Why can't I get an erection?
December 9, 2006 1:07 AM   Subscribe

I'm 21 years old--could I have erectile dysfunction? Or could it be emotional?

So, I'm a 21 year old male. I dated the same girl for the past two years, and we had sex consistently without any, uh, trouble on my end. I'd say maybe 3-4 times I couldn't get an erection. Probably two of those I was drunk and blamed it on the alcohol. The last time was the night before I left to go abroad for 4 months (where I am now). We were saying goodbye, but I couldn't get it up for a long time. When we tried again later that night, I could but it was a softy. This, to me, suggests some sort of emotional connection, because I was sad to leave her.

Fast forward to last night. My girlfriend and I broke up a few weeks ago, and I met a girl here last week who I've been hooking up with. Last night we went back to her apartment and made out/got naked, etc., etc. I got a little hard for a little, but then when we were naked and probably ready to move on, I lost it. Kaput. Erection gone and nowhere in sight. How embarrassing!

Now, a few caveats. I was a little drunk. But, by that point I had really sobered up I think. I was tired and stressed too. Don't know if this effects matters such as this one. And, the kicker, I am still thinking about my ex-girlfriend, because it was a tough break-up, me being abroad and all.

I am definitely attracted to this new girl. She is hot, and I have a good connection with her, so I would not be quick to ascribe my issues to not being attracted to her.

Is this occasional problem something I should see a doctor about? or a therapist? I'm 21, at the prime of my life, and do not want to not be able to get it up anymore.

Thank you.
posted by names are hard to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The worst thing you could possibly do when this happens is get embarrassed and/or worry about it. The best thing you could possibly do is figure out how to have fun with a softy for that session. And don't be so quick to write off stress, and especially drink, as likely causes; they don't call it "brewer's droop" for nothing.

Stay off the piss, eat healthy, stay hydrated, give up wanking for a week and you'll be laughing.
posted by flabdablet at 1:47 AM on December 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

Tired, booze and stress are all poison to the erection.

But every time you mention the problem it's in the presence of a woman, you never mention solo activities. If you can get it up for yourself, you should work on the mental angle before going for meds.

Frankly quit thinking about it so much. Performance anxiety in men is almost universal. There's almost always some nervousness with a new partner. I've found that if I stop concentrating on trying to get it up (like putting all my effort into doing something for her) it'll take care of its self.

On preview what flabdablet said too.
posted by Ookseer at 1:56 AM on December 9, 2006

From personal experience I'd probably go with emotional + stress + a little booze + tiredness. Especially if you were really in to the girl you broke up with... sometimes emotional attraction is as necessary as physical attraction, especially when past the extremely horny teenage years.

I'll disclose that I've had a situation very much near to yours (tired, stressed, tough break-up) and wasn't able to get it up with a very attractive woman.

You might be the sort of person who only gets really, really hard if you're really, really in to the girl you're with. Like, emotionally + physically. I know I certainly am one of those fellows.

Just so you know, I'm taking a shot of rum to be able to be brave enough to post this for your benefit and peace of mind.
posted by Mister Cheese at 1:58 AM on December 9, 2006

@Ookseer: I can usually get it up wanking to porn still, but that night I went to the bathroom to take a piss and try to jerk it a little bit, but couldn't do anything.
posted by names are hard at 2:09 AM on December 9, 2006

Well, if'n you can still get it up wanking to porn, it's probably emotional, right? Not something you'd see the doctor for; that'd be if you're plumbing were messed up or something. That's what erectile dysfunction is about. Unless you can think of some kind of physical inhibition to your getting erections (it's not age, that's for sure), I'd put this down to emotional.

Personally, I'd lay off the porn while you're with this new girl. And solo stuff. Focus on her body and why you like her; you want to give your penis all the help it can get if/while you still think about your ex-girlfriend.

Also: IANAD, but I did major in Human Biology and if I learned nothing at all from 4 years of hell, it's that stress can really fuck up physical performance. Yeah, we didn't specifically discuss it's impact on penile function, but without a doubt it will.
posted by Mister Cheese at 2:27 AM on December 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

If it's been awhile since you had a physical, you might see a doctor. In young men, a very high percentage of erectile dysfunction (ED) incidents are due to the obvious causes listed by previous posters. But there is no point developing a pattern of ED incidents, if there is some simple underlying cause such as anemia, or low testosterone levels, which can be easily treated. Such conditions may not themselves even be the proximate cause of frequent ED, but they can exacerbate the problem in situations where other factors are present, until there begins to be a psychological expectation of problems, that becomes a self-defeating pattern.

In short, don't obsess about occasional ED, as it happens to nearly all men. If the issue is emotionally based, it should resolve itself as you get emotional distance and time from the relationship that is still occupying your mind. But also, don't wait to see a doctor if you sense that you are having continuing problems, such as frequent fatigue, which can be a sign of anemia. There is nothing to be embarrassed about in taking such issues to a doctor, and doing so can have powerful positive psychological effects, as you are at least taking ownership of your sexual health and happiness, and looking for answers. Sometimes, this is enough to turn things around, itself.
posted by paulsc at 2:34 AM on December 9, 2006

It's nerves. 100%. After you've had sex with her a few times you'll find yourself stiff at the sound of her voice down the phone.
posted by londongeezer at 3:03 AM on December 9, 2006

This happened to me once too, with my partner on our first time. I still don't know why, I was ready to go, but my body wasn't I guess. The next morning, all systems were go, but it was very strange, and we still wonder about it!

I think I was tired / a bit anxious. Chalk it up to nerves, mostly.
posted by tomble at 5:40 AM on December 9, 2006

Distract yourself. If it happens again, big deal. You've still got fingers and a tongue, and can have plenty fun with those. Forget about what's happening with your plumbing, and concentrate on just enjoying yourself and pleasing her.

But for God's sake, do not lick the alphabet.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:45 AM on December 9, 2006

I'm 21, at the prime of my life, and do not want to not be able to get it up anymore.

don't waste time here, see a doctor
posted by matteo at 8:51 AM on December 9, 2006

Seriously man, don't stress about it. See a doctor just to be sure, don't drink whiskey (ahh yes, the whiskey-dick) and just don't concentrate on it.

A tip, and this may just be me, but performing oral sex on your partner prior to intercourse may help. You will be forced to concentrate on her, and if that act turns you on as much as it does me, you will be golden.

But seriously, don't stress about it. Even if you DO have ED, and the odds are overwhelming against it, it's easily treatable with very few side effects. It's all good.
posted by lazaruslong at 9:01 AM on December 9, 2006

I'd lose the porn and wankery for a while. I had a friend tell me once that he spent so much time masturbating to pornography that it made him substantially less attracted to real women, and it hurt him emotionally and socially. I myself had an experience similar to yours when I was about 24 -- I had trouble getting it up with a woman I found irresistable. To this day I suspect it was because she was the first woman I was with after a fairly long dry spell that I filled with porn and fantasies. (I should also tell you that I solved the problem by letting her take the controls for a while, and focusing less on making sure she was having a good time, as someone mentioned upthread. If someone has agreed to have sex with you, it's best to assume she's done so because it's something she's enjoying.)
posted by hifiparasol at 10:58 AM on December 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

From your description, there's almost certainly nothing wrong with the machinery of your penis - the arteries and nerves and so on. Worry, stress, unfamiliar situations or partners, and fatigue are all very common reasons to have erectile difficulty; alcohol is also a common reason and its effects last for quite some time.

I don't really agree with the comments about masturbation and porn. These things aren't harmful, not even to the extent of producing an erectile problem. The refractory period after an orgasm lasts 15 minutes or so, and few men are called on to have sex less than 15 minutes after masturbating.

Don't worry too much about this - you're well within the bounds of normality. As you find your comfort zone, and take steps to be well-rested and alcohol-free before sex, I'd guess that this problem will simply go away.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:06 AM on December 9, 2006

Girl's perspective: When I am with someone and he has trouble getting hard, I don't think of it as a huge deal. It happens to almost everybody, especially if there's booze involved, especially if it's our first time together. It upsets me only if it clearly upsets him, because I don't want him to feel bad or be embarrased. If he can be relaxed about it, we can go on to have a lot of fun with eachother, regardless.
posted by bookish at 2:59 PM on December 9, 2006

The last time this question came up was 2 weeks ago; it's come up in various forms before that, too.
posted by mediareport at 10:42 PM on December 9, 2006

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