The Unexpected Relationship Between Emotions And Sex (For All Sexes)

Leigh Norén, MSc
4 min readNov 12, 2019


How feeling your negative feelings can lead to a better sex life.

Photo by Mark Daynes on Unsplash

Emotions and sex — two things most of us struggle with from time to time. And contrary to popular belief, only focusing on cultivating positive emotions and happy thoughts, isn’t necessarily the way to a happier life or a better sex life.

We live in a culture where we’re constantly bombarded with messages about “thinking positively” and putting a positive spin on bad life events. As a trained therapist, I’ve seen firsthand how all of this positivity actually can make things worse.

All Emotions Are Important

As human beings we’re wired to feel feelings — both positive ones and negative ones. And regardless of where we’re born in the world or what our culture looks like, we all have the same innate abilities to feel the same feelings. They’re what helped us survive in the savannah, and they’re what help us survive today (if we listen to them!).

I’m sure most of us would like to feel happy and content all the time. But we can’t be and we shouldn’t either strive to.

You see, emotions aren’t just more or less pleasant states of being (even though they definitely can feel that way sometimes!). They actually exist to serve as compasses in life.


  • tell us what we need
  • communicate our needs to those around us
  • and motivate us to act in various ways

What this means is if we don’t listen to what our emotions are telling us, we lose out on vital information. Information that, in the long run, helps us feel better all round. Not only that, according to an article in The Scientific American:

“(…)anger and sadness are an important part of life, and new research shows that experiencing and accepting such emotions are vital to our mental health. Attempting to suppress thoughts can backfire and even diminish our sense of contentment.”

Emotions and Sex

So, now that we know why it’s important to not shield ourselves from emotional pain or difficult feelings, what does this have to do with sex?

Everything — actually.

Sexual problems are often, at least partly, caused by emotions that are hard to deal with, and also lead to lots of negative feelings. This is true for both sexes.

The longer we experience problems with our sexuality, the stronger those feelings may become.

Difficulties in dealing with feelings like worry, fear, sadness, and frustration can escalate and exacerbate sexual problems, and even sometimes cement them.

When we allow ourselves to feel what we feel, and act in agreement with our emotions, we allow the emotions to actually run their course. Instead of pushing the feeling away and locking it into our bodies, leading to sexual difficulties such as low libido, we act on the emotions.

This explains why crying often can feel like a relief — we’ve allowed the emotion to exist in our body, acted on it by crying, and in turn, the emotion lessened in intensity.

When we don’t do this, our feelings can’t run their course. A lot of times they’re just expressed in other ways instead, such as through overwhelming anxiety, or through us shutting down completely.

We try and turn off our negative emotions because we want to be happy (and who can blame us?).

But when we try turning off negative emotions, we actually run the risk of turning all of our emotions off — even the positive ones.

Emotions and sex are intertwined, whether we like it or not. And when all of our feelings are pushed to the side, you might easily lose your libido, sense of intimacy in your relationship, sensuality and enjoyment of sex.

A New Way Of Looking At Emotions for All Sexes

Instead of looking at negative feelings such as sadness and anger as something to combat or work on, you might want to try accepting the feelings and letting them tell you what you need.

From an evolutionary perspective, for example:

Sadness is an emotion that tells you you’re in need of others and their support.

The purpose of sadness is to allow you to seek the comfort of others, and to tell others that you need them. In today’s society sadness is often seen as something you should push away, a sign of weakness, or a time to be alone so that other’s don’t see you in this emotional state. For boys and men especially, this can be a very shameful feeling.

Anger is a feeling that arises when we need to set boundaries, or in a situation that requires we react with a bit of power.

This emotion is often felt strongly within our bodies. Anger is an incredibly important source for building self-esteem and integrity, which is why the, often pervasive idea, that girls shouldn’t be angry, can limit their ability to set boundaries.

Sex can truly be one of the most enjoyable parts of life. But without feeling, without enjoying it, sex becomes an empty activity. Something we do for the sake of it, as opposed to allowing it to enrich our lives.

Next time, instead of trying to push away negative emotions, try accepting them and listening to what they’re trying to tell you. Understanding and accepting the complexity of emotions and sex will do wonders for your sex life!

Leigh Norén is a sex therapist and writer. Her writing on low libido, communication and intimacy has been featured in YourTango, Babe, The Tab, Glamour, and more. Learn more about Leigh on her website.

Originally published at on November 12, 2019.



Leigh Norén, MSc

Sex therapist and writer with a Master of Science in Sexology. Offers free online resources and sex coaching.