Hi Rhonda,

I was getting with a girl doing foreplay etc. but as I put the condom on it felt too tight and I couldn’t penetrate and panicked and ever since then I’ve had huge confidence loss with getting an erection with a woman. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Overcoming performance anxiety

Never fear, this one incident need not define your future sexual encounters. You can get past this, and it will get easier. Firstly:

Find the right condoms

There are many different condoms on the market, and it is important to find one that works for you. There is such a thing as vanity sizing and just because the packet says ‘large’ does not mean it is actually any wider than a standard size condom in another brand. Always check the labels carefully, and refer to the ‘nominal width’, not the size descriptor.

Next, find one that feels good and stock up! Condoms are made from different materials, some thick, some thin, and use different lubes, so it’s worth trying a few out to see what feels the most comfortable. Don’t rely on your partner having a supply of condoms that work for you.

Most importantly, try the condoms out on your own before trying them with someone else. That means masturbating with the condom on. Tried and tested, this will help eliminate any uncertainty about using condoms in the moment.

Then when you are with a partner, put the condom on before you need it, that is, during foreplay, not immediately prior to penetration. This allows time for the condom to warm to the temperature of your body and takes the pressure and focus away from the condom (which is already comfortably in place) when you are about to enter your partner. If you roll the condom on and lose your erection, you can always manually stimulate your penis over the condom until your body has adjusted to having the condom in place (I wrote an article about this earlier that you might find helpful).

Get out of your head

If you spend all your time worrying about losing your erection, chances are you will lose your erection. Just like when you diet and focus on everything you can’t eat, what you can’t eat is all you think about. Right now, you are so busy worrying about your erection that you are in your head instead of in the moment. Be present. Focus on your partner’s pleasure and on the sensations you are experiencing, rather than on your body’s external responses. If you find your mind wandering to anxious thoughts, bring your attention back to your partner and/or the physical sensations of the moment. Focus on what is working well and what you are enjoying about the encounter.

Performance anxiety, lost erection

Your erection is no big deal (pardon the expression)

It really is no big deal if you don’t have a cucumber-rigid boner 24-7. Erections come and go, and that is a natural part of life and a natural part of sex. Does your partner experience vasocongestion and lubrication throughout the sexual encounter? Chances are, her physical response also waxes and wanes, it is just that we tend to work around (and often ignore) a woman’s sexual response and focus on the male’s. This is actually a shitty way to approach sex for everyone and contributes to a whole raft of sexual difficulties for men and women (which I will save for another post), but which brings me to the next point:

Penetration is only one part of sex

Sex does not equal penis-in-vagina race-to-the-end intercourse. Sex can involve manual stimulation, oral stimulation, massage, role-play, dirty talk, and so on. What is important is that you are connecting and enjoying the moment and each other. Don’t just focus on penetration or race to the ‘finish line’. Be flexible and open to switching activities and redefining what constitutes ‘sex’ for you both. Don’t be afraid to get your hands (and mouths) involved.

To take the pressure off your erection, you can also take vaginal penetration off the menu for a while. This will expand your sexual repertoire by forcing you to get creative and playful, and to explore one another’s bodies without the stress of having to conform to a linear sexual script (i.e. Start –> foreplay –> penetration –> orgasm –> The End). When you make vaginal penetration off-limits, you can wow your partner with a completely new experience.

One key to making this approach work is communication, which brings me to my last point:

Reassure your partner

Men and women are unfortunately socialised to equate erections with desire. When society teaches that a) men always desire sex, b) women are objects of male desire, and c) erections are an outward display of that desire, when a man does not have an erection during a sexual encounter, it can leave women inferring they are undesired (and therefore undesirable). Use your words and actions to reassure your partner and communicate your desire.

Partnered sex involves teamwork; sometimes that means educating one another about the nuances of your bodies, and making sure you let your partner know in more than one way that you desire him or her. If you remain assured, your partner is more likely to follow your lead.

Remember, no one has 100% just-like-in-the-movies sex. Sex is like everything else in life, a bit hit and miss, and that is perfectly fine. If you keep your sense of humour, let yourself make the most of what you have and enjoy the moment, your confidence will grow.

If you have tried all of the above without success, talk to a professional. Coaches and therapists are there to work closely with you, and can help step you through rebuilding your confidence.

Best of luck, and let me know how you go.

Rhonda x

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