Do you know what a starfish is?

No, I don’t mean this inoffensive sea creature:

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I mean the term “starfish” to refer to a woman in bed.

The Urban Dictionary definition states that a Starfish is:

A female sexual partner who remains ‘unmoved’ during lovemaking, physically non-responsive (like a ….).

OR, even more joyfully:

Starfish sex

Sex where the girl’s arms and legs are spread as far apart as possible, like a starfish. Legs open wide, arms out, and a very bored look on her face as she rolls her eyes and waits for the guy to be done.

It’s a horrible term, but if that’s you (or you’re having sex with someone who “starfishes”) here’s why this happens.

Why star-fishing?

Stress/anxiety/worry/distraction/trauma

If we are feeling stressed, anxious or otherwise unsafe, our bodies switch into survival mode.

This is an innate response- and often we only hear fight or flight, but in fact there is also freeze, flop and (be)friend. If we freeze or flop, we may do so because our brain is whirring with all of these anxious thoughts, and it can feel quite overwhelming.

In these situation, women might become paralysed, and consumed with worry so they forget to move around or experience a disconnect between their mind and body.

It can feel that there is some safety, security and positivity in worrying.We retain our anxieties, mull them over and think our way out of them. So the pull of letting yourself wallow in the anxiety is really strong. Staying in one position (especially missionary!) can be tempting so that we let our brains continue to worry uninterrupted.

Hence the star fishing. This kind of situation needs support and understanding from a partner because it can feel quite distressing or frustrating, or even stressful.

Lack of knowledge of what feels good

Women aren’t taught that sex is SUPPOSED to feel good. We’re told to “lie back and think of England”, lots of porn doesn’t show female pleasure, so we’re completely disarmed and unable to say what we want (because many of us don’t know).

Even if we do know, women are judged and shamed for their sexual behaviour. We’re dammed if we do (slut) and damned if we don’t (starfish/frigid/prude). We’re sometimes too frightened of being judged to speak out about what feels good, so we put up with crummy sex and lie still to protect ourselves.

How to avoid star-fish sex

If it’s you that’s the partner not enjoying sex and lying there motionless, mates- I’ve been there. And still struggle with this.

So you aren’t alone, it is a real thing, and you CAN take steps to enjoy sex.

Take a read of the section around low mood-wellbeing if you feel that anxiety or stress is the culprit.

Otherwise, the section on reconnecting to your sexuality will be really useful if you need some more support in knowing what you want and how to tell others!