Sexuality for Highly Sensitive People

Jun 25, 2017 | Blog

Highly Sensitive People Tend to Know Their Bodies Pretty Well. 

I know when I’m hungry, and I know how hungry I am at any point in time. I know when I’m about to get full. I know the moment that tingling sensation hits and I might be catching a cold. I can tell you the nuances of different foods and how they behave in my body. I know when my blood sugar is balanced, and when it isn’t. And I know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that I have no business ever consuming a full cup of coffee. That’s just a bad life choice.

And when it comes to the rhythms of my body and its oh-so-lovely cycles…I can tell you where I am at any given day of the month. I can tell you when I’m ovulating. I know it because of the ease with which my brain slips into daydreams. I can tell by the way I’ve stopped listening to non-fiction, informative audiobooks on health and wellness and have instead opted to download a fiction romance. I can tell by the way I am absolutely craving touch. Not only touch that involves sex and sexuality…but just TOUCH. I want to be hugged, held, nuzzled, and snuggled. I want to burrow into soft blankets and feel as the weight of soft fabric presses down on me.

If this sounds absurd or woo-woo to you, then you probably just aren’t (and don’t know) a highly sensitive female.

That same sensitivity and body-awareness makes for an interesting relationship with sexuality…

Because I have a more sensitive nervous system, pleasure in the realm of sexuality is both very easy and extremely challenging. If you are my mate, you can take my breath away with a deliberate touch on the back of the neck, or a soft kiss against my cheek. Even a smile from across the room is a kind of foreplay. It’s all lovely.

I also have a highly active imagination…so porn is redundant to me. I can conjure up images and story lines all day long with no help from other signifiers. They say men fantasize about sex more often than women. That might be true. But I’m fairly certain I could give the average guy a run for his money.

Of course…that sensitivity has its drawbacks. I can be slow to warm up. Touch too roughly, and I can easily move from being enchanted to disengaged. A distracting sound coming from another room, or the knowledge that other people are nearby can make me feel ill-at-ease. In order to climax…I sometimes have to go agonizingly slow and steady…I have never had a satisfying quickie (if by satisfying, we are including orgasm in the equation). Oh the joys of being a highly sensitive female. 

What Does This Have to do with  HSP’s Health?

Anyone who tries to tell me that sexuality doesn’t have any influence on a persons health and wellbeing, as far as I’m concerned, is a danger to him/herself and to others. You may choose not to have sex. Or to engage directly with one’s sexual organs. But that is still a kind of engagement with sexuality. Choosing not to do a thing still invites conversation about the thing you’ve chosen not to do.

There is even research on the connection between orgasms, health and longevity. If you’re curious…for women a higher frequency of orgasms is correlated with a longer life. They couldn’t tell with men (no variance, as they say). Which…if you don’t mind me saying so, is bull****. If women are the ones having the babies, they sure as hell better be having some fun beforehand. Just sayin…

Whether sexual climax and long life are connected in any cause-and-effect way is difficult to tell. It could just as easily be the case that people in good relationships are having more sex, and people in good relationships also tend to live longer. But either way – good sex sure doesn’t seem to hurt anything.

And as for highly sensitive people- it seems to me that since they tend to be particularly attuned to their bodies (or at least able to read the body’s cues on a more subtle level) a conversation about sexuality and sexual health is worth having.

So…What Do the Experts Say About Sex and Highly Sensitive People?: 

Obviously, sexuality is incredibly subjective. I may be a highly sensitive person,  and there may be others who resonate with my experience…but that doesn’t mean all or even MOST highly sensitive people have the same experiences I do. I consider myself to have a relatively high sexual appetite – but on the whole, women statistically don’t – at least not when compared to men. Maybe my experience with sexuality is also vastly different from the average highly sensitive person?

In an effort to find out more information about what the literature has to say about HSP and sexuality, I went looking into some research. After all…The main thing that distinguishes an HSP from an average Joe (or Josephine) is their more sensitive nervous system. Stimulation affects us more profoundly (hence the desire for more quiet, and softer fabrics).

According to a website link on Elaine Aron’s page, a survey was done to tease out this very topic. The results were as follows:

HSP’s and nonHSP’s have the following things in common:

– Number of sexual partners lived with.
– Relationship satisfaction.
– Sex being one of the most potentially satisfying parts of life.
– Finding it easy to sense when your partner does or does not want sex.
– Being aroused by subtle cues.
– Difficulty making the transition into sex.
– Liking to be the one who is active and deciding what the two of you will do.
– Liking to talk during sex.
– Frequency of having an orgasm.
– Frequency of masturbating.
– Physical or emotional problems or medications interfering with sex.
– Having fantasies of having power over another person.
– Having been sexually abused, and if abused, having these experiences affect your life.
– Sexual dysfunctions (eight items, such as lack of interest, not finding sex pleasurable, impotence, premature ejaculation, etc.)
– Feelings of satisfaction, worry, excitement, or guilt during sex.

On the flipside…the things that differentiated HSP’s when it came to sex were that HSP’s were more likely to answer “Often” or “almost always” to the following:

– Finding that sex has a sense of mystery or power about it.
– Finding it difficult to return abruptly to ordinary activities after sex.
– Not being turned on by strong, explicit sexual cues.
– Having areas of your genitals that can be touched in a way that is painful or too intense, even when aroused.
– Needing to stop during sex because of being overwhelmed or overstimulated.
– Being distracted or interrupted while having sex gets you out of the mood.
– While having sex or considering it, being easily disturbed by slight sounds, smells, seeing certain things (in the environment of the other person). (See figure.)[figure to be inserted into web page later.]
– Liking to have things be the same each time you have sex (true for HSWs, but especially true for HSMs.)

So…basically highly sensitive people like sex as much as anyone else. If anything, we appear to have the potential to enjoy it more than the average person…we just also are more high maintenance. Big surprise there ; )

So How do I Go About Cultivating a Healthy Relationship With Sexuality as an HSP?

When it comes to sex and sexuality…whether you’re an HSP or not, it ultimately comes down to two things.

  • Do you understand your own body…its wants and needs
  • Can you communicate that with another person?

But if you want to get into the nitty-gritty….here are some things to consider:

  • If you want good sex as an HSP, you’ll probably want to have an emotional connection with your partner. It’s not like you can’t have casual sex. It just appears to be the case that HSP who know their partners well have more fun.
  • You’ll want to get intimately acquainted with your own body (intimate being the operative word). How can you communicate with others when you don’t know what feels good in the first place?
  • You’ll likely want the environment to be distraction free. Keep the TV off and turn on some white noise instead.
  • If possible, avoid initiating when roommates are around. Distraction coupled with feeling self conscious are serious mood killers for HSP.
  • Make sure the room, itself, is comfortable. Not too hot, not too cold, and no itchy sheets. (Yup…we are the Goldilocks of horizontal ballroom dance)
  • Make sure you don’t have to do anything productive immediately afterward. HSP tend to need more time to wind back down after sex. Gotta love that extra processing.
  • Have a really clear line of communication with your sexual partner. Ideally, you’ll want to find a way to communicate in a way that doesn’t involve criticism. Everyone is vulnerable in that area…but HSP even more so.


Sex is a tricky subject for just about anyone to broach. It’s a space that we all feel, on some level, a bit vulnerable. For highly sensitive people, there are added layers of this. Our touchy nervous systems key into a lot of data – so its easy to become overwhelmed and/or to get knocked out of the mood as fast as it came on. But if you are able to find a partner you trust and communicate easily with and most importantly are willing to make peace with your own body, the payoff is worth it. HSP might be prudent, but as a rule, they aren’t prudish.