Do women worry about “doing it right?”

Men concerned with pleasing partners

Women concerned with pleasing partners

I asked women and men in my classes if they ever worry about whether they are “doing it right” when they have sex.

I recently wrote up my survey of young college men. Now let’s turn to the women, all of whom are 1st and 2nd year students, and almost all are in their late teens/early twenties.

I asked 80 of my women students who had sex with men (straight/bi/pan/flex) this question:

In sexual situations do you ever worry about whether you are “doing it” right?

Answer: YES: 73%            NO: 27%

Their answers were similar to the men’s. Most students did worry, at least sometimes, with 73% of women and 71% of men saying they did.

Next, I did a qualitative survey of 52 women, asking them to talk more about their answer. (Among this sub-group 71% worried about “doing it right.”)

While the women and men I surveyed were about equally likely to worry, the women sometimes described their concern a little differently from the men.

Women and men were both concerned with pleasing their partners. But it seemed that women were more likely to “worry” about it. Among women, 46% worried about doing it right compared to 15% of the men. The genders were more similar when it came to concern with their partners pleasure with 19% of men voicing that concern and 12% of women.

My classification is somewhat subjective, so I’ll give examples where I thought women seemed to be making sure their partners was pleased verses worrying over it in a way that might be distracting:

Concern: is he being pleasured? (n=6;  12%)

    • Yes. Is my partner sexually satisfied too? 
    • I always make sure I am pleasing my partner, and how we have sex makes me happy. 
    • Yes. Am I doing something pleasurable for the other person?
    • Not so much about doing it right, more about if my partner is getting pleasure

Worrying about doing it right (n=24; 46%)

Women seemed to have more of a “worry” focus compared with men. Or maybe for gendered reasons they were more likely to admit to worry, even using the word more. Maybe women are taught more to worry, or to admit it, or, because women’s sexuality is more repressed it might be easier to get distracted from pleasure by worry.

    • Yes, I worry about whether it feels good to my partner
    • Yes, I worry about if I am pleasing the other person enough
    • I always worry about if someone likes what I’m doing
    • I always want to make sure I’m pleasing my partner but never know if I’m doing it right
    • Yes. I question if I’m in the”right” position sometimes
    • Yes, when I’m trying to master cowgirl 101
    • I try to make sure I’m doing it correctly
    • Yes, feels like a race
    • Yes. I worry that I don’t perform as well as their previous partners
    • Sometimes I get embarrassed at how I lose control, so I try to control the way I look by keeping my stomach flat or my hair right
    • I worry about the feel, the process, how I look.

About the same number of women (13%) and men (12%) fretted over their lack of experience.

I’m inexperienced (n=7;  13%)

    • I often feel like I’m not pleasing my partner because I lack experience. Sometimes I’m insecure
    • I don’t want to look like I’m inexperienced
    • If I’m trying something new
    • My first time I had no idea what I was doing

Nope, I don’t worry about doing it right (n=15; 29%)

Men were a bit less like to worry about “doing it right” — with just over one-third of men (35%) and under one-third of women (29%) saying “Nope, no worries.” And roughly 1/3 of both women and men felt confident in bed. 

And similar to some of the men I surveyed, a few women simply said, “No,” they didn’t worry about “Doing it right.“ Others expanded and here are a few of their quotes:

    • Not really, I simply enjoy it
    • No, because I have only been with people I feel 100% comfortable with and who I felt cared for me.
    • No, because if you love someone it doesn’t matter what they think.

Interestingly, several women said they needn’t worry because they felt loved and cared for. That didn’t come up among the men I sampled.

In conclusion…

Women were more likely to spend more time worrying about technique. And women were also less likely to worry about harming their partners physically or emotionally. A number of factors could lie behind these differences.

Women may be less likely to have fantasies that could potentially involve hurting their partners since the eroticism they read and view is less aimed at harming men. And  due to testosterone, men are on average bigger and stronger than their partners.

Our society also more strongly objectifies women and teaches both men and women to do this. (A sex object exists to satisfy their partners, their own feelings and thoughts don’t matter so much.) So it’s not surprising that women are more likely to feel like they should satisfy their partners and to worry about it. Also, because we punish women’s sexuality more than men’s, women can get into the habit of repressing their desire to an extent that they actually lose touch with desire (nearly half of US women report low or no desire). And then, the only thing that makes sense is to focus on their partners’ pleasure.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on July 26, 2020, in sex and sexuality, women and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 28 Comments.

  1. I think this is a really interesting article. I think a lot of woman could relate to this as I believe this is a very common thing, like the experiment/article proved. A lot of times, even in conversations I have had with my girlfriends, we wonder if what we are doing is pleasing to our partners. I think this is because we are sexualized so much and are expected to be perfect; especially when pertaining to sex and pleasure. I think that it is interesting as well that men also answered yes in some aspects. I honestly would have thought that a lot of men, especially those who are younger, only really care about pleasing themselves; more so when they have random sexual partners. This might be different when you are in a comfortable relationship with someone you trust and you can express your needs and desires freely.

  2. I personally do identify with this article because I don’t usually feel like I’m doing it right. I constantly worry about if my partner is having a good time. I was always taught that men come first in everything. Whether it was sexually or even at home, I was always taught that men come first. I was always told to serve my dad, brother, uncle, and any other male that was either part of the family, or was a guest in our home. Sexually, I can really relate to men always being put first.

  3. The responses to a question like this are so important to look at between men and women. As a woman, I would have voted yes because there is so much pressure when it comes to having sex. Do I look fat? Is my hair messed up? Does this feel good for them? There are so many assumptions that sex has to be a certain way and you have to do certain things with your partner- however what most people fail to acknowledge is that everybody is different! Not every person you are with may like the same things (and that is okay). Personally I always want to clear things up before getting anywhere near intimacy in order to make sure we are both comfortable and on the same page as each other.. sort of like guidelines! I’ve had several conversations with my guy friends about what sex is like for guys compared to girls and it cracks me up every time. Typically the responses I’ve heard is that they arent worried about anything because “they know what they’re doing”. Thats it??? How do THEY know that they’re doing it right? I really enjoyed this reading, especially the ending statements as the author brings up the social standards for women in the world of sex.

  4. It is incredibly interesting to see just how many women worry about “doing it right.” I often would think about that myself when having an intimate experience but just chalked it up to me over thinking as I usually tend to do. I feel like because sexuality for women is often hidden away it is harder to know what is the “right” or “wrong” way to be intimate as I really never had anything to go off of. A woman’s role in sex is not typically the focus and not often discussed which makes it incredibly difficult to determine if you know what you are doing. Not to mention constantly thinking about looking good during like keeping your stomach flat and your hair not too crazy. It is nice to know that I am not the only one with these worries, however sex is a natural thing and in turn I think open communication with your partner will allow those worries to fade.

  5. This topic made reflect on my own experience, and noticing that as years have passed by and talking about sex stopped being such a neglected subject within my group of friends. Growing up the word sex is either avoided or taken as a conversation for jokes. This made it difficult for me to understand what I was supposed to be or supposed to be doing. So yes, the question “am I doing it right” was something that started running through my head. I thought well maybe if I satisfy his needs then I am satisfied as well. However, it definitely does not work that way. Doubting myself shows the insecurities that I have with myself. Thinking I am not physically good enough, but it also had affected me emotionally. Hyping myself/ourselves up is something we need to do. If we are not our own biggest fan then the doubt if “we are doing it right” will be hard to avoid.

  6. Liliana Munoz Vazquez

    This is one good question to ask most people, looking at it for both woman and men. It is both important to see what they answered and to see what’s important to women. I would have voted yes, because I feel like most women do worry about what they are doing right. Not only to look good but for their self-esteem. When girls talk and have conversation about sex, I hear most of them talk about how they can be better for the men or what they can do different to make things more pleasurable for them. I have not heard for the most part the men trying to ask the woman what they like and how they feel. With a simple did you “like it” or did it “feel good” or “what did you think”. I feel like most of those questions are ask to see how they did as a form of feedback. I’m not surprised that 73% percent answer yes women are often judge and 46% do worry about “doing it right” and that’s pretty much half of them. The 29% percent have confidence or have experience and they are good with themselves

  7. I think I’ve learned from my experiences that in the college ages, especially in 1st and 2nd year, where experimentation is a trend, students get enticed because of that liberation they feel from their parents’ traditionalist authority, especially those students who live in dorms or even study abroad. Precisely, students are learning about each experience they have first-hand.
    In connection to the post, students somehow have this expectation built in themselves that tells them “I have to have experience, or I’ll look like a (insert name of choice here), and experience is to be a monster in bed”, supposedly. However, students aren’t taught by that experience isn’t something we innately have, but something that comes with time, and that the best way to be satisfied even in those moments of heat is to communicate openly with your partner and tell them likes, dislikes, you name it, because it is what a relationship in itself is designed to do, to get to know someone, and it doesn’t always imply romantically.
    I also feel that we aren’t being taught the difference between a concern and a worry genuinely, because it is very easy to see the thin line that exists between both concepts, since they both involve the same emotional reaction and maybe even adrenaline. However, concern is something that has us on alert, a thought that somehow stays with us “in the back of our minds”. Worry is an idea or a mental image that can either be made up by our minds that can happen, but that causes an anxiety or a sense of adrenaline in a person, which in this case is to signify that a need is not met by us directed towards our partner. However, I think that this worry comes from, again, a lack of communication brought up by the idea that sex somehow needs to be a guessing game between partners and everything should somehow automatically be laid out on the table already. Sex isn’t a guessing game. Sex is a connection between two people that have reached a point where they precisely feel comfortable with each other, enough to the point of where they want to discover that erotic side to each other. Personally speaking, I think that if someone has worries, concerns and anxieties about how they’ll do in bed and they feel that insecure about “what they have” and how their partner will respond, then they’re not ready for the commitment of sex in itself, bar none. Sadly, sex isn’t seen that way anymore, it has become just an egotistical act between two people with the ultimate intention of satisfying a hormonal need.

  8. “By the way, what do you think about what Trump says about the military:

    Americans Who Died in War Are ‘Losers’ and ‘Suckers’.

    MIA Soldiers Deserved Their Fate?

    Retired general torches president: ‘You’re no patriot’…

    An Atlantic article has a lot to say on this:
    https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/09/trump-americans-who-died-at-war-are-losers-and-suckers/615997/

    I think he’s a dbag. But the thing is this. The way trump acts and talks, I do believe he said that especially with what generals have said and such. So you wish others would see that and see what a jerk trump is. But people I know who are conservative and law enforcement and won’t watch the nfl because of kneeling during the anthem. So anything against the military would piss them off. But they DON’T believe trump said that and you know the damn media creating fake news. The liberals stirring the pot, but instantly believe pelosi was a hypocite as far as the salon goes. Idk what happened, maybe she is, maybe she isn’t. But it’s funny thing. They won’t believe this stuff, but instantly the smallest thing agaisnt a democrate, just because they hate pelosi or other dems and then it’s true. It’s amazing though, the psychology effect because it’s one thing for non educated and maybe average or not so intelligent people being duped. But you’d be surprised how many intelligent people, who might not be naive if you tried to trick them from buying a not in good condition used car or see faults and this and that. But when it comes to politics, they just have their biased sources even though ironically blaming the media. I

    sn’t OAN the media just as much as CNN? But they will find sources countering accusations against trump and just won’t believe his wrong doings and not see them. But will believe something against a democrat even if there’s no proof. I hear some say, there sources are good because it’s from a governmental page and not media or something they listen too. But then the stuff they say sounds awfully the same stuff I heard on FOX or OAN. If it’s so different, then why is this news they hear or learn of, because reiterated stuff from the media? Even if it’s governmental, doesn’t mean it’s a better source and if anything could be more prone to propaganda imo. It shows human psycholigy or perhaps certain personality traits of people to disbelieve things accused at their favorite politician and not to believe them, no matter what it is. Serious tribalism from each side. But I’ve seen memes from conservatives on fb about touchy joe biden and I’m not saying that’s good and I don’t know if he over pushed things and I have no problem believe or going against any politican no matter what side if they did something wrong. But they are totally blissfully ignorant that their man Trump, has multiple rape and sexual assault cases against women. I don’t believe it’s because the followers believe rape is not bad, but because he didn’t do it, he’s their guy. It’s weird, you see people be biased like if it’s something their family member is accused of, but trump is a complete stranger. But apparently person that talks up your policies is enough to be your favorite uncle, and like you know them personally.

    Oh yeah, trump just recently did sketchy stuff and have a rape case against get moved to the federal government handling it so he can’t be challenged and now we tax payers are paying that which protected trump. I hope trump doesn’t ge re elected not just because he’s been a horrible president, but he won’t be so protected once out of office.

    • I’ve asked a couple of my friends why they like Trump and neither can think of anything. I think it’s just tribal, or getting excited about “owning the libs” even though it doesn’t really get them anything.

      His attack on democracy is what worries me most, and is why so many informed conservatives are voting for him. Biden isn’t perfect for them, but at least they’d be able to vote him out.

  9. “Meanwhile he befriends the dictators that he admires and wants to Emulate.”

    I agree but what do you think is his motive in regards to China? It’s probably an “act” huh to try to look good or like he’s fighting for US interest or try to be different that will get people behind him because US has been known in the past to be so dependent on China. Xi JinPing is a dictator in my opinion, so while Trump has been friendly with Putin, Trump puts on the the act of fighting Xi Jinping. What’s your take on that that? Trumpy being a fraud and actor and buddy with China’s leader too, but trying to deceive US citizens as he knows people will vote for him and be on his side if he supposedly challenges China which previous US presidents haven’t?

    • He’s so contradictory on China.

      He says he’s going to attack China with tariffs to help the American people. And then he Praises the president, says he would love to be president for life just like him, and asks him to help him win reelection.

      I think he’s hoping that China will only hear the pro China message and that his supporters will only hear the anti-China message. Trying to play both sides.

      • By the way, what do you think about what Trump says about the military:

        Americans Who Died in War Are ‘Losers’ and ‘Suckers’.

        MIA Soldiers Deserved Their Fate?

        Retired general torches president: ‘You’re no patriot’…

        An Atlantic article has a lot to say on this:
        https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/09/trump-americans-who-died-at-war-are-losers-and-suckers/615997/

      • The reason I say that is because I think some serious stuff is going to come out against him. I was watching a thing on Epstein from Netflix. I do believe he was ordered to be killed. A whack job happened. You think he was powerful, but the people he knew and people in the shadows with even more power. I think they were scared he was going to spill the beans more. You talk about sex trafficking, I believe there’s a hidden trafficking ring, no empire around hollywood. And people with power and wealth and influence that would make epstein look like a pauper ion comparison. They were showing his connections with Clinton, but also Prince Andrew is it? Oh Andrew has been dodging with interviews and nervous. But oh yeah Trumpy boy liked hanging with Epstein a lot and sure seemed around epstein at these parties wouldn’t be surprised he knew of epsteins “recruitments” and good chance was part in that too. The big reason I feel things might get shook up is because even though Epstein is dead. They go the woman as you know, his big time accomplice. It shows how women can be just as evil and perverse as men.

        She was as evil as Epstein and even more aggressive than him. She recruited the girls who were sexually abused and took part in sexual abuse too with touching the girls inappropriately and stalked and threatened the girls who left. The fbi or whatever said it was big getting this woman though because she doesn’t give a shit about the others involved in this scheme. She has no qualms about ratting out all the people in connection to all this. That means if trump boy is, he will be ratted out. IDK, I just feel he’s in this in some way or form, but there will be evidence from this woman as well as you’ll probably see revealing evidence at Prince Andrew as well. I mean have you heard the creepy shit trump has said about his own Daughter Ivanka? But this is not the time for that when he’s protected as a president right? That’s what needs to saved when he’s out of office.

      • Speaking of Epstein, it’s so weird that Q-Anon claims to love him (I think they’re actually just trying to get cult-like followers from Trump’s cult-like following). Q-Anon claims to be worried about pedophiles yet Trump is friends w/Epstein, wishes “the best” for his pedophile friend and recruiter Ghislaine Maxwell, has said he’d like to have sex w/his daughter Ivanka, and said he wanted to date Paris Hilton (when she was like 12). Only Trump cultists could be drawn to the Q-cult.

  10. Hey how are things? As you’ve seen many colleges have shutdown or to online because of the spike from many colleges and universities. Seems particularly for southern colleges and mid west ones. How is it at your college? This year sucks and I feel for your students. I assume there’s restrictions also. Is it online or in class? Has there been cases spiked from parties or gatherings for your college? How have your students been handling things?

    • Because my eyes have been bothering me from doing too much computer work I actually told my dean I wanted to take some time off. Interestingly, I wanted to start my time off spring quarter, which started in April, So I just haven’t been having to deal with it. I will have to say that both coronavirus and not teaching me or giving me a really good rest. I’m really liking it so far. Another professor uses my blog for her class so it will still be used, and I will still keep posting once a month.

      So I’m wondering what you think about Trump versus Biden?

      • The thing is this, I’m not crazy about Biden. Just about all politicians seem to have some double talk aspect to them or go sometimes where they think votes will be. But damn, Trump is to a whole different universe. I don’t know when he ever doesn’t lie. He is a pathological liar and Biden is getting blamed yet he’s not even president lol. Trump is trying to say how the chaos of protesters and far right fighting is because of the protesters being hooligans. But trump is the instigator, he wants to see the city burn, because it sets up the position for him to look like a “hero” and to save the day. Yes Biden is a democrat, but I don’t believe Biden sides with the radical violent and destructive people who are looting and being violent.

        And it’s all groups that are being violent, not the left like trump tries to paint that picture. People that have no political affiliation and also just as much alt right conservatives and white supremacists and I believe fake actors trying to create tension too. I’m not fond of the video seeing where Biden wants to take away semi automatic guns and I’m not a gun crazy conservative, but I see the importance of being able to protect yourself and owning a gun if you want. Some may think, why do you need an AR 15? but it’s not that gun specifically but what it falls under. A lot of guns “not military” but guns in general have semi automatic components. So technically if that’s the category, then more than that gun could be taken from decent civilians which is a dangerous direction to go in. And I know Trump is a BSer and isn’t fighting china like he claims. But I do worry if Biden will continue status quo with China.

        WE are China’s bitch and need to stop depending on them and you see how we and the world got hurt because of our dependence on such a corrupt country as China. I just don’t understand why some people see Trump as someone great and can do no wrong. I’m tired of his damn excuses. It’s crazy because some people who like him, aren’t like non educated or dumb or easily duped people. Some I know for trump are in any other form, not naive, and are literally genius IQ and like you know and seen that intelligence applied in so many ways and not duped by people but actually often outsmart people. Yet, just believe and can’t see the crap trump does and believe his lies. It’s weird. I hope the gun thing isn’t true though I heard him literally say it in a video, but otherwise, we need Biden to win. I also hope he isn’t status quo either and tries to take the US in a better direction internationally like dealing with China, etc.

      • I agree with your assessment.

        Of course I voted for Hillary in 2016 but if she were elected and behaving the way Trump is now I would vote for a Republican like McCain if he were still alive or John Kasich. Because Trump is a threat to our democracy. So much so that many Republicans who keep up on the issues are voting for Democrats just to sustain our democracy. Even Republicans who have worked on many Republican presidential campaigns like Stuart Stevens (Mitt Romney) and Nicole Wallace and Steve Schmidt (McCain).

        He wants to be president for life and be worshiped like the North Korean president is. And he’s clearly Putin‘s puppet. Putin wants to we can American ties to Europe by hurting trade relations and military alliances. The US uses our military to guard Europe so that Europe won’t raise their own armies, which could threaten us. Now that they don’t have much military if the US pulls out it would be easier for Russia to take over the countries one by one. So hurting relationships via failure to sustain Military and trade alliances has the potential to boost Russia. It’s exactly what Trump is doing.

        Meanwhile he befriends the dictators that he admires and wants to Emulate.

        He says he trusts Putin over US intelligence. He suggested partnering with Putin on cyber security – the fox guarding the hen house. He shared classified information with Russia. He’s had secret meetings with Putin. Putin was allowed to have aids in but Trump wouldn’t do the same.

        Constant lying and leaving people feeling they don’t know what the truth is is a tactic that boosts dictatorships. If you feel like you can’t know the truth you can’t hold us accountable.

        He is such a threat to the well-being of our country, and our democratic norms.

  11. Question: Why do all your hypothesis always revolve around society and environment and not biology?

  12. I enjoyed reading this survey! Ever since I read the one about how men feel, I was super curious to see how women felt about it too. I found it interesting that men and women thought similarly about if they are “doing it right”. 73% of women and 71% of men said that they did. However, upon further inspection both men and women actually had different motives as to why they were feeling this way. This is what sparked my interest the most! Women were more likely to “worry” about pleasing their partners, 46% in fact, while only 15% of men worried in this way. Personally, I feel that the worry that women experience can be related to the stigma around women being sexual beings. It is more widely accepted that men are sexual and I feel like this might give men more confidence when it comes to having sex!

  13. It was interesting to see that at a glance both men and women answered yes, at approximately the same rates, to the question “do you worry?” Then when asked deeper about this concern it wasn’t so much worry, but rather it was pleasure. When seeing that 73% of women answered yes, and 71% of men answered yes, I automatically assumed a similar analysis could be drawn from both groups. As noted in the post, it may be that “women are taught more to worry, or to admit it.” Women in many situations are expected to show stronger emotional ties then men are. Women are also constantly taught to conform and accept that they are wrong, rather than retaliate. All of these societal expectations may be what constitutes these differences in what worrying looks like between men and females.

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