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I am a 28-year-old gay man. I have recently started a new relationship with a very sweet and attractive man. He’s brilliant and lovely and I am really excited to be getting to know him.

However, I seem to be having difficulty becoming aroused and maintaining an erection when we have sex. He seems to find this very easy and is always erect just after kissing. We’ve now slept together about five times and, while I am enjoying it, I am also finding it stressful that I cannot match his sex drive. I’m worried that this will end a promising relationship before it has begun. It’s fustrating because I find him very attractive and sexy, but my body just doesn’t seem to respond. In addition, this is my first serious relationship.

A bit of background about me: I have been aroused by sex in the past with other men (however these have mostly been hook-ups). I have also experienced these difficulties with arousal and erections with some guys, however I usually take the passive ‘bottom’ role and can usually orgasm. I watched a lot of porn during my teen and early 20s and didn’t have many real-life sexual experiences, so I know my catalogue of real sex knowledge is fairly limited.

I’ve been to the doctor and had a physical and blood test. Everything is fine.

I’m really worried that something is wrong with me. I want to be close to the guy I’m with and enjoy the sex we’re having.


  • Michael Castleman says:

    Excellent move seeing a doctor. That’s always a good first step. All tests were normal, so there’s nothing medically wrong that might contribute to your arousal/erection difficulty. I hope that’s reassuring.

    From your brief description, it sounds to me like your underlying issue is emotional stress. Anxiety/stress are natural reactions to change. You’re dealing with a potentially significant change in your life, a budding new relationship. You want a relationship, so this change is great. But even welcome changes, for example, winning the Lotto, can be unsettling. Your previous relationships have been hook-ups with few expectations, but now you’re involved with a guy who has real potential for something ongoing. Now you must tackle issues you haven’t dealt with before: Who is he really? Can you trust each other? Do you complement each other? Mutual attraction is there, but no one likes everything about a partner. How will you deal with things you dislike about him? How will you deal with things he dislikes about you? How do you make decisions together? Who controls which aspects of the relationship? These issues probably aren’t triggering anxiety attacks, but they’re still stress-producing.

    In addition, you’re not all that sexually experienced. That adds to your stress load. And you’re stressed about the desire difference between you. He has a powerful libido, and you have less desire. Another stressor. Te combination of all your stressors may well be enough to impair your desire, arousal, and erections.

    What to do? Some suggestions:
    • Understand that libido differences are virtually inevitable in ongoing relationships. They’re normal. They’re also a leading reason why couples consult sex therapists. Talk frankly with your lover about your desire difference. Ask about his previous experiences with other lovers. Did he have more libido than they did? Less? How did he deal with any desire differences,. Typically, new lovers can’t keep their hands off each other for 6 months to a year, but after that, mutual desire and sexual frequency usually decline. That’s normal. One task of maintaining a relationship is to negotiate a sexual frequency you can both live with comfortably. Start negotiating now.

    • How much alcohol do you drink during the hour or two before sex? Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, and a MAJOR killer of desire, arousal, and erections. The first drink is disinhibiting so you feel up for sex, but subsequent drinks can have the opposite effect. I suggest you limit pre-sex alcohol. If you enjoy sex in an altered state, consider marijuana. Several studies show that around 2/3 of users consider it sex-enhancing. You may be among them.

    • Arousal and erections are quite sensitive to stress. You say you’ve experienced arousal/erection difficulties before. It’s quite possible that you’ve engendered a vicious cycle: anxieties that cause arousal/erection difficulties, which lead to greater anxiety and more arousal/erection difficulties. and even more anxiety… The solution is deep relaxation that breaks the cycle. When you understand that desire differences are inevitable and something to negotiate, that should dial back your stress. When you let yourself believe that nothing is wrong with you, that’s also relaxing. When you have the conversations I recommend above, they, too, should help defuse your anxieties. In addition, I’d suggest a hot shower before sex (solo or together)—very relaxing. And a slow sexual pace—also relaxing. And meditation or yoga or exercise or some other activities you find relaxing.

    • He’s erect after kissing and you’re not. You’re normal. In porn, men unzip and out pops firm pipe. But porn is fantasy. Some men get hard quickly, but many don’t. Many men, especially bottoms, need lots of kissing, cuddling, and hands roaming everywhere to start transitioning into a sexual mood and becoming erect. That’s normal. Don’t expect yourself to live porn fantasies. Tell your guy you find him very attractive and desirable, but that you’re kinda slow to get aroused. That’s fine. Accept yourself. Accept your unique arousal pattern. Share it with your new guy.

    What else is going on in your life? Are you under stress from other sources? Job hassles, family strife, money woes? Those stresses often invade the bedroom. Work to resolve them, too.

    So you’re not a sex machine, always ready, always rock hard, always hot to trot. So what? Many men aren’t, yet still maintain happily functional relationships. I bet you can, too. Feel free to contact me again if you feel the need.

    I wish you great, self-accepting, deeply relaxed sex.

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