In our complex, messy lives, we often receive the message that of the two sexes, women are complicated and men are straightforward. When it comes to sex, women need time, focus, relaxation, connection. But men… men work at the flick of a switch! So, it’s seriously perplexing when a man’s willy won’t do what we want it to.
According to research, 25% of the time, a man’s penis won’t maintain an erection long enough for the completion of intercourse. So, are men really as superficial and robotic as we thought?
The experience of not managing to gain or maintain erection can be extremely shaming and overwhelming for many men. “Locker room talk” endorses bragging about sexual achievements, and not opening up about issues that make men worry there might be something wrong with them. Men have learnt not to talk about experiences that make them feel and appear vulnerable, so many of them suppress the issue. They push the disappointment out of awareness until the next time they’re faced with it.
Erectile dysfunction (as the DSM likes to call it) can disrupt romantic relationships. Upon being unable to perform, the man’s partner could take it personally, wondering if it’s their fault. Perhaps they are not attractive enough, or perhaps the man is not that into them. The partner could be plagued by rejection, which often results in anger directed towards the man. The man may experience anxiety at the potential of triggering this response in his partner and the anxiety itself could cause the penile deflation, which causes more anxiety, which causes more penis stress, and so on, ending up in an anxious penis cycle. If this issue persists enough, the couple could end up avoiding sex altogether, which could end up having a negative impact on their intimacy and emotional sharing, and thus overall relationship satisfaction.
How can you cope with an ungovernable penis?
1. Be self-compassionate. Be kind to yourself. There is nothing wrong with you. Having an anxious willy is a little like having Irritable Bowel Syndrome; sometimes our anxieties make our bodies behave in ways that are not ideal.
2. Talk to someone. Open up to a good friend, your partner or a therapist. Choose someone you trust to take you seriously, someone who won’t mock you. What you’re going through is troubling and you deserve to be understood.
3. Learn to manage anxiety. Learn to notice the triggers of your anxiety and practise ways to cope (deep breathing, meditation or moderate exercise are options for coping).
4. Cut down on porn. If you are in the habit of watching porn regularly, make the decision to cut down. The timing and visual content of porn is very different to real life. This can lead to you becoming under-stimulated during real sexual encounters. If you want to masturbate, try to do it using your imagination instead. This will help you get used to a more realistic pace.
5. Give more time to flirting and foreplay. Many men who regularly lose erections, will rush sexual experiences for fear of losing the erection before it’s over. The rushing actually contributes to your growing anxiety and works against you. Go slow. Be in the moment. Dedicate more time to looking at, feeling and experiencing yourself and your partner.
6. Be patient. Overcoming an issue that has persistently disrupted your sexual confidence takes time. The more you try to ignore or fight the issue, the more it will sneak-attack you. Acknowledge the issue. Own the issue. And give it time.
7. It may also be a good idea to see a urologist if the issue has occurred for a while. If it is biologically based (for example, high blood pressure), there may be some lifestyle changes or medications that can help.