Whether this guy is someone you’re casually dating or you’ve been with for years, when something goes amiss on his end — a flaccid penis or an early ejaculation — we women tend to take the blame. And, chances are, he’s not giving you any clues as to why it’s happening. Relax, ladies, because if he were to give you an accurate explanation of what’s up (or not so up) down below, it would probably start with, “It’s not you, it’s me.”
When it comes to erectile dysfunction or the inability to hold an erection, the culprit may be a few too many drinks or cigarettes, but it’s more likely something going on in his head. “Erectile dysfunction happens to some degree with all men,” says Laurence Levine MD, professor of urology at Rush University Medical Center. “There are a number of distractions that can interfere with arousal mechanisms, like having a tough day at work or having a recent argument.” And, don’t underestimate the fact the he may be a little too attracted to you. “Performance anxiety is a very real process,” Levine says. “Normally when a man gets aroused, nerves release chemicals that cause the blood vessels to open up and fill the penis with blood. But, a situation that’s creating anxiety, no matter how aroused he is, will activate a ‘fight-or-flight response’ where the brain causes blood vessels to clamp down and prevent blood flow.”
Premature ejaculation is actually a much more common problem than erectile dysfunction — occurring in about 30% of men, regardless of age. And, the causes are often similar. Men are more sensitive than we think and a little anxiety or extra excitement can throw them all out of whack. What qualifies as premature ejaculation varies from man to man. While it takes between three and seven minutes of continuous stimulation for the average man to ejaculate, Levine says he’s had patients who feel they have a problem because they ejaculate within 20 minutes. “The generally accepted criteria for severe premature ejaculation would be an orgasm less than a minute from the time of vaginal penetration,” he says.
But, sometimes, a man will get so panicked that he’ll completely shut down — and the air of romance will be lost. “Men often learn about sex from porn, which shows perfect body parts doing perfect things,” Sharky says. “This is a big reason men have trouble coping with the inevitable hiccups that will be encountered during real sex.”
If he starts to freak out, your job is to be his sounding board. Make a real effort to talk it through. And, Sharky stresses that the key is to express curiosity rather than shame. “Definitely avoid humiliating the other person to combat your bruised ego,” she says. “Ask questions about why he thinks this is going on. He may not be open to talking about it right then and there — when he’s naked and vulnerable — so broach the topic again the next time you see each other.”
The best thing you can do is be attentive and supportive. The worst thing you can do is ignore the issue. “It’s important to handle it well in the beginning so it doesn’t become the new normal,” Sharky says. “Once there’s a problem, there’s anticipation of the problem happening again every time.” Levine agrees: “I use the example of a baseball player who knows that every time he steps up to the plate, he’s going to strike out. After a while, he won’t want to play that game.”