Join 3,514 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)

How best to overcome impotence?
May 31, 2007 11:14 PM   Subscribe

How best to overcome impotence? I feel really horrible about myself right now.

So, I just had a sexual experience with a girl that I'm dating, and I was unable to 'get it up.' Naturally, I feel horrible and kind of worthless.

There are the short term fears - what if she never wants to be sexual with me again? What if she tells her (our) friends about this?

But there are also the longer-term fears. The last two times I've tried to have sex, this has happened to me. The last time I tried (and failed) was a year and a half ago. The last time I successfully had sex was over two years ago. What if this impotence is a permanent thing?

Are medicines like viagra worthwhile? Can psychologists help? How can I find one that will be helpful?

Also, is there any way I can salvage my (casual) relationship with this woman? I really like her alot, and would hate to lose her because of this.

More graphic details -

I'm very skilled at giving head. Tonight, I was able to bring the woman to climax, which was awesome. So, I know that she enjoyed herself. Still, I wasn't able to get it up, and I'm afraid that will ruin our dynamic. I blamed the problem on condoms, which was partially true - condoms make it hard for me to keep an erection. However, I do definitely have a problem.

When I'm by myself, I have no trouble maintaining an erection and coming. However, being naked with another person makes it difficult for me to maintain an erection. I know that I'm not gay or anything, because all my fantasies are about women. However, most of my fantasies are of a BDSM nature, and I've kind of given up on finding a partner for BDSM activities since I'm a sub male and dominant females are hard to find. In the past, I've been able to think about my fantasies while having sex, and that's helped me keep my erection. However, that isn't working for me anymore.

Also, I should mention that I was abused as a child. Mentally and physically, and also sexually to some degree. I know that I should see a psychologist, but I have a terrible time with psychologists - I haven't been able to find a good one in my city, and I've tried multiple times. It seems like most of them need psychologists themselves.

Anyway, what I'm thinking I should do is get some viagra or something in the short term, and then somehow find a psychologist who can help me through this mess.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.
posted by Jake Apathy to Health & Fitness (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I endorse your plan as stated.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:22 PM on May 31, 2007

In terms of the BDSM community, there's nothing wrong with having a cursory look online for communities and potential partners.
posted by Phire at 11:32 PM on May 31, 2007

I wouldn't beat yourself up over it. Sex is a high-pressure situation, and especially with someone you're new to it can be stressful. Nervousness and stress will limp you up every time. I have this problem occasionally, so you're not alone, but like me you just have to persevere and it will work out, as it has for me.

Also, it helps to trust that the girl you're with isn't someone who's just looking for a dick to ride. The girls I've known have been patient and understanding when this kind of thing happens, and not in a laughing-behind-my-back way. I'm not a sex machine; few people are.

So basically relax and keep trying. If she's worth it she'll understand, and you'll both appreciate sticking with it later instead of instantly turning to drugs.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 11:38 PM on May 31, 2007

It sounds like you've already figured out what to do and are just looking for validation, in which case consider yourself validated.

As to whether Viagra et al are "worthwhile", that depends on what you mean. If you mean, "will I get a boner", the answer is almost certainly "yes". There's a reason those things are a multi-multi-multi billion dollar product.

Following up with the shrink is clearly called for, as you've realized. Actually, you'll probably need to get the Viagra or Cialis or whatever from a doctor anyway unless you plan on mail ordering from sketchy internet pharmacies so the order may not work out quite as stated but rather concurrently.
posted by Justinian at 11:39 PM on May 31, 2007

Thank you for your answers so far.

Another question - is Viagra something that a doctor can prescribe, or do you need to go to a psychiatrist for it?

And yes, to some degree, I have formed a plan. At the same time, though, I just feel awful about myself. Are there any good materials I can read on the internet about this topic?
posted by Jake Apathy at 11:47 PM on May 31, 2007

A doctor certainly can prescribe it. I have no idea how likely your doctor is to prescribe it before having you at least consult with a shrink. Others may know better.
posted by Justinian at 11:50 PM on May 31, 2007

Honestly it sounds like you're having normal performance anxiety and I think you're getting tripped up over the BDSM and childhood abuse aspects.

Take one thing at a time. For your child abuse issues, see a shrink (a process in itself which requires research, patience and determination.) For the BDSM fetish. Well, thats really for you to figure out. There are lots of books out there about this. I will say that ONLY being able to get off within a BDSM setting doesn't sound fun to me. Try not to limit your turn ons.

Condoms make it hard (heh) for you to keep an erection? Well, you must be a freak of nature because I've never head of any man having that problem before. No seriously, change brands or styles... you'll find one that works (reasonably well.)

As mentioned above Viagra or Cialis will assist with your performance problem. You can probably get a scrip from your doctor. I wouldn't spill my guts about the childhood abuse, your fetishes, or anything else on the exam table. Just tell your doc that you've been having some male issues and want to try one of the two. (Do your research prior and figure out which one will best suit your needs - there is lots of info out there about these dugs.)

Although I don't have experience with either drug, from what I've heard (here and elsewhere) they help with performance anxiety by getting you over the anxiety. You may not even need to take the drug more than once or twice before you get it up on your own just fine.

Lastly, the first time always sucks doesn't it? The more you hang out with this person the more comfortable you'll become, so if you don't want to go the drug route then just put some time into it. Good luck.
posted by wfrgms at 12:42 AM on June 1, 2007

From what I understand, impotence is not uncommon. Also, if I were you, I wouldn't assume that a few episodes of impotence mean a permanent problem. In other words, it is quite possible that this is no big deal, and it will pass.

I hope that this person you were hooking up with understands that.

However, this is clearly causing you worry and distress, so here's some other thoughts.

Two threads stand out to me here: your abuse history and your interest in BDSM.

On the abuse front: The type of abuse you experienced can most defintily impact your adult sexuality. I imagine trust, and letting down your guard could be issues for you. Actual memories of abuse could also be upsetting and distracting durig sex. Working towards peace and wholeness after abuse is a lifelong process, but I think your idea of seeking therapy is a good one. Lately I've found somatic therapy (body based - mostly the therapist asks you to focus on what area of your body you experience feelings in) to be very helpful to me. Also, I highly recommend the book The Survivors Guide to Sex. There's also a video that is sort of an adjunct to the book. I've seen the video and found it helpful as well.

The other important thread you mentioned is your interest in BDSM. It's possible that you just aren't aroused by vanilla sex. If so, you're not the only person who is in that situation. Some people just don't get off or get turned on unless they're tied up. Even if you wish you could broaden your turn ons, maybe at this moment, they aren't going to broad.

What I've found (and I'm speaking as a pervert), is that if I can embrace my fantasy, try to explore it, revel in it, act it out as much as is possible or appropriate, then that fantasy eventually tends to wear out, and I grow interested in something new. I say this to reassure you that you won't always necessarily need the same things to turn you on. You're going to change in many ways as time goes on, and so will your fantasies.

I"m not sure where you live, but most major cities do have BDSM communities. Finding a group of folks who have similar interests can help you feel more OK about your fantasies, and could possibly be a place to meet women who are into dominating you.

Alternately, you could put out a personal ad that explicitly states your interest, so you wouldn't have to start a date with the fear that the person is going to dismiss your sexual interest.

I know not everyone feels this way, but personally, if someone who I was really attracted to, who I wanted to get down with, told me that they were into some sexual practice that I wasn't into, I would most likely just try it. Maybe the next time you are with a person who you are going somewhere with you could say something like, "Would you get on top of me and hold my arms down?" or "I would love it if you would just smack me right now" or the good old "I love when you bite me".

Finally, I'd recommend the book Exhibitionism for the Shy, just to help you get comfortable talking openly about this stuff with women.

Good luck to you!
posted by serazin at 12:43 AM on June 1, 2007

Note that The Survivors Guide to Sex is directed towards women, but it would totally work for men too. The film I mentioned does directly deal with the experience of men who have been sexually abused.
posted by serazin at 12:46 AM on June 1, 2007

If you can get it up on your own, there is nothing wrong with the equipment. This is a very common situation for a man to be in with a new partner, especially when he has not had sex for a while. If you were drinking at all that can also be a cause.

As far as being worried about what the woman thinks, this is actually and excellent test of her character and attitudes. You made the best of the situation, and she should be understanding and willing to try again another time. Usually a second or third try works just fine as a cure.

I blamed the problem on condoms

Putting it that way tends to come off as though you are trying to talk her out of practicing safer sex and can come off badly. Most women would rather hear that you haven't been with anyone in a while, and feel a bit nervous because she's so hot and sexy. This is more likely to get her mind off the issue.

Masturbating with a condom on will help get you used to them.

Seconding finding your local BDSM community so you can get your kink on.
posted by yohko at 1:00 AM on June 1, 2007

you know, a lot of guys are shy, and refuse to "come out and play" the first time they're with a new partner. any chick worth hr salt (and your time) will know this. so do what you have to do, but don't feel bad about it!! good luck :)
posted by indienial at 1:47 AM on June 1, 2007

I dont think seeking out your nearest BDSM club is entirely necessary - if you've never 'got your kink on' before you might find it a bit intimidating, but most girls with any sort of experience arent going to freak out and think you're a pervert if you want to be tied up and prefer girls on top.
Most girls I know have a little dominatrix inside them - even if its not as far as thigh boots and whips, its fun to be in control every once in a while.

It doesnt sound like you're impotent, you can get it up when you're alone, you're just a little shy - have you tried doing it with the lights off? You might feel more comfortable in the dark
posted by missmagenta at 2:06 AM on June 1, 2007

I definitely agree with missmagenta's point that with this girl there may be a happy-medium possibility -- no girls I know would be turned off by hearing a guy would like them to "take control" in a simple way like being on top and controlling the action, and most wouldn't have any issue with, for example, tying your hands with something casual like a scarf, or other simple bondage. I respect that this sort of mild dominance is not what you're most wishing for, but it might be a better setting for you to keep nurturing those fantasies.

I think talking to a therapist is a great idea for exploring the abuse history and I think it's critical to find a kink-positive therapist so you can be happily honest and comfortable. You could find that out from any local bdsm or sexuality org (I bet if you email anonymously they would be happy to help) -- or another place that could help you find your local kink-positive therapists is the free San Francisco Sex Info hotline.
posted by lorimer at 2:41 AM on June 1, 2007

Naturally, I feel horrible and kind of worthless

Nature has nothing to do with this. If you're feeling horrible and worthless just because your dick's not stiff, you're feeling an unfortunately common effect of pervasive and toxic social conditioning.

Think about it. Do you feel horrible and worthless when you get a sniffle, or you've twisted your ankle, or get indigestion? I bet you don't. So what makes temporary dick trouble any worse than temporary ankle trouble?

Plus, you know what's pretty much guaranteed to stuff up your sex life and steal away your hard-on? Yep. Feeling horrible and worthless will do that every time.

Don't fall for it. Work on convincing yourself that the occasional flop is just no big deal.

Your plan is good.
posted by flabdablet at 4:46 AM on June 1, 2007

Can you please email me? You don't have one in your profile and I have commentary I'd rather leave out of public answering. Thanks.
posted by pieoverdone at 5:14 AM on June 1, 2007

just fyi, a LOT of women prefer receiving head over intercourse anyway. i'm always surprised that more men don't know this. so don't panic at all!

of course, intercourse is nice, and assuming you are young and otherwise healthy, you should address this. i think seeing a psychiatrist is a great place to start. they are medical doctors, and can prescribe viagra. therapy can also help you address your anxiety about performance, past abuse, and the general vulnerability we ALL feel being totally nekkid in front of someone else.

and by all means explore BDSM if it's interesting to you. this gal might not be into it, but maybe she is. you won't know until you ask.
posted by thinkingwoman at 5:16 AM on June 1, 2007

Just piping in as a woman here... if you made her come, she's not displeased with you. Period.

I've definitely been in the situation with a guy who had some trouble the first time... the first couple of times, actually. (The condom was part of the issue there, too.) But it was clear that he was into me, so I didn't worry about it - and I certainly wasn't laughing about him behind his back. As I suspected, after we made it work once - no more trouble.

So, if you will see this girl some more times, and can manage to relax about her and what she's thinking... it will work out fine in the end, even if it takes a couple more tries. If getting Viagra or whatnot will help you with that, by all means go ahead.
posted by wyzewoman at 5:25 AM on June 1, 2007

Well, if you think you might get another shot at it, you may want to refrain from getting it up by yourself until it happens. The less you have of your fantasy the more you will appreciate the real thing.
posted by jefeweiss at 5:45 AM on June 1, 2007

Your plan sounds good. First times are (almost always) awful and miserable; I've certainly had the "oops it's too soft" experience that you describe, and condoms only emphasize the problem. I found a common pattern was: first night failure, next morning success. But that doesn't work if it is a more high-pressure situation, where you are going to have sex but not actually sleep together. The first time it happened my reaction was more like yours -- oh no, I'm a failure, this is the end, etc. But now when it happens I just laugh and shrug -- it is really totally normal to have issues getting things restarted after a long break. I'm in a long-term relationship, so there is a lot of trust and none of the stress of something new, but if one of us has been traveling and there has been a break of a week or longer, sometimes things don't work "down there" on the first night back together.

So I guess I would supplement your plan (of viagra and eventually a shrink) with "date women whom you think have some long-term potential" because second and third nights work a lot better than first nights for some of us.

About introducing the kink -- go slow and easy. My experience is that most people are pretty adaptable and willing to be flexible. A minority are like you -- they are firmly defined as a "bottom" or a "top" or a foot licker or whatever -- but most people can do ok being tied up or tying the other person up. But they need to go gradually, and find that in themselves slowly. Going from zero to "please mistress, I need to be your pony boy and lick your boots" is going to scare off quite a few people who could have been slowly induced to take on more and more of that role over time, and learn to like it a lot. So I think you need to first meet the other person where they are now, before working on getting them to where you want to be.
posted by Forktine at 5:49 AM on June 1, 2007

Thank you all for your answers so far. I'm glad that I posted my question here.

A few things I'd like to add-

I am definitely capable of enjoying vanilla sex, and have enjoyed it in the past. I definitely enjoyed sex with my last girlfriend. I didn't have any impotence problems with her, and after the first few times, I was able to be more "in the moment" and not think about anything else. We even worked some (light) BDSM stuff into our sex life. I found myself occasionally taking a 'top' role, and actually kind of enjoyed it.

Good point about the condoms - maybe it wasn't a good idea to blame my 'problems' on them. I explained it as "my last sexual experience was with a girl who was on the pill, and we were monogamous with each other, so I got used to not using condoms," which was, in fact, true. I did let her know that I'm in favor of condom use, and that I can definitely get used to using them again. Maybe if the subject comes up again, I'll come clean and let her know that I felt nervous being with a new partner. I wish I had thought of that in the first place.

Anyway, you all are being really helpful. This is a difficult thing for a guy to go through, and its so easy to fall into the pit of despair where you feel worthless and hopeless and terrible. I'm glad you all are here for me.

Oh yeah, and my email is in my profile, but in case it's not showing up in your browser, it's
posted by Jake Apathy at 6:06 AM on June 1, 2007

follow up from someone preferring to remain anonymous:

Jake, you and I are very similar. I'm not into BDSM, but I'm
definitely submissive and have a hard time ... er ... staying hard if
I can't visualize or experience submissive fantasies. Viagra has been
a great help. I buy it online here at

I've found MedicalWeb to be reputable. They give you a virtual
consultation (meaning that you fill out a questionnaire about your
medical history) and a doctor reviews it. After you're okayed, you
enter your credit card info and a few days later, the viagra comes.
Once you get it, I recommend cutting each pill in half. The stuff is
expensive and half a dose works fine for most people. Oh, and make
sure you watch the expiration date (usually a year from when you
purchase it). It's really worthless once it expires.

It takes half-an-hour to work. That's the tricky part. You have to
feel secure in the fact that you're going to be having sex in
half-an-hour (or more ... it lasts a couple of hours). I hate killing
the spontaneity by saying "I'm taking my pill now, so in half an hour,
I'll be able to have sex with you," but I also hate not taking the
pill, getting all frisky, and then having to delay sex for half and
hour. So I just try my best to "read the signals" and time it right.
It sucks when you take a pill and then don't wind up having sex,
because you've then wasted some money. So that's the downside.

The upside is that, for me at least, it works like a charm. I often
find that taking it a couple of times boosts my confidence to the
point that I don't need it anymore. I go without it for months. Then,
for some reason, the plumbing goes wrong and I have to start on it

Note that it's not an aphrodisiac. It won't work if you're not
aroused. It doesn't give you an erection, it helps you maintain one.
But I find that if a couple of seconds or foreplay or even a fleeting
fantasy arouses me, the viagra kicks in and I stay hard. Sometimes it
keeps me hard enough to go several rounds, which is awesome!

Good luck!

PS. carry half a dose in your wallet. It's nice to be prepared
wherever you are. It's horrible to think "If only I could get home,
take a pill, and come back!"
posted by jessamyn at 7:01 AM on June 1, 2007

Seconding finding your local BDSM community so you can get your kink on.

I don't think I explained this comment enough. I'm not talking about a BDSM party where you go to get whipped or whatever, but some sort of group that has more social events or lectures. Something where you go have a cup of coffee or dinner and talk about whips and whatnot while you meet some new people. These same people might have BDSM parties, but I'm under the impression that you don't get to go to these until after you've been to the social events.
posted by yohko at 8:29 AM on June 1, 2007

Correct response to impotence, in the moment = Honesty, some nervousness, ability to joke about it a little, then ability to get past it and get down to whatever other business seems good (eg giving her head) so you're both having a good time.

It happens; if she's remotely nice she will understand. If anything, she's thinking, "I hope it wasn't my fault, I wonder if he really likes me enough". She's definitely not thinking "what an unmanly fellow". So, discussion about first time jitters is in order, and will be endearing.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:13 AM on June 1, 2007

It's obviously very important to you to satisfy your partner -- hence the 'very skilled at giving head' bit, and your intense concern about her response to the situation. That's a good thing, of course -- it just sometimes has these ironic consequences. From my own experience, you can go a long way by developing your relationship outside of the bedroom first -- once you feel more comfortable and less vulnerable with her emotionally, these things tend to take care of themselves. Do you tend to be introverted and/or have social issues more generally? Overall, your plan seems sound, though, and I'm pretty confident you'll be fine before long.
posted by svenx at 11:36 AM on June 1, 2007

Thanks to everyone who has contributed to this thread. I've had kind of a tough time since last night, and you all have helped me get through the worst of it. You've given me some good, solid suggestions, and I appreciate that more then you'll ever know.

I can't possibly mark a best answer here, as I'd have to mark everybody's contribution. You have all been a lot of help, and I thank you for being a part of this thread.

I'll be away from my computer and unable to respond to further comments for a while. However, I will be keeping an eye on the thread in the future, so even if this thread is weeks old when you read it, please feel free to make suggestions if you have them.
posted by Jake Apathy at 1:28 PM on June 1, 2007

If you have a regular partner to try this with, an effective therapy for non-medical impotency is to have several intimate sessions of not being overtly sexual. For the first session, you are both clothed and you only touch each other in non-genital places. You move from that to being unclothed and touching only non-genital places. Finally, you'll touch genitals but won't have intercourse. It's very important that you don't have sex any of these times even if you get an erection—which you probably will. In fact, you might find that you get an erection right off the bat. That's because the rules of therapy mean that you're not expected to perform and thus you won't be experiencing the performance anxiety. Working through this therapy to its conclusion with your partner, without having intercourse prematurely, will give you plenty of experience being aroused, and erect, outside the context of the performance anxiety. That, in turn, will give you confidence.

I'm telling you this from my two-decades-old memory of the therapy, so if you want to try this, you might ought to do a specific web search for it for more details (like, for example, the time-frame).

This is probably a better solution than relying upon Viagra.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 7:36 PM on June 1, 2007

I have been in exactly the same situation. In fact, on two separate occasions when I was impotent, the woman I was with ran into the bathroom and started crying!

I felt like crap about myself many times over this, but finally just got over it. Despite the situations I've just described, a lot of women are most interested in being close at first. So now I simply explain that I'm usually nervous the first few times I'm with someone. If that gets a negative response then I'm glad to find out this fact early on. Another thing I do is have the woman kiss me while I masturbate. After being with another person for a few times you will learn to relax.

I've taken Cialis sometimes, to give me "insurance", but I really want to enter relationships with my honest self. Also Cialis and Viagra give me headaches.

I have the same problem with being a sub! I'm a switch but have a strong sub side. And I seem only to attract sub women. Maybe because I'm a big and athletic, maybe because most women tend to be subs.

I do enjoy topping, I scare myself enjoying it sometimes, but I don't want to hide this other essential part of myself. And I have been REJECTED at times when I've gently introduced the idea of me submitting. I hear all this talk about how mainstream strap-ons are, but I've had women recoil in horror at the mere mention of them. And I live in NYC! I've also had a couple of relationships that were more reciprocal and that was great.

I have NOT had good luck going to established BDSM communities, or dating self-proclaimed dommes. I've gone to a couple of lectures at the Eulenspiegel society and, I hate to say it, but there was a large percentage of morbidly obese people there. These were lifestyle people - whereas to me BDSM is a fantastic way to related to people sexually in private. I want to have an equal relationship IRL, right up until its sheets-time.

The few dommes I met through online dating seemed to almost have rage issues. A sort of "my way or the highway, everyone is against me" outlook that might be kind of fun in the bedroom but was tiresome when they would get whiney and bitchy waiting for a table in a restaurant.

The quiet, book-loving, sweet stealth switch woman I can adore has eluded me so far. I don't think I can have a pure vanilla relationship though, and if I end up alone I'll deal with it. One thing I know for sure is that I won't be twisting myself into a pretzel when my weenie won't stand up and please everybody.
posted by turbojav at 10:54 PM on June 1, 2007

« Older I bought some new clothes. I d...   |  Advice on a portable digital r... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.