lot of us just roll over and continue on with our day when we are having sex. We never spend time reflecting on the sex we are having with ourselves or with our partners! To be honest, the “debrief” after sex is one of my favorite parts of sex. Sex is about pleasure, but sex is also about learning, growing, and reflecting. Try to spend at least five minutes after sex reflecting with your partner or with yourself if you’re masturbating. In an effort to reflect and connect, consider asking yourself the following questions after sex:

  1. What was the most enjoyable part of this experience?
  2. How did I show up for myself and/or my partner?
  3. Think of a word to summarize the sex you just had.

It’s so important to remember that no one is perfect. Above all, have grace with yourself and remember that if you don’t do all of these things perfectly, that is okay. Finding a practice that works for your life takes time, but the journey is always worth it.

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Featured image by Getty Images




As they say, create the change you want to see in this world, besties. That’s why xoNecole linked up with Hyundai for the inaugural ItGirl 100 List, a celebration of 100 Genzennial women who aren’t afraid to pull up their own seats to the table. Across regions and industries, these women embody the essence of discovering self-value through purpose, honey! They're fierce, they’re ultra-creative, and we know they make their cities proud.


Even though it’s my life, sometimes I look at it and totally trip out over certain things.

For instance, even though I am aware that both Hebrew and African cultures put a lot of stock in the name of a child (because they believe it speaks to their purpose; so do I) and I know that my name is pretty much Hebrew for divine covenant, it’s still wild that in a couple of years, I will have been working with married couples for a whopping two decades — and boy, is it an honor when they will say something like, “Shellie, we’ve seen [professionally] multiple people and no one has been nearly as effective as you have been.”