I enjoy sexual contact and am now starting a new relationship, but I don’t know what to do about this problem
I’m 38, male, heterosexual, and have always experienced a phobic reaction to penetrative sex. I lose any semblance of an erection. I enjoy many forms of sexual contact and have normal erections with and without a partner, but most intimacy has ended in depression, humiliation, sometimes ridicule. Viagra produced mixed results. When I’ve sought help I was told that nothing much could be done outside a steady relationship, but I’m now starting a potential one.
There’s no need to feel hopeless. A good sex therapist could identify the cause, then create a treatment plan. You would not necessarily need a partner, although it could certainly be helpful if you found an understanding person who was willing to participate in your treatment (in the US, professional surrogate partners are sometimes used for such cases). There are individual techniques such as guided imagery, visualisation, relaxation, progressive desensitisation, hypnosis, or psychodynamic psychotherapy. First, try to reframe the importance you place on penetration. Intercourse isn’t necessarily a woman’s favourite part of lovemaking, so the shame you feel about your erectile failures is really unnecessary. After all, it’s direct clitoral stimulation –not penetration – that helps her achieve orgasm. Once you realise you can be a fantastic lover without erections, you will be well on the way to sexual health.
• Pamela Stephenson Connolly is a psychotherapist who specialises in treating sexual disorders.
• If you would like advice from Pamela Stephenson Connolly on sexual matters, send us a brief description of your concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org (please don’t send attachments).