DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I don’t know if you’ve touched on this specific question before and I’m super embarrassed to even ask anyone about it but I’m at the end of my rope and I hope I can at least get pointed in a direction. Sorry if this message gets a little raunchy, I’m going to try my best to keep it as clean as I can given the subject.
A little backstory, I’m a cis male and had a very active sex life in college as most people do and it was good, great even. When I graduated I slowed down considerably, but it was never a huge issue. Well, a few years ago for a plethora of reasons I went through a very DEEP depression, I had a s
t job, I had no real relationship, I gained A LOT of weight, it was tough. Working on myself I can say I’m doing better today but still dealing with it. Lost a little weight, though I’m still much bigger than I used to be, got a much better job, and even ended up dating someone who I’ve known for a while, let’s call her T.
T and I got along well enough as friends before dating, we had similar interest both pretty nerdy, it was good. Then came the worst night of my life…
We were getting pretty hot and heavy, but I felt a little off, I was so excited and enjoying myself… but my body was not responding. I thought maybe it was just nerves and I’d shake it off once we hit my bedroom. NOPE! When I was pleasuring her I couldn’t get completely hard and when she worked on me I went completely soft. I was mortified, it’s never happened before and I didn’t know what to do. She tried to reassure me and said it was something we can work on. We tried and were able to have sex but a few times I still couldn’t get hard and the few times I could it was maybe a half-y, hard to maintain, and super quick. I’m definitely not saying I was God’s gift to women but it was at least good for both of us back in my prime. I’ve never been impotent or a minute-man and now I’m somehow both…
She dumped me a few weeks later saying that the sex was bad and I wasn’t attractive to her and I honestly don’t even blame her. I spiraled back down into depression.
I don’t know what to do, I’m 28 and terrified that this is just how it’ll be from now on. I feel I’m too young to have to rely on a little blue pill or only last 2 minutes before I pop. Google doesn’t help, you see all these fake solutions and pills and it’s all so confusing. I have no confidence anymore, I’m trying my hardest to talk to someone right now and in the back of my head I’m terrified that if we get that far my body will fail on me again. What can I do? Who can I talk to that will actually help? Or am I just doomed to have a bad sex life, if I have any at all… I could really use some guidance. Any help at all would be much appreciated.
No Mojo and All Depression
DEAR NO MOJO AND ALL DEPRESSION: Hoo boy, FNMAD: I feel for you. There’s nothing quite as panic-inducing as the time when it seems like you’re finally gonna hook up with someone you’ve had a thing for all this time… and then your body goes “LOL NOPE!” and now you’re the guy trying to convince agents and theater goers that your frog really DOES dance and sing “Hello My Baby”.
…ok maybe that metaphor got away from me.
But before we get to what you can do about this, let’s talk a little about dicks and their drawbacks. See, the problem with penises is that they’re divas. They’re the genital equivalent of Luciano Pavarotti; if everything’s not perfect, they’re not gonna perform. Or if they do, they’re going to put on a performance so half-assed that it seems almost contemptuous to have even bothered in the first place. There are so many ways that things can go wrong and that can just leave your junk in the wrong mood. Sometimes you’ll be oversensitive or so turned on that you can’t control yourself and you go off like a series of roman candles. Other times you won’t be able to climax for love nor money nor concert tickets. And then of course, there’re times you’re softer than a super-soft birthday party and trying to do anything with it is like trying to shoot pool with a rope.
And the potential causes are seemingly endless. Poor circulation, smoking, pot use, alcohol, weight gain, lack of sleep… all of these can make your junk decide to take a vacation until things get better. But one of the most common causes for failing in the moment — especially when you’re able to get erections or climax when you’re by yourself — is anxiety. And anxiety is one of the most insidious triggers for a semi (or non-existent) stiffy because anxiety is a vicious self-fulfilling prophecy. When you’re worried that you can’t perform, well, that’s gonna actually cause performance issues. You start worrying that your dick is going to betray you at the worst possible moment and you increase the odds that it will… which then just means that you’re going to be even more worried, next time, locking you into a cycle that’s really difficult to break out of.
Even the use of medications, like Cialis or Viagra can just make things worse. In this case — when the issue is psychological, rather than physiological — the pills are just the boner equivalent of Dumbo’s magic feather; all they’re doing is giving you permission to do the thing you should already be able to do. And that word, “should”, is the mind-killer. It’s the thing that’s going to screw you over faster than a loan shark named Jimmy The Fish. Sure, you’ve ensured that things will rise to the occasion, but there’s this nagging voice in the back of your head that you shouldn’t have to do this. You’re a strapping young man; you should be getting boners that’re so hard you could break concrete. Having any sort of erectile dysfunction just means there’s something wrong with you as a man. And so the cycle continues; yeah, you can get it up, but at the cost of your pride and existential identity as a man.
(Don’t get me wrong: there’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking the pills… but when the issue is psychological, sometimes all you’re doing is giving yourself a crutch instead of dealing with the underlying issue.)
And that’s what’s happened here, FNMAD; you’ve had a series of deeply s
tty experiences, capped off with your girlfriend telling you that you suck in the sack. No goddamn wonder you feel like a loser; here you are having an existential crisis and your girlfriend dumps you because of that crisis. It’s entirely understandable that now it seems like you’re stuck being a s
t lay for the rest of your life.
Now someone get on the phone to Sir Mixx-A-Lot because there’s a huge “but” coming…
That ain’t the case. You can stop this. You can break this curse and get your sex-life back on track. The trick to breaking the curse is to break the cycle of self-reinforcement, and the way you do that is that you take your penis off the table. Er, as it were.
See, part of the issue you’re having here is that you — like a lot of folks — equate sex with penetration. Your idea about sex, especially good sex, is centered around your penis, which is actually the issue. See, despite what we’re taught, PIV penetration is actually a lousy way to get our partners off; less than 35% of women can get off from vaginal penetration. For the majority of folks who’ve got a vagina, penetration simply doesn’t stimulate the clitoris the way they need for orgasm… and that’s actually good news for you. See, what you have here is a prime opportunity to start making sex less peen-centric and more of a holistic experience with your partner. Yeah, your junk may not be getting harder than Chinese trigonometry, but that doesn’t mean that you’re doomed to be lousy in bed. What it means is that you’re going to remind yourself that there’s so much else you have available to you that never goes soft. You have your fingers. You have your tongue. You have sex toys. You’ve got your brain. You have an entire arsenal of tools to give pleasure to your partners that never fail you at the most inconvenient time. So for right now, sex is going to be less about receiving and a lot more about giving, for you. Get ready to start mastering oral sex and eating your partner like a cupcake. Get used to using your hands — and for more than just insert tab-a-into-slot-b; instead of focusing on the vaginal canal or directly on the clitoris, learn about other ways to incorporate the entire vulva into sex play, whether through gentle pressure on the whole public mound, light touch on sensitive areas… the possibilities are endless. Get comfortable with sex toys; they’re not a replacement for your penis, they’re another tool to use. A vibrator or a dildo isn’t what’s getting her off any more than a hammer is building a house by itself. It’s all about the person who’s using it.
The more you break the idea that you need to have a steely-hard erection to be a great lover and focus on the ways that you can give pleasure to a partner that have nothing to do with your dick, the better of a lover you will be over all. And as you shift that mindset away from your groin to your whole body, the less you’ll be worried about whether or not you’ll be able to get hard. It’ll be a secondary concern… which takes the pressure off you to perform. Taking away that source of anxiety will help you get your mojo back. But once you do get your mojo back — and you will — don’t forget everything you’ve learned. Sex with you should be a full-body experience… and one that’ll have your partners swearing up and down that you’re the best thing that happened to them since the detachable shower-head.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org