As an introvert, I know all too well the many struggles we “quiet ones” are prone to experiencing. Until now however, there’s one struggle that I have not yet revealed to anyone but my partner. Today I feel the courage to share it in the hope that it brings awareness, relief, and support to anyone else who can relate to it.
That struggle is the experience of sex as a shy introvert.
The first memory I have of this struggle was in my first year of high school, aged 12, when I said yes to being the girlfriend of a boy in my class. As soon as I heard that I was expected to kiss him (about a day later), I broke up with him out of pure fear. This happened again with another boy that same year, although instead of dumping him straight away, I purposefully avoided him at break times (such a great tactic) purely because I was terrified of what was expected of me.
As a result, some of the popular boys in my class started calling me “frigid.” In my eyes, all the popular kids were way more experienced than me. The dilemma was that I wanted to be a part of the popular groups, but I was not ready for the sexual experiences that seemed normal to them, and that put me at risk of getting rejected.
From age 13 onwards, some of my close girlfriends were also more advanced than me. If they ever spoke about their sexual experiences, I would listen intently, desperate to find something in common with them or to pick up some advice or tips. Sometimes I would pretend that I had done the same things as them if they asked me. But I never asked them questions or shared my true feelings. I was too afraid of feeling like the odd one out.
Of course, I’m not saying that all introverts are prone to this type of experience, and I’m certain that some extroverts face these challenges, too. But I believe my struggle with sex was inextricably tied to my introvert personality — and I don’t think I’m alone in that. Here’s why sex was such a struggle for me, and how I changed that.
I Saw My Introverted Personality as Inferior
The general subconscious message I got throughout high school was that you had to look good, perform well sexually, be daring, and play the game of acting cool, never being needy, sensitive, or nervous.
As a shy introvert, I saw my personality as inferior to others since I wasn’t outwardly expressive, outgoing, daring, or assertive. As a result, I focused on looking good (to the point of perfection) and trying to play the game — and that’s how I got the “love” and attention I secretly craved. As it turned out, playing the game came easily to me since it involved keeping my real thoughts and feelings inside. As an introvert, I was used to that.
By the time I was in my late teens, I’d developed a pattern of engaging in sexual activity (initiated by the guy) when I didn’t want to. I was too afraid to say no due to the fear of not being liked, seeming frigid, and feeling embarrassed.
I even had unprotected sex out of fear of speaking up about it and “ruining the moment.” I convinced myself to trust that the guy knew what he was doing.
This is shocking to me now and is the main reason why I wanted to share my story. Remaining quiet out of fear and not honoring your needs and feelings is NOT okay.
Later on, I’d be so paranoid about whether the condom was on properly and whether it was still intact afterwards, but I never dared to ask or check. Why? Because that would not be cool.
Even in my relationships following, I would mostly be stuck in my head during sex, wondering what the guy was thinking, whether he was judging my body, whether he thought I was boring for not initiating or taking the lead, for not saying what position I wanted, or for not talking dirty. The reality was that I didn’t know what I wanted as I had lost touch with my true self, hence it was easier just to remain passive. However, this only left me feeling used, ashamed, regretful, and paranoid.
The whole time, I felt like I was the only one who struggled with this, including my body insecurities, partly because I never opened up to anyone about it (and no one seemed to be talking about it), and partly due to the confident sexy woman seen in the movies and media. How often do you see sex scenes in movies that show the man putting a condom on? Hardly ever. It usually involves the sexual tension build-up at the beginning, some wild crazy sex in the middle, and then the man and woman lying on their backs in bed at the end. Job done.
A Grateful Sigh of Relief
Luckily, things are very different for me now in my relationship with my partner. I can now express my unique needs and preferences openly; for example, that I like to take things slowly and that if I feel too tired for sex, I will say so instead of remaining quiet and going along with it (which would usually end in a dissatisfying experience for us both).
I feel safe, confident, and respected when I’m naked/making love, instead of feeling self-conscious, vulnerable, and paranoid, and I’m generally more present, although being an introvert with an overthinking mind, I’m still working on that one! I’m also not scared to check that the condom is all good after removing (which saves me a lot of internal stress!).
So how did I get to this place?
It certainly hasn’t been a quick fix. It’s taken a lot of deep reflection, learning, and personal growth which I can summarise in the following:
1) Linking together my past struggles with sex and acknowledging them as a significant area in need of attention
2) Understanding that the root cause of my struggles was a lack of self-worth and self-love since I believed that I would not be worthy or loved if I expressed my true feelings (which as an introvert, did not come naturally anyway)
3) Building self-love, self-respect, and self-acceptance by honoring my body and my feelings enough to express them, accepting and loving myself as I am despite my mistakes, regrets and imperfections, and in turn, not relying on others to feel worthy and loved
4) Seeking a partner who I value, respect, and trust and who values, respects, and trusts me – who respects my needs and feelings, who listens to me and seeks to understand me, who accepts me and loves me exactly as I am
So if you can relate to this struggle, please know that you’re not alone and that it doesn’t have to be this way. Have the courage to acknowledge your struggle, to understand the reasons behind it, and to make a commitment to love and respect yourself enough that you can express your needs and desires to whoever needs to hear it.
It is NOT okay to suffer in silence and to put yourself at risk as a result. You deserve to be heard, respected, and loved — but first you must do this for yourself.