Sex is an important part of being human. Not just in our romantic relationships, but in our relationship with ourselves as well. Understanding our sexual needs and desires can help us understand ourselves better and connect with our partners if we’re willing to share our needs with them.
But some of us struggle with our sexual needs. Some people might actively try to force away their own sexual nature in order to actively avoid it. And suppressing our sexual needs can lead to some difficulties within ourselves and in our relationships.
Are you struggling with connecting to your own sexual side? Here are five signs that you may be suppressing your sexual needs.
1. You find it difficult to understand sexual boundaries.
Sex is a very intimate act, but it is still one that requires boundaries. You need to be able to communicate with your partner what you’re okay with and what you’re not. If you’re suppressing your sexual needs, you might find it difficult to communicate what you need, or you might find it difficult to object when you don’t like what someone’s doing. Similarly, your partner needs to be able to communicate that with you as well and trust that you’ll respect their own boundaries. But if you are suppressing your own sexual needs, it may make it difficult to understand where the boundary line actually is.
2. You’re afraid of what others might think of your desires.
While you might find it difficult to communicate with partners about your sexual needs, this could be because you’re actually afraid of what they’ll think of you if they hear your desires. This might be true even if your own sexual needs aren’t too extreme. Or maybe you’re afraid that voicing your needs will hurt your partner or their own ego. It’s okay to be nervous when you’re opening up to your partner about your desires. But remember: if you’re in a safe, consensual relationship, your partner should want to hear what you need to feel sexually satisfied, and they should want to help if they can.
3. You feel frustrated or tense often.
An important part of sexual urges is also a release. This might be an orgasm, or it could just be a connection to yourself and your partner. But suppressing or attempting to ignore our sexual needs can lead to us feeling irritated, frustrated, or even tense, as we don’t get the release that we need. Having an orgasm releases a lot of happy chemicals, such as dopamine and oxytocin. Suppressing your sexual needs and not being able to have that release may lead to feelings of physical tension or emotional frustration.
4. You feel confused about your body, mind, and desires.
Suppressing your sexual needs can also make it hard to understand your own desires. You might find your body responding to sexual stimuli while your mind feels negatively or disgusted by anything remotely sexual. Or you may take on the sexual needs and desires of your partner, but not explore your own. It may be difficult to understand what your sexual needs are, which can leave you feeling confused about your own sexual nature and desires. This is why it can be important to explore our sexual desires in a safe environment.
5. Your sexual desires can feel more urgent and don’t go away.
Trying to suppress something doesn’t always make it go away. Sometimes, it makes things worse. If you’re constantly trying to force away your own sexual needs and desires, it may just make them feel even stronger. Or in trying to suppress your sexual needs, you might actively try to avoid sexual thoughts too. And forcing yourself to not think of something usually just makes you think of it more. So, in your efforts to really force your sexual needs and thoughts away, you might be doing just the opposite.
When we suppress our sexual needs, we’re essentially trying to deny a part of ourselves that we think might be bad or shameful. This may come from religious beliefs or more conservative households. A lot of times, the feelings and reasons behind suppression can come from guilt or shame.
For most people, our sexual needs are neither bad nor shameful. And in looking at and addressing our own sexual needs, we can improve our sex lives, especially if we’re willing to open up to our partners about them—when we’re comfortable with it, of course.
But remember: you’re not alone when it comes to having sexual needs and desires. And having them definitely doesn’t make you strange or wrong. It’s just another part of being human.
- DePesa, N.S. & Cassisi, J.E. (2017). Affective and Autonomic Responses to Erotic Images: Evidence of Disgust-Based Mechanisms in Female Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder. The Journal of Sex Research, 54(7), 877-886. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2016.1252307
- Efrati, Y. (2019). God, I can’t stop thinking about sex! the rebound effect in unsuccessful suppression of sexual thoughts among religious adolescents. The Journal of Sex Research, 56(2), 146-155. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2018.1461796
- Raypole, C. (2020). What Does It Mean to Be Sexually Repressed? Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/healthy-sex/sexually-repressed
- Morokoff, P. J. (1985). Effects of sex guilt, repression, sexual “arousability,” and sexual experience on female sexual arousal during erotica and fantasy. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 49(1), 177-187. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35220.127.116.11
- Wegner, D. M., Schneider, D. J., Carter, S., & White, T. (1987). Paradoxical effects of thought suppression. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53, 5–13.
- Wenzlaff, R. M., & Wegner, D. M. (2000). Thought suppression. Annual review of psychology, 51(1), 59-91. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.psych.51.1.59