How I Have Sex: ‘ADHD Makes Me Impatient, Which Sometimes Leads to Disappointing Sex’
In How I Have Sex, we bring you candid retellings of people’s sexual lives that explore the multidimensional nature of this human experience. In this installment, 23-year-old Mallika talks about balancing emotional intimacy and desire while living with ADHD.
The first time I jerked off was when I was eight years old and was watching Bend It! Like Beckham. I saw Keira Knightley and thought “oh my god!” I’m heterosexual, but still. And the first time I did have sex, it took me a while to figure out what I liked. More than what I liked, I wanted to figure out what made me feel comfortable. My partner was curious, read about pleasure a lot, watched porn, and in general, was very enthusiastic about sex — which helped. Because while I’m all for sex and feel like having sex, I’m just not enthusiastic about it.
I probably won’t have an orgasm or won’t enjoy it as much — so what’s the point?
My ADHD diagnosis took about 2.5 years. I was first diagnosed in 2019 and went to see a second opinion and there was a bit of going back and forth. The one massive way ADHD affects my sex life is in terms of attention deficit — I struggle to focus. When I’m not engaged [in the sex], I tend to drift off. And just like that, I won’t be in the mood.
This is why I don’t enjoy foreplay. When people want to engage in foreplay for a long time, it can turn me off because I tend to get distracted. It can get monotonous and my brain just shuts off. I like getting straight to the point; you can spend a minute or two, or max five, and move to business. If the point is that we’re not going to have [penetrative] sex, and just foreplay, then I’d prefer if my partners explicitly communicate this so that my brain knows what to expect and get comfortable with it.
In theory, I have a very high libido. But it doesn’t translate into practice. When it does, there is too much anxiety and performance pressure — not that I won’t be good, but that I fear the act in itself won’t be fun enough. Any activity with ADHD requires me to find some sort of instant gratification. Any sort of project — art, writing — I wouldn’t do it unless there is instant gratification or if there’s too much effort to get to that level of satisfaction. In reality, I don’t even act upon my desire because it doesn’t seem worth it.
I don’t masturbate often. I masturbate when I’m with someone because otherwise, I lose interest. I have used a vibrator too; while it was okay, I enjoy penetrative sex more than anything. If I’m by myself and masturbating, I would much rather use my hands — it takes me very little time to make myself wet because the focus is very high. I know for sure I’m going to cum.
Related on The Swaddle:
In bed, I like a lot of dirty talk. I also like pain; not in terms of kinky BDSM stuff, I’ve never used props or toys. But in terms of power, from both parties or multiple parties. My erogenous zone change from time to time. A safe bet would be my palms, neck, and ears. But I’ve had people do stuff to my feet, and even though I’m not into that stuff, everything feels hot when you’re having sex. In the moment, if my partner is listening and if I’m present, a lot of things can be hot.
I have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) as a comorbidity to my ADHD. There is something called an orgasm OCD, where you’re fixated on having an orgasm and you’re also worried that it might not happen.
A lot of my sexual fantasies revolve around playing hard to get. Or “consensual non-consent” — it’s a [roleplay] kink people use to take back power [from the dominant partner]. You play hard to get, you kind of act or pretend like you’re not interested in having sex, but then you have a say and later stop. If I’m roleplaying as the partner who is pretending to not want sex, my partner has to try hard to convince me. This might sound very problematic if you take it out of the bedroom, but in bed, it’s super playful, fun, and consensual. I also really like the idea of having a massage during sex; it’s one of my favorite points.
A lot of people with ADHD experience something called Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria [note: the DSM only recognizes rejection sensitivity and not RSD, but the latter is still considered a deeply valid and debilitating issue within the ADHD community] — which also plays into our sex lives in a way that any tiny bit of boundary. This is not in an unhealthy way (in the sense, that the partner is dismissive), that they are allowed to express their likes and dislikes. I tend to take it personally and the arousal just dies. ADHD also makes you more impatient, which leads to very short or disappointing sex.
Even though a lot of people aren’t able to do — but what’s non-negotiable for me — is to be able to talk throughout. Because it involves me talking, the other person is compelled to talk too. People do like dirty talk, and I have gotten good at it. I hope that’s something we take into different relationships with other people as well. Sex is better for me in a relationship — it always has been. My last relationship ended in March 2019. Since then, I have been involved with more than 15 people sexually. They were all mediocre experiences objectively in terms of sex, but the thrill I get from not being monogamous is quite satisfying.
Every time I drink alcohol, it lowers my anxiety and inhibition and it’s easier for me to be by myself and be free. It also mellows me down; I’m no longer hyperactive and my brain doesn’t run a mile a minute.
I usually have good self-esteem. When a guy is enthusiastic about going down on me, or if they cum very fast because they can’t wait or couldn’t help themselves, that gives me external validation too. When I am exhausted, after that I have the best kind of sex — probably because my brain feels a little mellowed out.
I’m trying to discover what works for me, and how to engage my brain to have the best sexual experience.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.