Q&A: I’ve Got Performance Anxiety—How Can I Learn To Relax?

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QUESTION: I am 25 years old and a few times I have found myself losing my erection. My girlfriend is smaller so a good amount of foreplay is always needed for me to fit in the opening of her vagina. During foreplay I can on occasion soften but the main problem is when I can't seem to fit when I'm behind her. I used to love this position and when it's in it's great. The only problem is I start to get anxious when I can tell she wants me behind her and by the time I can fit, I’ve lost my erection. My two questions are one, is it normal to experience this? And two, how can I relax when it's not going in?

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Performance anxiety is a common cause of erection problems among men of all ages.

You’re describing the fairly common experience of performance anxiety – that is, stressing out about performing during sex the way that you want to perform and/or the way that you feel will please your partner.

Focus, Relax

Performance anxiety is a common cause of erection problems among men of all ages.

Among young, healthy men, it’s one of the most common causes of erection difficulties since other causes, such as diabetes and heart disease, are less common among young men in their twenties such as yourself.

Learning to relax during sex can go a long way toward helping you to have the stronger, more reliable erections you’re after.

Focusing on your breathing may help you to feel relaxed. It might also help if you talk with your partner about your sex life, including letting her know how much you want to please her and have a mutually pleasurable sex life, but that you’re also nervous about a few things.

Find The Right Fit

In terms of how you fit together, most people’s genitals can fit together. If you two are having fit issues, that may be something to pay attention to.

If you’re of an average size—say, around 4 to 7 inches long when erect and about 4 to 5 inches in circumference—then you would be likely to fit comfortably inside many women’s vaginas.

If you’re within this range and she still finds it difficult to accept your penis, she may want to check with her healthcare provider and ask whether there are any anatomical reasons that may be interfering with penetration.

Sometimes, in-office procedures can be done that can ease penetration. Other times, women can do exercises at home—such as practicing insertion with vaginal dilators—that can help make vaginal penetration easier, more comfortable, and more pleasurable.

You two might also try using a water-based lubricant, which can also help to make sex more comfortable and more pleasurable, and can make penetration easier – including in some of the more challenging sex positions.

Learn To Make Adjustments

If your penis is of a larger than average size, then it may be that you will occasionally experience such difficulties even if you later on are with other sexual partners, and so learning to make adjustments can help.

Men who have larger than average-sized penises sometimes find it helpful to use water-based or silicone-based lubricant during intercourse (or at least to have some on hand, if needed).

Intercourse can also be easier for your partner in sex positions, such as woman on top, in which your partner will have more control over the depth and speed of penetration.

For more information about size issues, positions, and performance anxiety, check out Sex Made Easy: Your Awkward Questions Answered-For Better, Smarter, Amazing Sex.

Next Question: Alternative Ways To Get Pregnant Without Intercourse

I’ve been married for 3 years and still can’t have sex due to very painful penetration. However my husband and I would like to have a child very, very soon. We are trying to get pregnant naturally by having my husband ejaculate in my vaginal opening so that the sperm can swim through my uterus. Is it possible to get pregnant this way?

Read Dr. Debby Herbenick’s response.

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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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