Back in my first year of university I was terrified of fellatio. I avoided it for as long as I could – despite the increasing urgency of partners who would push down insistently on the crown of my head. Thanks guys, very subtle!

I’m still not entirely certain what it was about the act that brought me out in a cold sweat, especially now that I’ve grown to love it. But my initial reticence got me thinking about why so many of us refuse to try sexual acts – like anal sex, for example. Is it fear of the unknown? Are we scared of doing it ‘wrong’? Or do the roots of our sexual fears lie deeper than that?

My own fellatio fears were concerned with my abilities (or lack thereof), rather than a feeling that putting someone’s genitals in my mouth was some kind of taboo. Even after I learned how much my boyfriend at the time loved oral sex I was scared of hurting him with my teeth or, worse, boring him. Imagine how exhausting that must have been: all those thoughts swirling around my head as I tried to maintain optimum penis pressure!

I imagine that many people’s sex lives are suffering from the same anxiety – we’re all worried about what we’ve done, what we’re doing, what we’re not doing…

One of the most common sexual fears that crops up in conversation with my friends is anal sex. There are few topics that get women (and men) more flustered than talking about something – a tongue, finger or penis – edging precariously towards their butt.

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First, there’s the perceived pain element. Anal sex has a reputation for causing women so much pain that they need to stop midway, or they refuse to engage in it again. I was part of the latter. Thankfully a previous sexual partner gently explained to me that the pleasure far exceeds any initial pain. Plus preparation is everything: use fingers or toys along with lube before anything large goes in and you’re golden. Talking about anal sex is the first step, learning to do it the right way is the next.

There are other fears around anal sex that tend towards the irrational. For example, guys who won’t consider it because they associate the sphincter with homosexuality. ‘Dude, that’s gay’, is my least favourite response in this group of guys. Here’s a LOL for you lot: your ass is an erogenous zone (for men in particular), this means that it has nothing to do with your sexual orientation and everything to do with having incredible orgasms – ones that you won’t experience until you give your mindset a reboot.

Of course, your own sexual fears may not have anything to do with fellatio or anal sex. You might be worried about being on top or masturbating in front of your partner. Or perhaps you fantasise about threesomes or having sex in front of other people but don’t know how to broach the subject with your partner. Remember: most of the things we feel uncomfortable doing sexually can easily be broken up into smaller, more doable parts that we can overcome. Worried about going down on him? Don’t plough into the triple X-rated porn star stuff right away: start gently by kissing the tip. Does that make him moan? Watch him and ask how you can increase his pleasure. Anxious about anal? Put a little lube on your fingers when you’re alone and explore how that makes you feel. Self-conscious about being on top? Start slowly by straddling and kissing him and, when you’re ready, let your partner place their hands on your hips while you move back and forth or up and down depending on what feels good for you.

Go on, take on that gag reflex, buy some lube during your next grocery shop, log onto Skype and try a little long-distance sex with your partner who’s out of town. Taking those small steps could just lead to the best toe-curling sex of your week.

Stay safe. Stay lubricated. Stay consensual. And let me know how you get on.

Tshegofatso Senne writes the blog Melanin As Love. Read her latest blog post Maybe I’m Bad At This…

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