Q. I have started going out with a guy I really like. We’re in our early 30s.
We have a great time together, lots of sexual chemistry, but as soon as we get going he loses his erection.
He says he’s very attracted to me and that it’s only happened once or twice before. What could be the cause?
A. It is difficult not to take an issue like this personally. We equate erection with sexual attraction and, therefore, assume that the reverse is also true.
If a man can’t get an erection, on a subconscious level we worry that we aren’t sexy enough, but erectile failure is hardly ever caused by lack of physical attraction.
The ingrained expectation that males communicate their desire through their erections can make women feel unnecessarily insecure, but it puts a lot of sexual pressure on men too.
This problem is often compounded by the fact that a woman’s desire to be desired means she will expect her man to perform without providing any direct stimulation.
Any woman who wants a man to sustain his erection must be willing to coax it into existence with physical contact.
Likewise, when a man loses his erection during sex, manual or oral stimulation is much more effective in restoring it than interrogation or humiliation.
The worst thing you can do is become wound up. Harping on about the problem can lead to a situation where a man’s fear of losing his erection ensures that he will.
For most guys, the intense sexual excitement of a new relationship ensures an almost constant erection, but for some, the pressure of trying to please can undermine performance.
Any stress, real or perceived, triggers the release of adrenaline. This increases heart rate and diverts blood from the extremities to the muscles, to prepare for fight or flight.
When a man has a gun to his head, the last thing he needs is an erection, but the fight or flight instinct cannot distinguish between physical and psychological threat — so it is an inappropriate response to most modern stressors.
Although I’m fairly sure that your boyfriend’s problem is common performance anxiety, continual erectile failure in a young man can indicate underlying health problems such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease or vascular disease.
Taking drugs, drinking too much, working too hard or using prescription medications such as anti-depressants can also play havoc with the ability to maintain an erection.
However, if your boyfriend continues to experience spontaneous nocturnal, or morning, erections then the problem is almost certainly psychological.
I’m pretty sure that the situation will resolve of its own accord once he begins to feel more confident, but if his failure to achieve a reliable erection continues to interfere with your capacity to enjoy sex, it would be worth exploring Viagra, sex therapy, hypnotherapy, or neurolinguistic programming.
Taking more exercise, watching his diet and cutting down on alcohol will help.
Finding out that your boyfriend has an unreliable erection is not a perfect start, but you can tell he’s very attracted to you, so trust your instincts and be patient.
Good men are hard to find and being able to keep it up all night does not make a man a wonderful lover, or a loving partner.
The fact that he is unafraid to talk to you about sex bodes well for a rewarding relationship.
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