I have tried sex but it makes me anxious. Am I asexual or frigid?

I want to fall in love and be intimate. I thought if a boy could be patient and wait it would help, but there is no such person in my life

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I am a 20-year-old woman at university. I desperately want to have a serious relationship, or a relationship of any kind, but I am scared to have sex. I have done it a few times, but touching and fooling around gives me anxiety, especially when it is with strangers. It is like pulling teeth and not something I would initiate.

I don’t understand why that is or what is wrong with me. I really like boys; I always have. I want to have the ability to fall in love and be intimate but nothing seems to be working for me. I thought that if there were a man who could be patient and wait it would help, but there is no such person in my life. I don’t want to be gay or asexual or frigid. I want a loving relationship with a man where we grow and learn together.

You are expecting way too much of yourself. No one can become adept at myriad sexual situations so early in life – if ever. Sex with strangers almost always induces anxiety of some kind. If your goal is to have a “serious relationship”, it is not an ideal way to begin. The best way to avoid feeling pressure and anxiety is to get to know someone first and not to have sex until you know you really like and desire them.

Your fears about being asexual etc are unfounded. It is healthy to wish for a solid relationship, so listen to your true desire and refuse to bow to the pressure of your age group and culture. You do not need to push yourself to have easy, uncomplicated sex immediately with anyone; this will continue to be elusive, because your body is not going to allow you to bypass your good sense and true feelings. Relax, take your time, just have fun with people and leave before the party becomes a hook-up space.

Pamela Stephenson Connolly is a US-based psychotherapist who specialises in treating sexual disorders.

If you would like advice from Pamela Stephenson Connolly on sexual matters, send us a brief description of your concerns to private.lives@theguardian.com (please don’t send attachments). Submissions are subject to our terms and conditions: see gu.com/letters-terms

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