January 7, 2013 5:59 AM   Subscribe

I desperately need help resuscitating my sex drive. Embarrassing, painful wall of text inside.

Male, late twenties, with (up until recently) crippling anxiety and social phobia. I've made a lot of changes in my life, including moving to a new city, getting in shape, and dressing better, finally worked up the confidence to go out, and was pleasantly shocked when a female friend basically jumped me and dragged me into bed late last month. This is, sadly, where shit gets complicated.

Both times we've had sex, I haven't been able to keep a full erection, and had to make alternative arrangements. The first time (first time with her, and with anyone, ever) I was drunk and so nervous I was shaking, and neither of us really got anywhere. The second time I ended up going down on her and mutually masturbating both of us to orgasm.

Right now I'm trying to work out the exact nature of my problem and what angle to attack it from. I really, really like this girl, and while she is seeing other guys, she has a really high sex drive and she's playful and flirtatious with me- surprising me with a deep kiss, putting my hand on her breast, fondling me through my pants, etc. We've rarely been alone together, though, and it's always been in settings where I'm never fully at ease and have usually had a lot to drink, so again, I'm not, well, responding properly. This is especially urgent for me because she's a fair bit younger than me (a six-year age gap), with a lot more prospects, and I'd really like to be able to reciprocate and, um, give it my all sooner rather than later.

Here are the potential complications as I see them:

1. Nerves. As I mentioned before, this was the first time I'd ever had sex or really experienced any kind of physical intimacy at all- I'd never even been kissed before she cornered me against a building after a party. I'm hoping this is the main problem, since it's something I can overcome with time and familiarity. I'm also having to work through a lot of body image issues a lot more quickly than I was expecting to.

2. Alcohol. We tend to drink a fair amount when we're together, either alone or in a group, though never really to excess, and I know that can't be helping my performance (though it does ease my nerves, I can't rely on it forever).

3. Past health complications. I've lost quite a lot of weight in the last few years (down to 150 from around 230 at my worst), and I'm worried that carrying around that excess weight had lasting adverse effects on my health. I'm not diabetic or pre-diabetic- my last checkup a year or so ago showed normal fasting glucose, and perfectly fine blood lipid levels- so I doubt that's the case. I've also been to doctors for a set of issues that I thought might be thyroid-related (tight throat/choking, discomfort with collars and scarves, cold intolerance, bad skin), but my thyroid hormones check out as normal too.

4. The big one: my history of psychiatric medication. From a very early age, I've been prescribed a huge pharmacopoeia of antidepressants and other meds to control my anxiety, withdrawal and depression (though, ironically, I was never given a simple anxiolytic until I was 27), including but not limited to the following:
Ritalin, Adderall, Vyvanse, Strattera, Provigil, Risperdal (off-label for social phobia; this was when I was a teenager, and it messed me up pretty badly), Prozac, Lexapro, Wellbutrin, Zoloft, Paxil, and Pristiq (the last one, prescribed a few years ago when I was in a very dark patch and discontinued after it made me borderline suicidal). As you can probably guess, my sex drive has been all over the place for my entire adult life, and I'm not really sure what's normal for me. I'm completely medication-free, and have been for about three years, but I know there can be lingering effects.

5. THE DEATH GRIP. Yes, I've read the Dan Savage column(s). My right hand and I are taking some time apart to see other people. But many years of unlubricated, tight-fisted masturbation- which eventually turned into less of an erotic thing and more a grim, utilitarian process to help me sleep or temporarily boost my mood- can't have helped.

6. More complicated issues of sexuality. I'm bi/queer, and this girl is the first person I've ever been comfortable opening up to about this part of myself. While I've thought I might be gay at various times over the past decade or so, I'm positive I'm sexually attracted to her and I'm not just misreading my friendly feelings as attraction.

So, with all of that on the table, here are the steps I'm taking. Most of these were things I was already doing; I haven't made any drastic lifestyle changes.

1. Quit masturbating completely. See above re: death grip. I know a large part of this is going to be resensitizing my dick and learning to respond to stimuli other than my hand.
2. Continuing to look after my general health with plenty of weight training and cardio, though not excessively and with plenty of rest.
3. A balanced diet. I'm still going for a net caloric deficit to continue losing body fat, but I'm achieving the deficit primarily through cardio and making sure to get around 1800 calories a day.
4. A zinc supplement in addition to my daily multivitamin, D supplement and fish oil. Probably a waste of time, but it can't hurt.

Has anyone here dealt with a similar situation? What if anything helped? Should I see a doctor (and if so, what specialization?) Please, for the love of god, hope me, Metafilter. I've read previous Asks on similar subjects, but none of them covered the pharmaceutical angle. Second, I've set up a temporary yahoo address at, um, rescuemyboner@yahoo.com.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I think nerves is a biiiiiiiiig part of this. What you're doing in terms of taking care of your health is wise (overall, not just for sex), but I would also add a point 5: "Relax, and remember that as long as everyone has fun, then whatever happens is all good".

Does she know that this was your first time? If not, tell her, and say that you want to put the brakes on a TINY bit - not stop having sex, but maybe take the pressure off in terms of "We Must Have Penetrative Sex Each And Every Time Amen". Honestly, some of the hottest sex I've ever had there was barely any penetration, but a hell of a lot of exploration of everything else. I once had an orgasm before either of us had even gotten undressed because the making out was so hot.

I say that because if you spend all your time thinking about "I must get an erection i must get an erection i must get an erection" then that may put a lot of pressure on you and you could psyche yourself out of it; but if you think more about "let's just do what feels good," then that takes the pressure off, and you could get caught up in everything and get an erection more easily. And if you don't, it's still good.

Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:07 AM on January 7, 2013 [9 favorites]

Be at ease. What you are experiencing is normal, and many men go through something similar, particularly after a long dry spell. A lot of this is almost certainly self-imposed psychological pressure. She already likes you, and seemingly continues to like you even after a showing that was not your best, so don't be so tough on yourself.

Yes, stop masturbating so much. No more internet pornography, if that's something you've been overindulging in. If you start having nocturnal emissions like you're a kid again, that's probably a good sign that your libido is getting back to a healthy baseline. Abstain from alcohol if you're planning to engage in Business Time - it can reduce or kill entirely a man's ability to maintain an erection, even if you can easily get it up to begin with. But mostly? Calm down, and remember that this is supposed to be fun!
posted by 1adam12 at 6:10 AM on January 7, 2013

It's worth saying that lots of couples have lots of fun that is not focused penis-in-vagina sex, and it's also perfectly normal to start or finish things in other ways. Quit talking about two orgasms and a nice friend-with-benefits-ship like it's a failure, man!

It sounds to me like she's having fun with you as it is. While I understand your desire, maybe taking the pressure/focus off of that as the goal will help. Another standard piece of advice that I think I read in Savage's column: next time you mess around, decide at the beginning that you're not going to have sex and then don't, no matter what. (Tell her, obviously, if you want to give this a try. "You're amazing. I want to try something. We're not going to have sex this time. I just want to have fun and explore this/your body/whatever. Ok?") See if that brings down your stress and helps you just enjoy it. Make it a hot game. Talk to her and ask her how things are feeling. This sounds like a great experience for you. Seriously. Relax and enjoy it.
posted by juliplease at 6:24 AM on January 7, 2013 [7 favorites]

If you were able to orgasm with this woman, I don't think that attraction is the problem. And I'm assuming that you brought yourself "up" (as it were) without the pressure of penetration, so I'm thinking it's probably nerves.

Take time with all the other activities besides PIV sex and see how that goes. Tease one another. Have a night of just making out like horny teenagers. Don't pressure yourself. Nothing can kill the mood for that sort of thing like focusing on nothing but that sort of thing.
posted by xingcat at 6:37 AM on January 7, 2013

This is so not unusual! Your plans all seem like good ideas, but really the most important plan of all is just to chill. Hydraulics failures the first few times a couple (that includes at least one man) has sex are super common. I would say that in my checkered career it happened at least 20 - 25% of the time (though I am not a statistical sample).
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:41 AM on January 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

It sounds like she really likes you, so that's winning about 45% of the battle right there. You're doing super sexy stuff that she seems to like, so that's about another 45%.

For the other 10%: First, stop trying to "work out the nature of my problem and what angle to attack it from." That IS the nature of your problem, not the solution. You're a guy who's managed to get himself out of a crap mental state, regained some serious confidence, looks good and is having a thing with a hot slightly younger girl who seems to be seriously into you. So hold your head high, buddy, you're the envy of a lot of other guys out there.

Second: Fantasize. Don't look at pictures or read anything "erotic" but think about sex. Any kind of sex. A lot. Do this some in bed waking up and going to sleep but especially when you're sitting around bored at work or school or whatever. Get excited, maybe even touch yourself gently (be appropriate in public, you perv!), but don't do the death grip masturbation thing. Explore what's inside you and where your large and small brain take you. Even if its kind of scary. Its probably not going to be coherent narrative or at all realistic. That's OK. Maybe the girl you like shows up. Or doesn't. That's OK too. Try to write some of it down, but don't show it to anyone for now. Probably best to just delete right after its written. Don't show it to the girl for now. But let those images and discombobulated stories run through your head when you're having sex with her. Maybe tell her little less-weird bits of it later when it feels right and maybe a little more if she responds. But not too much all at once. Its also OK if it stays inside.

Third: A dose or two of Viagra or Cialis might not hurt. It takes away the anxiety about your erection and allows you to focus on other things.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 7:05 AM on January 7, 2013

You are young enough that this shouldn't be the result of your heavy years. While I am not a doctor, I think that medication is not an issue since you have been med-free for three years. (some drugs do have an adverse effect on performance while you are taking them)

A few people have touched on nerves, but no one has mentioned alcohol yet. Even if you don't drink to excess, it does not take much alcohol for it to have an adverse effect on potency. Also, at 150 lbs, you really can't drink that much without it happening. Have one drink and end it, if you must drink at all, and then see how things work out.

Stopping, or at least reducing masturbation, should also help.
posted by Tanizaki at 7:22 AM on January 7, 2013

FWIW, I am female, and both the men I have dated seriously as an adult had this issue when we first started having sex. I attribute it to nerves, as each had not been with anyone for at least a year prior.

And after being in a relationship with real men and not horndog porn stars, I've learned that sometimes the junk doesn't work, be it due to alcohol or stress or exhaustion. I don't think there is anything seriously wrong with you.
posted by thank you silence at 7:33 AM on January 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't know anybody whose junk works while they're busy asking it this question instead of focusing all their attention on the lovely lady in their bed.
posted by flabdablet at 7:35 AM on January 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

I am not one of those people who believes everyone's first time has to be special, but ideally it isn't a huge surprise either, and sounds like it was for you. I think once you get used to the idea that she's into you, you give yourself some time to fantasize alone, and let some tension build up for the next time you see her, it will probably go better, instead of your mind going "whoa whoa WHOA where did this come from?" while you're trying to have fun times.

Also, see if you can slow things down a bit and make it more intentional next time you see her. Maybe you'll be more relaxed if it's just the two of you, at your place, instead of hooking up at a party. If you don't have alot of experience you will learn more if you have only one or two drinks and take your time, in a place where you feel comfortable.
posted by slow graffiti at 7:44 AM on January 7, 2013

It's nerves (sorry to simplify). Lighten up on the death grip. And I would level with her. She may already know your back story but tell her you dropped a lot of weight and don't have much experience, which she probably figured out and maybe even tell her you need a teacher, she may really dig that. Think she already does. You are in a good situation try to enjoy it and if it doesn't get better go talk to a doc and ask about performance anxiety.
posted by WickedPissah at 7:47 AM on January 7, 2013

Do you exercise a lot? From the fact you lost 80lb I'm guessing you do, but if not, that's something that could help your sex drive considerably. Whenever I'm on an exercise kick, my sex drive goes wild.
posted by littlegreen at 8:00 AM on January 7, 2013

I'm a woman. I'm not a doctor nor a sex therapist, but this is what I think:
1. none of this sounds overly uncommon or strange, and actually it sounds pretty common. As a woman I wouldn't be freaked out by this.
2. It sounds like you're still able to enjoy each other and there are lots of people who have PIV sex that don't have that. It seems clear (to me) that you have good sexual chemistry and that you turn each other on, and that is a huge leap in a very good direction.
3. Alcohol likely plays a bigger part in this than you think. It has been my experience that even some of the most horny animal-in-bed types can have trouble when they've been drinking.
4. I would talk to her about it. She may actually appreciate knowing whats going on, and she will probably be more than willing to work with you on it. It may not be true for all women, but the whole "sex instructor" aspect can be a big turn on for people, so she may actually be extra excited for it all. At minimum she will likely be able to resassure you, and together you guys can work up to PIV sex where it comes to completion.
5. If I were you I would try very very hard to quit worrying about it. Seriously. I know that is way easier said than done, but the fact is that this is very very very likely to just work out on its own as you get more comfortable and feel less nervous. Work on enjoying what you two are able to do fully, build on that and just let things develop and ramp up naturally. Maybe you have PIV sex for a bit but finish manually/orally. That is totally fine! Maybe you don't have PIV sex at all and just pleasure each other other ways. That is totally fine too! Just stop demanding of yourself that you MUST climax during PIV sex.

If I were you I would:
1. stop self-pleasuring (which you've already done, so good)
2a. have a chat with her, explain the situation, explain how you want very much to have an orgasm during penetrative sex with her but that is something you're going to have to work your way up to
2b. if she is fine with it (and I expect she will be) approach her with a "I'd love for you to help me learn and teach me to be an amazing lover so that I can blow your mind."
3. Quit with the alcohol for a while.
4. Ask her on a date that does not involve alcohol. Make this expectation clear.
5. During the date spend the time whispering back and forth all kinds of sexy things to each other so that when you finally get back to an apartment you both have been turned on for hours.
6. Have fun fooling around. See where things go.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 8:35 AM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

You did not mess up your sex drive by being overweight. You also did not mess up your sex drive by masturbating. Or by being bi. And unless you and I have a vastly different definition of "not to excess" you are also not messing up your sex drive by drinking. I'm willing to bet that your sex drive is not messed up at all. The history of medication may have left you without a clear sense of normal, but that's okay, you have time to figure that out. Honestly, this is almost certainly nerves. Your number 1 covers it, and the rest is over thinking, which is what nerves make you do.

So the good news is that this is totally normal, and not an indication of a serious problem. The bad news is that worry is the problem, so worrying makes it worse, and if you could just stop worrying, well, you wouldn't be here asking the question. It's like "don't think of pink elephants." It sucks. But you'll get through it.

Pretty much the best thing you can do right now is to enjoy the sex your having. Penetration isn't everything, or even the more important thing. But when you're relaxed and enjoying yourself, I think you'll find it's an option. Probably your best bet at that is talking to your partner about it.

You're getting a lot of advice on avoiding the alcohol, and you should definitely give that a try, because it affects people differently. But you may also find that a couple of drinks (not more) helps with the nerves.
posted by Nothing at 8:42 AM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

2. Alcohol. We tend to drink a fair amount when we're together, either alone or in a group, though never really to excess, and I know that can't be helping my performance (though it does ease my nerves, I can't rely on it forever).

I have dated guys who could not get it up after drinking even a little. I have also dated guys who needed a drink to last more than two minutes. Alcohol might have a big effect on your penis - suggest some alcohol free activities that might lead to sex-ing this girl up, and see how it goes.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 8:43 AM on January 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

you say: "it's always been in settings where I'm never fully at ease and have usually had a lot to drink". there's your problem right there. the dysfunction's just a symptom - the prob is that you're not at ease, and drunk to boot. it sounds like you're dealing with some untreated anxiety and/or depression. sexual performance is way below that on the priority scale - you're putting the cart before the horse. alcohol is a shitty, shitty way to self-medicate anxiety - you may want to look into alternatives.
posted by facetious at 9:20 AM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Okay, so this whole situation is very, very new (in more ways than one). You've had sex with her all of two times. It's really too early to worry, and certainly way too early to say that there is something the matter with your sex drive.
There is no problem yet. You don't need all of these solutions. You mainly need some time.

So, first of all, give yourself time. She seems to genuinely like you; she won't mind if things take a bit of time to develop into awesomeness.
Did you think that that is uncommon? It's really really not.

Then the issues that you are looking at. I'd say that 1, 2 and 5 are the relevant ones. The other ones, I'd say, not so much.
It seems you've been trying to have sex in pretty much the worst possible circumstances so far. Nervous, lots of alcohol, not at ease. Honestly, what were you expecting?

I've been the patient female partner with a nervous, inexperienced male partner. He was a lot older than you are. Everything still turned out fine, with nothing but time. And in the meantime, we had a lot of fun and mutual pleasure, just exploring, trying things out, enjoying each other.
There was no hardship involved. We were getting to know each other. It felt good.

Keep in mind that intercourse is not the most interesting kind of sex for many heterosexual ciswomen. All by itself, it's usually not the thing that makes them climax. She may not even care for it all that much. In any case, don't assume that she does, or does as much as you seem to.
Sex does not revolve around your penis.

The steps you're taking sound good (except that you probably don't need all those supplements). I'd add these three:

5. Try having sex (any kind, can include PIV but doesn't have to) after much less alcohol and see what happens.

6. Try having sex (any kind, can include PIV but doesn't have to) in a situation where you have time, privacy and comfort.

7. Don't worry so much. It'll be allright. Give yourself the time to calm down and adjust to this new perspective.

Good things are worth waiting for. Keep on keeping on, keep communicating with her, let her know what's going on... and please, scratch the word 'performance' from your sexual vocabulary.
posted by Too-Ticky at 9:35 AM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm a doctor (although not your doctor) and just wanted to weigh in with everyone else, if it helps, to say that I do not think you need to see a doctor about this issue at this point, nor do I think that the past history of medications or being overweight are related, except that you were on medications because you were anxious (and probably are anxious now too) and that you mention body image issues from being overweight that need to be overcome.

Erectile dysfunction due to nerve or blood vessel issues happens to people with longstanding/poorly controlled diabetes, not to young people who never had a diagnosis of diabetes but had a risk factor for it.

Hopefully me saying that doesn't discourage you from your healthy diet and exercise plan, because I think those are great things to do.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:06 AM on January 7, 2013

Yup... breathe. Like thank you silence (above): my now husband had this issue in our first few months of dating. He has not had it since. Since then, however, I've had my own health issues that have periodically made penetrative sex painful and thus led to creative alternatives. Relax. Sex is a gray scale, a sliding scale, something that comes and goes and changes over time... relax and enjoy the ride.

Oh yeah... I'd TELL her. Talk to her. I bet she's more than okay to slow down a bit, if it means she gets to play teacher!
posted by jrobin276 at 12:56 PM on January 7, 2013

This is perfectly normal, even for guys that haven't gone through all the life changes you have recently. Most women won't care, and a lot will expect this sort of thing. Just tell her you're a little anxious but you really like her, and everything will eventually sort itself out. There's nothing to be embarrassed about. Most people take some time to click.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:39 PM on January 7, 2013

Other people have said this but I'm going to say it in caps: COMMUNICATE WITH HER. The single most effective step you can take to feel less nervous is if you know she knows what's going on and is okay with it.

I was a virgin until well into my 20s, and what you're describing happened to me with more than one woman. It's pretty common with sexual late bloomers. It stopped happening when I got together with a woman who not only knew just how inexperienced I was, but found it a turn-on.

I'm not saying you need to sit her down for a Serious Talk or anything. But next time you're making out you could say "Hey, I'm a little nervous saying this but just FYI, I'm not very experienced at this sort of thing." Or the like. She probably knows anyway, and she's still throwing herself at you, right? So just tell her you might need to take things a bit slower and get more comfortable around each other's naked bodies before you go for PIV sex.

Oh, and definitely cut down on the booze.
posted by zeri at 5:11 PM on January 7, 2013

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