Q&A: Embarrassed By Erections In Social Situations

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QUESTION: I went to the movies with a guy I like and at one point I think he had an erection because he turned away from me and looked as if he was trying to adjust his fly, then covered his genital area with his hand. I want him to feel comfortable around me. How can I let him know that he doesn’t have to be embarrassed about it?

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Photo: Cyril Satorsky

Unexpected erections can be embarrassing

Erections can be challenging for many young men. They may come and go with little warning and men often have little control over them – especially young men whose hormone levels are high and who, with the slightest stimulation, excitement, feelings of attraction, or even anxiety, may find that they unexpectedly get an erection.

Men often go to great lengths to hide the fact that they have an erection in social situations. They may try to adjust their pants, hold things like a book or a newspaper in front of their crotch area, or try to think distracting thoughts or even conjure images of people they find very unattractive or unappealing in the hopes that such thoughts will dampen their erection.

Might Not Be Time Yet

It’s kind of you to want to help him to feel comfortable. However, if you two are not very close yet, he may not be ready to talk with you about his erections no matter how much he may like you or you may like him. Instead, you might consider ways that you can signal your feelings of comfort and acceptance.

For example, if you notice that he seems erect another time when you are together, you might find a way to signal that you like him such as by reaching for his hand, pulling him closer, or saying how glad you are that you’re spending time together or that he asked you to do something together.

Express Your Desire In Other Ways

You might also try to express your desire for him to feel comfortable around you in other ways. Rather than pinning the comfort issue around his spontaneous erections, you might try saying to him that you like being together and that you hope he feels comfortable with you and that he can relax and just hang out with you so that you can get to know each other better.

If you feel comfortable around him, you may even find it strengthens your bond to begin sharing personal information with him that you would normally only tell your friends or family. By showing that you trust him and are comfortable with him, he may soon develop and strengthen his feelings of comfort with and trust in you, too.

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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