Erectile Dysfunction Expert Forum
Achieving Erection
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Questions in the Erection Concerns Forum are being answered by Janice M Epp, PhD, a Clinical Sexologist from The Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality. This forum is for questions and discussions about the psychological aspects of Erection problems or erectile dysfunction.

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Achieving Erection

I have no sexual history and am 19 years old. I am currently dating a girl for 8 mnths and whenever we try to have sex I am not able to get an erection.  When we are not trying to have sex  I get erections around her and the rest of the time i am able to have proper erections.  I do not understand why or what i need to do in order to get over this problem.  It is very hard to deal with and frustrating. I am healthy and athletic and just in need of help.
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Hi John.

First, let’s clear up some misconceptions. You DO have a sexual history; you’ve been sexual in your head and with yourself as well. You just haven’t yet had penis-vagina sex or perhaps any other kind of partner sex. So you are actually experienced when it comes to sex. Don’t sell yourself short, OK?

Erections go up and down. You’ll find this happening all your life. It doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy sex, but you have to adjust your attitude and relax. I suspect that once your penis didn’t respond on command, you started feeling anxious and judging yourself, which can be a vicious circle. The more you worry about erections, the more your penis won’t cooperate. In fact, it can be downright rebellious!

Many men feel that if their erection goes down even a tiny bit, there’s something wrong with them. You refer to “proper” erections that you have when not with your girlfriend. That’s a very judgy term—one which puts a lot of pressure on you. Where do these judgments come from?

Men receive so many messages that sex is about “performance” and pleasing a partner, rather than just enjoying the pleasure of it. Everything is goal-oriented—like a football game. The other message that many men receive is that sex is somehow dirty and wrong, unless you’re doing it for reproductive purposes. Sometimes this can creep into our unconscious thoughts and sabotage any pleasure. Ask yourself whether you have any conflicts about being sexual—any old messages that might be lurking in your subconscious.

Since you’re having erections when not with a partner that indicates that your body is working fine—it’s your heart/brain that’s getting in the way.

For more information about erection issues, attitude, etc., I highly recommend the book “The New Male Sexuality” by Bernie Zilbergeld, Ph.D. It’s widely available in paperback and is an invaluable resource.

Relax, stop putting pressure on yourself and enjoy sex for what it is: pleasure. Give yourself permission to enjoy whatever happens—and find partners who aren’t hung up on performances issues either. Once you stop being so goal-oriented, and you can relax and just enjoy the sensation of touch, you’ll find your penis will be much happier. Breathe; enjoy. Best of luck to you. Dr. J
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