When worrying about losing a boner kills your boner...
November 1, 2017 2:56 PM   Subscribe

After twelve years of wonderful monogamous sex exclusively with one other person, and never the faintest hint of any erectile or orgasm problems, my first and second attempts at intercourse with a different person have been so humiliating that I fear I now have a hangup that will make it forever impossible.

My partner and I are a couple in our early-30s experimenting with polyamory after many years of marriage. The last time I had sex with anyone else was before we met at age 20. Over a period of about twelve months my partner has had sex with two other people (one met online, one at work) while all I can manage is a few dates that go nowhere. But eventually I meet someone online. We meet through okcupid where I am upfront about the open-relationship (fairly common on okc), everything being above board except that I'm implicitly pretending to be experienced at polyamory instead of a novice.

When we meet in person there is an immediate, powerful mutual attraction which leads to getting it on a few hours later. I am in unfamiliar territory. She's much larger (taller and heavier) than my partner and everything feels different. The difference is making me wonder what she's thinking about my own dimensions. Midway through our first encounter, while flipping positions, I just lose it. I am in an embarrassed panic. She tells me it's fine. It isn't. But I recover. She lets me finish without her finishing. I feel like I failed, since my partner reliably orgasms every time. Well that was awkward, but maybe it's just because I drank so much???

Nope. Our second encounter, this time sober. When getting into the same position where disaster struck the first time, I remember the embarrassment, feel the fear and it immediately becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy in a matter of seconds. This time is infinitely more embarrassing than the first time. I can't recover from this.

I'm 32, physically and mentally healthy and have never lost an erection or failed to get one (my only problem is getting too many at inappropriate times). But this trauma has made me feel like I am just not cut out for having sex with anyone other than my partner. Or at least (I hate to say it), anyone who doesn't have the same petite body-type as my partner. Which is killing me because this new person is actually really special and I want this to work. But now that it's such a big deal in my head I can't see how I can ever defuse the negative mental circuit.

I'm looking for advice, preferably from people who have experienced the same thing and overcome it. How to neutralize the boner-killing fear of losing your boner? Do I resort to medication? Or is this just my body telling me that I should call this whole thing off?
posted by nikodym to Human Relations (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
All I can say is that what put my mind at ease with a similar concern was the advice, "it's always weird with someone new."
posted by rhizome at 2:59 PM on November 1, 2017 [3 favorites]


Seconding it's always weird with someone new. Suggestion: learn other ways to get a woman off. Men often think there's just the one way and that assumption is incorrect (and frankly often not the preferred option anyway) and no excuse to leave someone unfinished unless they want to remain unfinished. Stop worrying about you and focus on her, you'll be surprised how much better it works out for everyone involved.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:07 PM on November 1, 2017 [16 favorites]


If you reddit, you might check out r/sex. It’s a very sex-positive, well-moderated community that does a great job of helping answer questions like this.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 3:09 PM on November 1, 2017


“I feel like I failed, since my partner reliably orgasms every time.” - this isn’t a thing that happens everyone for everyone, so don’t feel like you’ve failed.
posted by ozgirlabroad at 3:12 PM on November 1, 2017 [2 favorites]


Take genital play and orgasms off the table. Go on dates, have fun, kiss, pet heavily, give and receive massages, toss off some mind-blowing dirty talk, or do whatever floats your boat – but go no further.

This happens all the time, NBD. It's the same as stage fright or performance pressure, just in the bedroom. Let the great balloon of your anxiety deflate, and all things will realign in their own time.
posted by fritillary at 3:12 PM on November 1, 2017 [1 favorite]


I feel like I failed, since my partner reliably orgasms every time

nthing what other people have said. Your lack of boner doesn't have to mean her lack of orgasm and that might be what you can readjust in your mind to make your next encounter a little less nervewracking for you? If PIV orgasms are your goal here (keeping in mind that some and possibly most women can't orgasm this way anyhow) you can also use some of the tried and true methods including doing whatever you need to relax (a little alcohol but not much, a little weed, viagra if it's easy to obtain), trying different times of day, etc.

Which is killing me

I know this feels bad for you but you're also bringing a lot of drama to the table here. This will be fine and if you don't make it work with this woman for whatever reason, you've got a long life ahead of you full of excellent sex. That said, I think you've got time with this woman but you may need to lower the intensity in your mind somewhat.

The poly angle can make this a little awkward because you might not have the same freedom to sleep-over or spend a ton of time working on it and you can sometimes bring that agita back home which is also suboptimal. Is this a thing you can talk to your partner about?

This sort of thing happens to nearly all guys at some point in their sex lives. This is an awkward time but that's par for the course, that is what the "experimentation" part of this is all about.
posted by jessamyn at 3:16 PM on November 1, 2017 [6 favorites]


This was a plot line in Judy Blume's novel "Wifey." Which I guess suggests it's pretty common (for a guy who loves PIV sex with his wife to find he can't do it in a polyamorous setup with other people.) Just do other stuff, if you are sure you want to proceed with your poly arrangements.
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:19 PM on November 1, 2017 [2 favorites]


"while flipping positions, I just lose it. I am in an embarrassed panic."
I understand that this could feel embarrassing to a guy, but it really shouldn't be. You have a human body, and it doesn't always function the way you want it. It's a fact of life, and not any sort of personal failure on your part. It can be due to newness of the situation, partner, nervousness, internal pressure to perform to a certain (your own) standard, etc. It in no way reflects on you as being a good and capable lover. Try to see it as a small glitch it is, and just have fun with the rest. There's nothing to be embarrassed about here. Nothing.

"She lets me finish without her finishing. I feel like I failed, since my partner reliably orgasms every time." This particular person may not orgasm reliably every time, with anyone. And it might not bother her in the least. Every woman is different. Some never orgasm with a partner and yet enjoy sex tremendously. It's not a flaw in her, and not a failure on your part.

I say these things as a woman who's boyfriend had similar couple of times, which he was so embarrassed about, it was painful for me to witness. I did not see it as any kind of disaster, I was not disappointed, I did not think he should've done better. I loved being with him. And I said similar things to him. Just try to relax and enjoy the experience of getting to know this person's body. Pay attention to what she likes, etc. This is a fun experience, there's no panel of judges evaluating your performance.
posted by LakeDream at 3:23 PM on November 1, 2017 [1 favorite]


Of the partners with penises that I've had, a substantial majority had similar stuff the first few times - enthusiastic, hooray, then anxiety or different pacing or something and no go. Obviously I've been the same body size with all my partners, more or less, but they've been pretty different from each other. Time and more encounters resolved the issue.

If you are attracted to this person and start the process really wanting to have sex, it is unlikely that her size difference from your partner is going to keep you from succeeding in some elusive, semi-philosophical way.

I can't speak for women everywhere, or even AFAB people everywhere, but I didn't care when it happened. It did not bother me, I did not view it as a referendum on my sexual appeal or my partner's erotic powers. I think this is common. My perception is that cis straight men have been socialized to believe that their partners want a lot of stuff that is not in fact especially important to them.

Also, when I was young I read a book of essays by Cynthia Heimel which was full of sexual advice by which I would not actually stand now, but she basically said the same thing - Cynthia Heimel, who was pretty and thin and got around a lot and really liked sex basically said that in her rather extensive experience, first-couple-times loss of erection was pretty typical and not of concern.
posted by Frowner at 4:20 PM on November 1, 2017 [5 favorites]


She lets me finish without her finishing. I feel like I failed, since my partner reliably orgasms every time.

There's no terribly delicate way to put this, I'm afraid: you know that the physical fact of your having or not having an erection is basically irrelevant to whether she has an orgasm, right? You have fingers, you have a tongue...surely you have used those before to get your long-term partner off, right? You know that women masturbate, that women without penises bring other women to orgasm, no? Putting aside the embarrassment and awkwardness--which I don't mean to diminish, as they are very understandable--speaking strictly physically, it's the same situation with this new woman. If it's important to you that this new partner orgasm, then losing your erection, while perhaps not ideal, should not thwart you.

Most women don't reliably orgasm with PIV sex alone anyway. If your long-term partner does, that's great, but you really shouldn't expect it if you continue to explore polyamory with other female partners. And sometimes, for some people, it just doesn't happen. There's no failure for anyone in that, just bad luck.
posted by praemunire at 5:15 PM on November 1, 2017 [17 favorites]


She's much larger (taller and heavier) than my partner and everything feels different. The difference is making me wonder what she's thinking about my own dimensions.

Or maybe you're just not sufficiently attracted to her and you're projecting? If you're exclusively into smaller women (which is common, and isn't necessarily anything to be ashamed of), just be honest with yourself and stop wasting your time and hers.
posted by blerghamot at 5:25 PM on November 1, 2017 [1 favorite]


My ex-husband had the same issue when he started seeing other people during our open marriage. Once he got more comfortable with other partners, he got over it. He never went back to being able to do one night stands though. They're difficult for a lot of men over 30, honestly, based on my experience with Tinder post-divorce. Maybe they're only more universally easy for college-aged kids!

Ways to minimize awkwardness for the other person when it happens:

Switch to getting them off, which penises are usually not the most useful tool for anyway.
Make it clear that you find them sexually appealing, by complimenting them or telling them how exciting it is to be in bed with them or whatever.
Express ZERO disappointment about however sex turns out, and lots of enthusiasm about what a great time you had when it's time to say goodbye. And be in touch the next day reiterating that.

In this specific case, given that this is someone you're really into, you should 'fess up that she's your first outside partner if you haven't already.
posted by metasarah at 6:39 PM on November 1, 2017 [1 favorite]


"... where disaster struck the first time...I can't recover from this."

1) This is not disaster. This is a normal human thing. As a woman, similar things have happened to me, even if I WANTED to be into something, my body sometimes hasn't.

2) Maybe you're not as into this person, or this situation as you thought you were. Maybe you need more time with this person, more time with this situation, or a different person. You've only been having sex with one partner for a while, it can be strange with new people adding to the fact of a changing relationship dynamic.

3) There are other (often better) ways to finish your partner off. Talk with them. Some people are actually okay with not finishing - some people would prefer someone at least care enough to try or ask, but don't want to be presumptuous or rude. (If a dude I was with was frustrated that their body wasn't cooperating, I wouldn't feel comfortable asking that they continue with me.)

4) Seriously, relax. If this happens again, giggle and say "Oh, my dude's not cooperating. What would you like me to do instead?" with a wink. Fun! Sexy! Not awkward!

(A partner of mine had this happen the second or third time together. We just brushed it off and it was fine. Happened again a couple times. He was 21. Turns out he had bronchitis. Spoiler alert, that was 8 years ago and we're married. This is not a disaster.)
posted by Crystalinne at 6:44 PM on November 1, 2017 [2 favorites]


As a woman who has sex with men, here are some things that do not bother me at all: men losing their hard-ons; men coming before I come.

And here are the things in the 'pro' column of my 'should I just stop dating men altogether' list: men making my orgasm or lack of same All About Them and Their Skill and Their Prowess, rather than about my body; men getting all upset when I explain that I just don't always come and it's fine; men deciding that their own orgasm means that the sexual encounter is over.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:12 PM on November 1, 2017 [29 favorites]


Seventy-Five Percent of women cannot orgasm from penetration alone.

Most women who sleep with men have encountered this a few times and most of us are not that bothered by it. Bodies are weird. They fart, faint, bleed, cramp and sneeze when they aren't supposed to. We get that. The frustrating thing is being with a man who thinks that without an erection nothing sexy can be happening (whether this means that he thinks the party is over when he finishes, or that unless he's erect there can be no satisfaction or enjoyment for his partner).

A lot of this could be solved with some communication. What's important to her about sex? What's important to you? What do you both need to be comfortable? Ask her what she needs to come and what she wants. Some women need a few encounters to get comfortable enough to relax and orgasm. Some women don't enjoy their orgasm being this thing that has to be accomplished so that guy can feel okay. Though him not caring about it at all may be just as annoying.

Maybe spend a little more time with her making out etc w/o penetration.

And maybe explore what's going on with you emotionally about this new step into poly-world. Sometimes emotions can be hidden but can still have an impact on what's happening physically.
posted by bunderful at 7:40 PM on November 1, 2017 [4 favorites]


Datapoint: some women will take it personally because we have had a lifetime of programming about how men always want it and we're hideously undesirable if they aren't palpably rarin' to boink. (I know, that sentence alone was probably so sexy you couldn't contain yourself! ...Sorry.) This is mostly out of your control, unless you're the guy who covers his embarrassment by blaming the woman or her body out loud, in the moment, which it sounds like you aren't.

Anyway...the rational flipside of all that "wo/men are hardwired to do THIS" mythology is that preference is so individual and unpredictable. Some people are floodlights in terms of their potential type/attraction pool, and some are laser-guided. I could count on one hand the number of people I've been THAT into in my life; many people I know LOST count in early childhood, and it isn't a Mars/Venus contrast from what I've observed. It's all vector quantities and magnitudes. (My laser attractions feel like brutal precision strikes, whereas if I were a "floodlight" I'd just have to get used to ubiquitous hotness all around me.)

I am, admittedly, pretty vanilla and prudish about these things compared to many of my contemporaries/juniors, so add salt-grains to taste here.

But just in case you're the male version of a vanilla-laser, I'll echo Blerghamot's question above: are you, possibly, just not attracted to the new partner?

Or: are you maybe not totally sold on the whole poly thing, or perhaps you feeling pressure to "keep up" with your partner's newfound, uh, success? The old gender stereotypes can certainly cut both ways.

Again, salt. All of the salt. A whole Lot's wife of it, even (if you're into Lot's wife; no judgment). Just know that whatever is happening is okay, but it's also okay if you feel like it's Telling You Something.
posted by armeowda at 11:42 PM on November 1, 2017


I don't mean to sound harsh, but seriously... partnered sex does not revolve around your penis. All the drama wasn't necessary, and probably a buzzkill for her, much more so than the loss of an erection was. You made it into a Thing. Try not to do that.

Don't make her do the emotional labour of consoling you over your lost boner. I really like the script that was offered above: "Oh, my dude's not cooperating. What would you like me to do instead?" Keep things light.

This Scarleteen article is not exactly aimed at your situation but still offers some really good information and food for thought: Yield for Pleasure.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:26 AM on November 2, 2017 [4 favorites]


I could have written this question this week, changing a few details - first sexual partner almost a year after the end of a (very) long-term relationship, only the second such partner I've ever had. Which led to anxiousness, which led to some performance issues. I felt much the same like you. Like I had Failed. (Which, by the way, isn't true, but it deserves to be repeated.)

The days after, I began questioning my motives. Even though it brought up some confusing emotions, I did want to have this experience and I was attracted to the person I was with. Did I actually want to go through with it? I did. So was it largely performance anxiety then? Yes. So we planned another date. Took it a lot slower this time. Things worked out.

I want to give (and partly echo) the advice that you need to question your motives, too: do you really want this? What is the broader context in which you're having these encounters? Are they really something you desire? Or it is actually difficult for you to have a sexual encounter that lacks the intimacy you have with your partner? If you're sure you want to move ahead with polyamorous encounters, then your unreliable erection is probably just your nerves talking. Take your time. Explore each other's body, slowly. Try not to think about your penis at all, maybe even ask your partner to not focus on it for a while. Even though we are told differently (I'm looking at you, porn directors), arousal is often indirect for men too. You may need words, not (only) hands or mouths. You may need to forget about the fact you even have a penis for it to remind you that it's there.
posted by Desertshore at 3:18 AM on November 2, 2017


I'm a women who has never had an orgasm the first few times with a new partner. It just takes me a while to feel comfortable with someone new and let go. Occasionally partners have made this all about them and how they've 'failed', and let me tell you this is incredibly off-putting. It makes me feel guilty and pressured (which makes it even harder to relax) but also resentful that my orgasm is somehow about their sexual prowess and manhood. Yuck.

You've been with your partner for 12 years- of course you can reliably get her off. Not only will this new woman have different things that work for her physically, she may also be nervous, focusing on showing you a good time, worried about what you think of her body etc etc etc, all of which could be putting the brakes on her ability to orgasm.

As a woman who finds it tricky to orgasm sometimes, I am very relaxed when a guy I'm with doesn't come or loses his erection. There are loads of reasons this might happen, but having been made to feel guilty and broken when my sexual response hasn't worked like clockwork, I'm not gonna make a big deal out of it (because that makes it worse), or ask if it's because I'm hideous (because that's not a conversation that anyone will enjoy).

In fact, I'm always a little surprised when a guy loses a boner or doesn't come and apologises profusely- I mean, I'm not too worried about a shortage or boners/male orgasms in the world. Of course I want my partner to have a good time, but I find it a little disappointing when losing an erection (for whatever reason) automatically means sex is over.

I would advise you to do what I do when I'm with a new partner- tell them it takes you a while to (orgasm/relax/get hard) with a new partner, but you find them sexy as hell and you're gonna enjoy (having sex whether or not I come/messing around/going down/whatever).

What you're experiencing is really common, but the language you use is so heightened (it's a disaster, a trauma, it's killing you), I wonder if there's something else going on?

Maybe you just would rather have a monogamous relationship, or maybe you're just not attracted to this other women, and either or both of those is OK.

But if you do want to try again, and this lady has some experience with polyamory, why don't you level with her? Tell her you're not as experienced as you made out, that you're learning and experiencing some surprising side-effects and feelings, but you're excited to see where it goes. And maybe take PIV off the menu for a while and get to know each other's bodies without pressuring yourself perform.
posted by Dwardles at 5:10 AM on November 2, 2017 [2 favorites]


It sounds like you're doing something you barely want to catch up to your wife. I think this is a relationship problem--but not with this new person.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 3:18 PM on November 3, 2017 [2 favorites]


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