My baggage, let me show it to you.
June 23, 2011 7:21 PM   Subscribe

Some bedroom problems. Novel inside.

I'm a young guy (a bit shy of 30). I've mostly bounced around from long-term relationship to long-term relationship. They've all had some sort of weird sex issue, and I wasn't wise enough to deal with them constructively.

My first multi-year relationship was many years ago, with someone who wanted to be dominated. That isn't me, exactly, but it isn't bad. My partner also had major body image issues from... something I won't tell you about to make this more anonymous. In the several intimate years we spent together, I was never allowed to see their [body part]; any time they were no top or might otherwise show [body part], they covered it up.

We devolved into having sex in almost exclusively one preferred position. Also there was an eating disorder, which I learned about eight months or so in. Didn't help things.

The relationship not healthy in so many ways, and I didn't understand how to have constructive dialogs with them, which made everything so much worse. Both of us let the relationship shamble on long past the point all the good things were dead.

Towards the end of this relationship is when I first had a few problems getting aroused.

My second multi-year relationship followed too soon from the first, and was with an intensely religious person who had major issues with sex. (I also grew up in a very religious house, and this was part of our common bond. I suffered with years of issues related to sex outside of marriage and masturbation.) It was my partner's first relationship.

Anyway, partner #2's (slowly dwindling) issues weren't too bad, but I went from years of funky, no-good, psychically harmful sex to years of mostly handjobs mixed in with a few unenthusiastic blowjobs.

This relationship also went on a little too long. Getting erections were not a problem, but 1) they were rarely rock hard and 2) mutual masturbation is worlds away from sex.

My third, much shorter-term relationship, was with someone who needed sex. There was also not so much communication from me. I didn't learn enough from my past. This person was a good person, and gave a lot in the bedroom. There was a dark, desperate edge to their need for sex, but let's be honest: our sex life should have been nothing but healthy. The other problems are another story.

Because of me, our sex life was not what it should have been. Towards the end, there was some serious pent-up frustration (communication issues), and I could never get my mind into the act. It ended with a few problems getting aroused.

I swear I'm almost done.

The above are highlights, not the whole story. But say, 80% or 90% of my sexual history.

The latest:

I hooked up with a great, sexy person. My body type (more attraction than any of the three above), giving, game, etc. It was a one-off thing at the time. I was nervous that I might fail, but I didn't. It was great.

Afterward, I tried to hook up with someone who was not my type. Cute, great personality, but large and a smoker. Had a cat I was allergic to. Sneezing and having red, irritable eyes do not make fun sexy time. These are my excuses. (Those things really did bother the hell out of me.)

I couldn't get an erection. At all.

It was a bit crushing to me, and unreasonably cruel to them, I imagine.

Here we are with the other thing:

Super-hot hookup friend and I are dating now. Super hot person is super hot. Everything I could want emotionally and physically. I SO want to have nights of wild, guiltless, enjoyable, super-hot, PIV sex. Guess what? Problems. Again.

How can I encourage my body to physically respond in the way I want it to?

Super-hot person has been accommodating and supportive. Still, actual real penetration is a large part of this person’s sexual master narrative. It’s very high on their priority list, and you know what? Mine too.

I've thought about the physical and mental aspect of this.

Physically, getting in better shape and building muscle mass might be helpful, right? More muscle means more testosterone means more sex drive, doesn't it?

I remember seeing somewhere that cutting off caffeine and limiting alcohol can also make a big difference.

Mentally, spending time every day not masturbating, but visualizing hot sex without porn or manual stimulation, just the mind, might be a way to learn how to enter an aroused, sex-friendly zone. Is that madness, or the best idea ever?

What else? Oh yeah, one more thing:

My out-of-relationship self (over a year before sexy hookup) fell into the habit of masturbating to pornography whenever the need hit. I never treated it as a sexy, sensual thing; more like coughing or blowing my nose. Just another bodily function. I think this has contributed to my problem, along with everything else.

posted by anonymous to Human Relations (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Mentally, spending time every day not masturbating, but visualizing hot sex without porn or manual stimulation, just the mind, might be a way to learn how to enter an aroused, sex-friendly zone. Is that madness, or the best idea ever?

Just a subjective data point, but I actually find that masturbating regularly (sometimes to porn, sometimes not) actually gives me a higher sex drive.
posted by tumid dahlia at 7:37 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

In a utopian world, this wouldn't matter, but for practical purposes, are these same-sex or opposite-sex pairings? When you mention penetration, are you talking about your partner or yourself or both?

If penetration of you is on the table, is that what's been missing? If penetration of your partner is an issue regarding your ability to get/stay erect, it could very well be self-imposed pressure to get and stay hard. I find the more I think/worry about that, the less inclined my body is to accommodate.
posted by xingcat at 7:42 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Have you considered telling this to a doctor, such as a urologist or endocrinologist, to make sure you aren't having a medical issue?
posted by nasayre at 7:43 PM on June 23, 2011

I think it also depends how long you have been dating SHP. If you have attempted sex just a few times, then it is likely nerves. Give it time, and relax! Sure, cut out caffiene and exercise. That won't hurt. But if you have been dating more than a month or two, you might want to go to a doctor.
posted by Monday at 7:48 PM on June 23, 2011

He mentions erections and PIV (penis in vagina) so I think it's safe to assume this is a man who is talking about female partners.

As for advice, I would recommend immersing yourself in some sex-positive stuff-- listen to the Savage Lovecast, read the Guide to Getting It On, etc. to help get yourself into a healthier mindset about sex (the Savage Lovecast is also good for making you feel like your problems are not the worst problems in the world, some people call into that show with really bad or weird sex problems.)

I've read often in threads like these that it can be helpful to get a few Viagras from your doctor to "get you over the hump" (so to speak) of performance anxiety or stress that might be contributing to your erectile dysfunction. You don't say how old you are, but a doctor friend has told me that nearly every male patient over 40 asks for Viagra these days, so don't feel embarrassed about getting it if you need it.
posted by bonheur at 7:51 PM on June 23, 2011

. You don't say how old you are

He says just shy of 30.

Viagra (or similar) is a good idea. Even the emotional boost from knowing you have a bit of help in that area can be good.

(I know nothing of PIV, being all gaygayGAY myself, so I missed that part.)
posted by xingcat at 7:53 PM on June 23, 2011

Wow, lots going on here. You have a history of being in relationships that weren't beneficial to developing a healthy sexuality. It sounds like you're carrying a lot of emotional stuff around with regards to sex and that's probably why you can't respond to super-hot hookup friend in the way that you want. I think you need to improve your relationship with your sexuality. It's not about building more muscle (though exercising is good for your overall health), or cutting out caffeine/alcohol (again, generally healthy habits all around), or just fantasizing (I'm sure that helps too though). It sounds like you need to get in touch with the erotic and sensualness, and when you were not in a relationship and masturbating mechanically to porn, you affected that part of yourself that could connect with that. You might want to see a sex therapist about these issues. But I think it's the emotional stuff you need to deal with, not your plumbing necessarily.
posted by foxjacket at 7:54 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I didn't learn enough from my past.; Because of me; nervous that I might fail

It seems to me that the first thing you need to do is be nice to yourself. You make it sound like it's all your fault that your sexy times haven't always resulted in awesome happy eight-hour marathon sessions of tantric sex during which your penis grows to nineteen inches and your ejaculate quenches the wildfires in Arizona.

Sex is not about success or failure. It's about fun and pleasure, and sometimes, about emotional goodies too.

People have all different sexy experiences. Sometimes, when it's just not happening for you in the nether regions, you might try focusing on what's happening with your partner's nether regions. Sometimes shit just doesn't work, because for whatever reason you were not in the right frame of mind at that particular moment. There is no blame to be assigned to that.

When you get into loops where you try to figure out what faults of yours are causing a failure to launch, maybe try and remember that it's not about good versus bad or sexy versus not sexy or your fault versus her fault. It's not about fault, or blame, or anything like that.

The ideal is to just find what you want, know what you want, communicate it, and get it. It's also to listen to your partner's needs and interests and help them get those met. That doesn't have to mean PIV intercourse, or even P-in-anything intercourse. It can mean sexy time that doesn't involve your penis. There's nothing wrong or bad or weird about that. In fact, a guy who knows how to please a woman using, say, toys or other kinds of manual stimulation is a damn desirable lay.

When you get more comfortable just doing sexy stuff, whether it is sex or not, whether you are fully erect or not, whether you are whipping it out or keeping it in your pants -- when you are comfortable with the talking and the learning and most of all with yourself as a person who deserves good fun guilt-free sexy fun -- that's going to be half the battle or sorting out the mental issues around all this.

(But do ask your doctor about this, as it may be a physiological thing!)
posted by brina at 7:58 PM on June 23, 2011 [5 favorites]

I couldn't get an erection. At all.

It was a bit crushing to me, and unreasonably cruel to them, I imagine.

It isn't. It happens. It is a lot of fun doing a lot of things in bed and penetrative sex is not the entirety of it. You could by psyching yourself out. Just relax and enjoy everything with every part you have to enjoy with. If your cock wants to join the party, let it.
posted by munchingzombie at 8:01 PM on June 23, 2011

For one, pretty much all of us (at least the male us-es, anyway) have had erection issues from time to time. Those issues get much worse with stress -- as in new partner, unresolved issues from before, and the period right after a divorce or breakup. In other words, exactly what you are describing.

So for what it's worth, the first thing to remember is that your situation is boringly, excruciatingly normal, and every guy I know well enough to talk about sexual details has a similar story of some kind.

The standard, and also boringly, excruciatingly normal, fix is just what you think it is: time. Time to get your head in a happy place, time with a new partner to get comfortable, time to learn new tricks. And, since it is 2011, that standard fix now includes chatting to your doctor and seeing if you can get a few pills (that for many guys function as confidence boosters primarily).

But having said all that, there are some hints and tidbits in your question that beg for deeper probing. Not here, but with a doctor, therapist, or close friend. You are clearly still quite hung up on your feelings from a few relationships ago, and maybe you could use some help with that healing process. You ask about getting more in shape (which yes, is great for sex) -- there's a difference in how important a factor that is going to be if you are half a pound over your ideal weight, or if you are hundreds of pounds over. And, as brina says, you sound super tough on yourself, both about your romantic decisions and about your sexual performances. That's not healthy, and there are better approaches.

That was long. Here's the tl;dr version: a) Erection issues are normal and go along with stress and worry. b) Time (and maybe Viagra) will help. c) It sounds like you are worried and unhappy about more than your dick, and I hope you can access better help than we can provide here to resolve those deeper issues.
posted by Forktine at 8:02 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Are you on any drugs, prescription or otherwise? Otherwise I'll go with the "talk to a doctor" for this one.
posted by Slinga at 9:03 PM on June 23, 2011

I couldn't get an erection. At all.

It was a bit crushing to me, and unreasonably cruel to them, I imagine.

It was crushing to you; that I believe. It was NOT cruel to them. This happens to everyone over 18.
posted by kestrel251 at 9:15 PM on June 23, 2011

It is possible that you're overthinking this, which is why you're anxious, which is why you can't do PIV. Relaxing is the biggest thing you need, fantasizing will probably help you get there. Take yourself out of your own head and enjoy things in the simplest, most pleasure-seeking way.
posted by mleigh at 1:21 AM on June 24, 2011

You're post radiates anxiety about sex and sexual performance. A partner who likes you isn't going to find you not getting an erection "cruel" or see it as a failure.

You probably don't have anything wrong with you physically (although you might want to get checked out for piece of mind) but its clear you've made sex into this big, important, and not very fun thing. I'd avoid stuff like Dan Savage, you don't need that hyper focus on sex right now your need to relax and enjoy it. Work on coming to terms with your past relationships by talking to a good friend or a therapist and enjoy sexy times without pressure with the person your seeing. You need to decouple sex and anxiety because it should be fun and playful and not a race to the finish.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 6:49 AM on June 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

It happens to everyone. Sometimes you just need to change gears for a minute. You're 30 - you don't need viagra or major life changes (though strength training is always a good thing).

What I notice at 40 is that if you "miss the window" (get hard, but get distracted, ear itches, get overly delayed) you end up going into a few minutes of post-erection state that clears, but it is there.
posted by rr at 11:16 AM on June 24, 2011

Can you suggest a trip to the local sexy toy store to your new sexy friend? See if you can find a lovely penetration toy to use for those times when you're not, ahem, up to it?
posted by mareli at 1:36 PM on June 24, 2011

This is much more common than our society would lead us to believe. Let's face it, the only time in the movies when a man has trouble getting an erection it is because he is a psychopath who has to strangle the woman in order to get aroused. There are two main points that are important to emphasize:

1. Sex is not a test you have to pass; it is meant to be pleasurable. If you find yourself stressing, this can lead to a negative feedback loop that reinforces your worst fears. In other words, worrying about loosing your erection can result in loosing your erection. Viagra can help. So can non-penetrative sex play. That is, if you understand from the beginning that no penetrative sex is going to happen this time, that can help alleviate the pressure to perform. Tell your partner that tonight is her night and pleasure her orally without allowing her to reciprocate. Other great things to do are full body massages, watching your partner masturbate, and sleeping together "platonicaly." Above all, keep it in mind that sex is meant to be fun!

2. Reassure your partner and talk the situation over with her. Make sure she knows it is not about her. Failure to perform can have a maddening effect in which you force your partner to do things she would not ordinarily do or work harder than she would like to. Let her know that she can call for a time out whenever she wants. Above all tell her that you want to be with her and find her desirable and hopefully the two of you can find a mutually satisfying solution.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:14 PM on June 24, 2011

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