Holding Back in Bed

how insecurities hinder sexual enjoyment

Body insecurities can develop as early as childhood. Not to mention that while growing up, superhero films and popular social media trends can further influence these same insecurities. As a result, this growing self-doubt can follow adults into the bedroom and impact their sex lives.

We polled over 1,000 Europeans and Americans about what made them uncomfortable during sex and how it hindered their enjoyment of intimacy. From not being honest about what they enjoy sexually to choosing not to have sex at all, we explored the personal consequences of body image insecurity. How may these vulnerabilities affect you and your partner as well? Continue reading to see how you may be your own worst enemy when it comes to sexual fulfilment.

We Are Our Own Worst Critics

biggest bedroom insecurities for men and women

It isn't always easy to feel comfortable in the bedroom – from the anxiety you may have leading up to the big moment to the thoughts that can run rampant during the act itself. We asked our survey participants across Europe and the U.S. to tell us what made them the most uncomfortable in the bedroom.

Women were more likely to be self-conscious of their body image, but men were more worried about how they performed for their partners. In fact, men were 16 percent more likely than women to feel insecure about their sexual performance. Something that could attribute to this may be the fear of not bringing their partner to climax, which may relate to women often having a harder time orgasming. When it comes to women's body image, as well, research has shown it can affect sexual functioning. In a recent study, it was found that body dissatisfaction can interrupt desire, often making it difficult for women to sustain arousal.

At the same time women may be scrutinising themselves, it may be that men are too focused on living up to expectations – a combination that could lead to sexual displeasure for both parties.

Our Body Insecurities Mapped Out

insecurity head map; percentage who are insecure about their bodies

We were also interested in finding which body parts concerned men and women the most during sex. As it turns out, weight was the primary factor for both men and women, with 67 percent of men and 74 percent of women feeling insecure about it.

More than half of men and women also felt insecure about their genitals. Whether it concerned size, shape, or even smell, men and women shared a resounding sense of timidity when it came to this area. However, 57 percent of women were insecure about their stomach, compared to 36 percent of men, which may go back to their biggest insecurity in the bedroom: body image.

While there may be no quick fix to overcoming insecurities, there are solutions to loving your body that may provide benefits that extend far beyond the bedroom. These include exercising for fun, stepping away from the scale, focusing only on the positive aspects of oneself, and stopping comparisons to others.

Sources of Insecurity

top reasons people are sexually insecure

To truly understand people's insecurity, you sometimes have to know from where the issue stems. Next, we asked respondents why they were sexually insecure, and we found reasons often varied by region.

The biggest source of sexual insecurity for both men and women stemmed from respondents being extremely hard on themselves. Fifty-one percent of women and 47 percent of men felt this way. Following this, 33 percent of women cited that they didn't mirror their country's or culture's standard of beauty, whereas 19 percent of men said someone had made a negative comment about them before. However, very few women (only 9 percent) said it had to do with not getting enough attention from the gender they were attracted to.

Some aspects of being too hard on oneself may include overthinking, worrying, and never feeling good enough – all of which can make an appearance in the bedroom. If you're unable to relax or appreciate yourself for who you are, your sexual intimacy may suffer in the process. While we may not realise it at the time, our partners are usually privy to our insecurities because they see beyond what's skin deep and into the heart of the matter.

Thankfully, body positivity has received a lot of mainstream media attention, and its message will hopefully continue to suffuse itself into the modern psyche, as well as the bedroom. We could all use a little more positivity en route to the Big O.

Staying Within Our Comfort Zones

top 10 most commonly avoided positions due to insecurities

Not only do self-conscious feelings prevent people from doing little things like turning on the lights, but also some people may avoid certain sexual positions entirely. However, other sexual positions can add a layer of excitement to almost anyone's sex life. Some positions may even provide deeper, more satisfying pleasure than what people are accustomed to.

That said, it could be difficult to attempt a new sexual position if self-doubt is a companion. Our results showed partner-facing positions were avoided twice as often as positions where partners faced away from each other, specifically because one or more of the people involved felt insecure.

Of the over 1,000 Europeans and Americans polled, 40 percent of women and 25 percent of men avoided 69, and over 1 in 4 men and 20 percent of women wouldn't have sex standing up. But contrary to what respondents may think, experts have indicated sexual acts that focus on oral sex like 69 can actually help improve intimacy and communication between partners. It may take the encouragement of a partner and some self-reflection for respondents to take the plunge – but if it improves their relationship, it'll be worth it.

It's All in Your Head

sexual insecurities; perception vs. reality

Just because you may worry about your sexual insecurities doesn't mean it will necessarily bother your partner. In fact, both men and women were very unlikely to be bothered by the things their partners worried so much about. While 78 percent of women and 61 percent of men felt insecure about their body image, only 19 percent of men and 8 percent of women were bothered by their partners' bodies.

When it came to sexual performance, over half of women and roughly two-thirds of men felt inadequate. This worry appears to be largely unfounded, though, as only 35 percent of men and 29 percent of women felt bothered by their partner's sexual performance.

No More Doubt

Our survey found physical insecurities have the potential to sneak into our love lives and prevent us from forming intimate connections with our partners. We also found many of these fears were more internalised than factual, and most of the men and women polled weren't bothered by the insecurities people had about themselves.

In fact, one participant said, "I always feel best when I'm totally myself," and another stated, "I wonder why I ever let my insecurities be such a big deal to me?" Everyone should feel empowered by his or her body. At ZAVA, we have everything you need to feel confident and sexy when it matters most – from sex health services to routine body care products. Visit us at ZAVA to learn more.


We surveyed 1,061 respondents who had all had at least one sexual partner. Forty-nine percent were European, and 51 percent were American. 57 percent were men, 43 percent were women, and less than 1 percent identified as a gender not listed in our study. No statistical testing was performed on this data, and as such, it is purely exploratory.

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