I feel sexually frustrated all the time. What do I do?

Anonymous
asks:
Okay so I'm a 15 year-old girl and a virgin. I've never had a boyfriend or anything. My family's a bit Catholic and I plan to stay a virgin until I find the right person. But I kinda feel like I'm sexually frustrated and I've been thinking about sex a lot. I recently just started watching porn but I don't feel like masturbating. It's not like I don't wanna do it, but it just feels weird. Plus, I barely have privacy in my house, but I can't stop thinking about sex and I want it to stop.
sam w replies:

Your question came in well before COVID-19 was on the horizon, but ever since it reared its virus-y head, a LOT of people are finding themselves in your situation.

If someone experiences sexual attraction or desire, there is going to be a point in their lives where they feel sexual urges they can't act on. In your case, you've set boundaries for yourself about when you want to have sex. Others may not have a sexual partner; some might be in a long distance relationship, or some might be in the mood when their partner so isn't. Or, as might be the case right now, a partner might nearby but observing social distancing guidelines (which, as of this writing, are to only be sexual with partners you were already living with).

First things first: while we can avoid things that push the "arousal" buttons in our brains to decrease the odds of having sexual thoughts, there's no way to stop them entirely. Sometimes we unexpectedly encounter things that turn our thoughts to sex, or those thoughts will pop up out of the blue. You're also smack in the middle of puberty, a time where sexual interest tends to increase. Regardless of the cause, there's nothing wrong with those thoughts, even if they're frequent.

But, as you pointed out, having sexual feelings you can't act on gets very frustrating very quickly.

The obvious solution is our old friend masturbation. Masturbation is a great way to relieve sexual feelings, and one that can help you get to know your body and desires in the process. It can also be a great stress reliever which is something we could all use right now.

However, you mention that masturbation feels "weird" to you. While I can't know exactly what you mean by "weird" in this context, I can tell you that you're far from the first person to have masturbation feel that way. If you want to give masturbation some more tries, there are a few ways to approach it that can help it feel pleasurable.

Sometimes, enjoying masturbation is simply a matter of taking time to explore your body and figure out what ways of touching it bring you sexual pleasure. But often, what's making masturbation feel weird or uninteresting has way more to do with your brain than any other body part. Our brains are the biggest player in our sexual response, so if they're not engaged in what's going on, odds are masturbation won't feel like much.

You don't mention what messages you got around masturbation growing up; if you had a religious upbringing, that can often correspond to masturbation being framed as shameful. Shame is a big-time arousal killer, and if you notice it popping up when you try to masturbate, we have some advice on how to address and lessen that feeling.

Finding a headspace where you're aroused and relaxed is another way of bringing your brain into the mix. You mention porn, and the fact that it doesn't get you in the mood to masturbate. That's totally okay! Some people find porn or other sexual media helpful in getting their brains in the mood, but plenty of others don't. Honestly, if you're still learning what kinds of things you like to fantasize about, sometimes porn can have the opposite effect you want it to because you're consuming what you think "should" turn you on but actually does nothing for you (or actively turns you off). Not to mention that--because of the kinds of bodies porn tends to present--watching it can leave you feeling pretty crummy about your own body, which in turn makes it hard to connect with it while masturbating.

Instead of starting with porn, you'll likely enjoy masturbation way more if you take time to learn about the fantasies that turn you, specifically, on. I really love these ways of reflecting on and connecting with your fantasies. The more you tune into your unique fantasies and desires, the more pleasurable masturbation may become.

(And hey, if you're currently social distancing and looking for things to do, setting aside time to explore and connect with your fantasies is a great way of passing the time!)

Let's say you decide to experiment with masturbation some more. To masturbate, you need privacy. Right now, that's a challenge for you and many, many other people sharing their living space with family. How you navigate that challenge depends a lot on the layout of your living space. If you have a room of your own with a locking door, then that's a pretty simple solution. But if you share a room, or don't have a way to lock it, your options for masturbating are limited to when other people aren't around. Which, in the current situation where lots of people are all at home at once, is an infrequent scenario.

Enter the bathroom.

No, seriously, I mean go into the bathroom. Bathrooms either lock or, if they don't, people know to knock before going into one. Sitting on the toilet, in the shower, or in the bath if you've got one are all places people are able to masturbate in peace (and if you have a detachable showerhead, you've even got a safe, built-in sex toy if you want it).

If you do have access to a room of your own, there can still be issues with privacy. Not every parent (or sibling, or roommate) is great about knocking, or willing to let a locked door exist without questioning it. Depending on your relationship with your parents, you can say you'd like a little more space to yourself, whether that's a new lock, a promise they'll knock, or agreement that every day from 3p.m to 4p.m you can be in your room without any interruptions (after all, you're at the age where young people start wanting, and needing, more privacy). Or, you may need to toss out a few white lies about what you're doing: taking a nap, reading, doing homework, anything where it's not strange that you'd want the door closed for quiet or ease of concentration. If you need some extra help coming up with ways to get time and space to yourself, we have a whole piece about managing privacy worries when masturbating at home.

Even if you find ways of masturbating that you like, there will be times where you've got sexual feelings or desires that you'd love to get out but you just can't. That can be due to things like a lack of privacy, a lack of desire to act on the feelings, or being in a location like school or work where there just isn't the option of going off to masturbate.

In those instances, you have to find ways to ride the feeling out. Sometimes it helps to acknowledge to yourself that you're aroused and then do your best to let the feeling go. That way you don't run into the problem where, by trying not to think about something, you end up thinking about it over and over again (if you've ever had a mosquito bite and tried to keep from itching it by repeating "don't itch, don't itch" to yourself, you know what I'm talking about). If that doesn't work, you can channel your energy or focus into something else. That could be exercise, working on a project or hobby, watching T.V. or reading a book, the list goes on. Giving your brain something else to focus on gives the arousal time to go down or disappear.

I hope I've given you some potential outlets for exploring or redirecting those sexual desires. Just because sexual frustration is a part of life for most people doesn't mean it has to result in you feeling like a grumpy, horny volcano all the time. Between masturbation, fantasizing, and good old-fashioned distraction, you can find a way of dealing with those feelings that is the right fit for you.

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