Sex, Anxiety and OCD
I rarely find the sex scenes of TV shows and movies relatable. Particularly those of zealous lovers or steamy hookups. The reasons for this vary. One is entertainment’s tendency to favor fantasy over reality. Sex on the screen is perhaps meant to look different, better even, than sex in real life. It occasionally embraces the less sexy, awkward elements but sexual anxiety — and I’m not just talking about sexual performance anxiety — is rarely portrayed in ways that feel truly real.
The thing that strikes me as most notable, or different, is how easy sex looks on TV. There are some exceptions, but for the most part, sex is presented as something that happens swiftly with little forethought and often no real consequence. Every once in a while there is a character who gives us a sliver of vulnerability. Maybe they hype themselves up in the bathroom beforehand. Or we feel for them when the experience doesn’t go quite the way they’d hoped. But other times, everything seems to go completely and totally right.
As the characters move seamlessly onto the next scene, flaunting an air of casual confidence, I’m often sitting on the couch wondering why I too can’t be cool about sex. Anxiety, whether preemptive or retroactive, always seems to get in the way.
Yes — But could you wash your hands first?
As someone with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and health anxiety, sex is, well, not just sex. It’s difficult for me to put into words what I mean by this exactly. The best way I can think to explain it is to acknowledge OCD’s fundamental desire for control. Much of my anxiety clings to the unknown. Through compulsions, OCD seeks to ward off anxiety’s imaginative composition of worst-case scenarios. But when it comes to sex, there are multiple variables at play, not all of which can be controlled.
To give a more concrete example, I was talking with my therapist recently about dating and asked for her advice on navigating some of the sexual scenarios that may trigger anxiety. Well, okay, that’s not exactly how it happened. I more so posed a very specific question and…