Q&A: My Boyfriend Has A Tough Time Staying Hard During Sex

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QUESTION: My boyfriend and I just started having sex. Lately he hasn’t been able to get hard unless I give him oral sex first. He never had a problem like this before, and it makes me feel like I’m not attractive to him anymore. He insists it’s his fault. What’s going on?

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Drooping-Flower

Photo: bensonkua (flickr.com)

When young, healthy men have difficulty getting erections, it is often because of performance anxiety.

The Anatomy of an Erection

Many women and men are curious about men’s erections. After all, they seem unpredictable quite a lot of the time. When they are going through puberty, young men often get erections for no particular reason and sometimes during times when they wish they wouldn’t, such as during math class.

As they grow older and begin being sexual with a partner, they may have the experience of not always getting erections when they want one, even if they feel sexually excited.

Your boyfriend’s difficulty getting or keeping an erection is not unusual. This happens to nearly all men at some point in their lives. If your boyfriend’s erection problems persist, he may want to check in with his healthcare provider to rule out physical causes, such as diabetes.

Stage Fright

However, when young, healthy men have difficulty getting erections, it is often because of performance anxiety. Your boyfriend may want to please you so much that the stress or anxiety makes it harder for him to get or stay erect.

Sometimes after men experience one instance of erection difficulty they get nervous the next time they’re about to have sex. This anxiety can make it more difficult to get an erection the next time and it can become a challenging cycle to break.

If your boyfriend is telling you that he still likes you and is attracted to you, and you have no reason to believe he isn’t telling you the truth, then why not take him at his word?  Many young men take time to figure out how their erections work.

Exploring as a Couple

As a couple, try to talk about this in a way that feels calm, comfortable and accepting. You might let him know that you are open to exploring a range of ways of being sexual together, including things that don’t require him to have an erection, such as cunnilingus, sensual massage and touching.

You two might also consider reading a book about sex together, such as The New Male Sexuality or The Sexual Male: Problems and Solutions. As you are both new to sex, either of these books might help you to better understand issues related to men and sex.

In the mean time, try to help your boyfriend feel confident and comfortable about sex and try to reassure yourself that you are attractive and have value as a relationship and sex partner. Too often, it becomes easy to be hard on ourselves in regard to sex – taking a gentler approach can help to make sex more pleasurable and can decrease stress.

Dr. Debby Herbenick (M.P.H., Ph.D.)

is a sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, Associate Director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University and author of several books including Sex Made Easy and Because It Feels Good: A Woman's Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction.
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