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Do you know what a starfish is?

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


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

What is a “sexual starfish”

Starfishing is a derogatory term for women that are still or unmoving during sex.

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 (and not one we’d recommend you use), but if you’re struggling with this issue here’s why this happens and what you can do to help the situation.

Why do we “star-fish”?

There are a number of reasons why women might remain still during sex:

#1 Because they’re stressed/anxious/worried/distracted

Sex is all about the body, feeling and sensation. But racing thoughts and worries (whether sex related or not) can leave us distracted.

In these situations, we might be preoccupied by the thoughts in our head and feel disconnected from our bodies.

Being preoccupied by thoughts lessens awareness of our partners touches and our experience of pleasure, meaning we feel less turned on and struggle to stay in the present moment. 

The pull of staying in your own head can be really strong. Staying in one position (especially missionary!) is tempting so that we can allow our brains to continue to worry uninterrupted. We may feel there is some safety, security and positivity in worrying because we’re protecting ourselves from future harm. 

Or we’re not even conscious of how our body and reactions are slowed because of how little we’re paying attention to them.

#2 It’s a trauma response

If we are feeling unsafe, whether in a current situation or during a flashback to a previous experience, our bodies switch into survival mode.

This is an innate response and there are five ways in which people tend to respond:

  • fight
  • flight
  • freeze
  • flop
  • and (be)friend

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.

#3 Because we don’t know what feels good

Women aren’t taught that sex is SUPPOSED to feel good. We’re told to “lie back and think of England”, that our mission during sex is to pleasure our partner, so often we’re completely disarmed and don’t know how to express what we really want or feels pleasurable for us.

Even if we miraculously do know what feels good, 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 as we think that’s what’s expected of us.

How to avoid star-fish sex

If you are 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.

Some quick tips to stop star-fishing:

  • Figure out what feels goodtake a read of this article for complete beginners on how to know what turns you on
  • Learn how to ask for what you want- work out how to express yourself in bed so that sex feels great for you!
  • Get moving- change position as often as you need to, and be wary if the temptation to stay still keeps you glued to your back.
  • Remember that you DESERVE great sex, and by holding back your partner is also missing out on what a fox between the sheets you could be!

If you want to go deeper and discover our method that transforms women’s sexual confidence, assertiveness and power, click here to find out more about the Art of Sexual Self-Empowerment– our new workshop on female sexuality.