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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.

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 do we “star-fish”?

Because we’re stressed/anxious/worried/distracted/ or have experienced 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 situations, 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.

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

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.

This 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!

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.

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- this post gives an overview of 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!

Do you star-fish? What do you do to keep yourself moving and enjoying sex?