The Frisky Feminist

Anxiety, Insecurity, and Erections

Q: When The Boy and I have sex, it is good sex. It is fabulous and we are careful and adventurous and satisfying and it’s lovely. But we’ll have months of being at it like rabbits and then I don’t know, something happens and he loses his erection. And then we don’t have sex for months…because he can’t keep it up because of the anxiety it’ll happen again, I guess.

We always get out of the rut eventually, but this time it seems to be lasting longer… I’m not even particularly asking for help making sex happen for us again, I know it will eventually, I just need a way to stop blaming myself for it. I feel like I’m either doing something wrong or I’m so physically repulsive that he can’t even stand to look at me or something. Every time he tells me that it’s not me, and I know logically it is just his anxiety, but I can’t help feeling completely inadequate. :(

I really don’t know who else to ask about it! He gets pretty upset when I’ve mentioned my insecurities about it, and while I know it’s probably the best way to get around it, I don’t wanna make him feel worse about it. Have you got anything that can help me?

A: It certainly helps that you know logically that it’s not your fault, but insecurity about our bodies can be surprisingly resistant to logic. It’s a safe bet he feels the same way – logically, he knows that it happens to everyone sometimes and that having occasional difficulty getting it up is not reflective of his overall ability, but that won’t necessarily stop him from feeling shitty about it.

It might be helpful to remember that our feelings don’t always translate to our bodily reactions and responses. Just like the body can display signs of arousal when the person doesn’t actually feel turned on (surprise erections, that “wow, everything’s awfully wet all of a sudden!” moment, and so on), a person can be attracted to their partner and want to have sex, but their body doesn’t always cooperate. And this is no reflection at all on the partner, on anything they’re doing or not doing or should be doing, it’s the body being uncooperative. And certain things (that also do not reflect on you or are caused by you), like nerves or anxiety about the situation, can definitely exacerbate it.

(One idea about what might be contributing to this besides or in addition to his anxiety about it – you mentioned that the two of you have an epic ton of sex for a period of time before this happens. Is it possible that his resources have been depleted, so to speak, from the really frequent sex? Even with men who are able to get hard again soon and quickly after having ejaculated, things can get a little tired out and it can become more difficult to get and stay hard and have an orgasm.)

What does it mean to you when your partner has an erection? You probably interpret that as a sign that he’s turned on by you and that he finds you attractive. Are there any other ways for him to communicate this to you and remind you of this besides through sex (or more to the point, besides those sexual activities that would require him to be hard)? Seeing that someone you care about and to whom you are attracted finds you enticing is a great feeling – it can make you feel closer to them, it can be a confidence-booster, etc. But it could be helpful to think about if there are any other ways you can get those feelings that don’t center on one particular part of his body behaving in a certain way.

And don’t be afraid to tell him what you need from him; often our partners can figure out what we need from them, but sometimes they can’t, or they don’t know the most effective way to give us what we need. If words do a lot for you, you could tell him, “I love when you tell me that I’m beautiful inside and out, I like knowing you see me that way. It also makes me feel really good about myself, and I think I could use that. Could you tell me things like that more often?” Or if you’re the type that finds physical touch the most satisfying and you like when he reaches for your hand when you’re walking somewhere, you could tell him how much you like that and find some other ways to touch each other that aren’t necessarily sexual but that make you feel good and feel loved.

If you do want to talk to him about this again, you may want to consider framing it in a way that sort of puts you both on equal footing. You want to help him feel relaxed and not anxious or insecure, and you’re also seeking some reassurance for yourself, to help you not feel insecure or inadequate (which, just a reminder from us, you are not inadequate, nor are you doing anything wrong, nor are you repulsive). It could be more of a “we’re each feeling insecure about some things, how can we help each other?” discussion so that he doesn’t feel like everything is focused on him. It could also be worth reminding him that you’re not judging or blaming him and that he’s not disappointing you when he loses his erection; there’s so much social/cultural emphasis placed on getting hard and staying hard and being big and lasting forever that he likely may be feeling embarrassed and similarly inadequate, and he may feel more comfortable and less upset talking about it with a reminder that you’re on his side and you both want the same thing.

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By paperispatient

I recently earned my MA in women’s studies. I enjoy reading, working out, playing Scrabble, watching cheesy movies, and cooking yummy vegetarian meals with my partner and Frisky Feminist co-author, Future Mr. paperispatient.

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