What follows might be the most revealing and vulnerable thing I have ever written.
This one is for the men.
Specifically, men who find sex and dating to be a struggle. The sexually inexperienced men; the guys who frequently experience anxiety-based erectile dysfunction (ED) or premature ejaculation; the guys who can’t seem to get laid or find a partner no matter how hard they try.
This one is for the men who suspect they may have some serious psychological issues around sex, and they want to get this shit sorted but don’t know how.
And this one is for their partners – for the women who want to experience a great sex life with their man but he just seems reluctant, ashamed or physically incapable.
SEX: THE BIG DEAL
Sex is a BIG deal to many men. And because it’s such a big deal, many men secretly have a lot anxiety about sex, particularly the idea of sex with someone new and unfamiliar.
What is not quite clear, however, is why. Why is sex such a big deal – emotionally, physically and mentally?
Men could enjoy sex much more than they usually do if there was not so much shame, pressure and anxiety attached to the whole sexual process, but before this can happen we need to figure out why men these days are so psychologically twisted about sex.
Sure, sex helps populate the species, but there are already over 7 billion of us, so it’s not like we need it. And yeah, sex is fun and it feels great, but so does bungee-jumping or snorting cocaine, and we don’t make a big deal about those activities. So it can’t just be about feeling good. And yes, sex shows that other people like you, but even if this was important (it’s not) you can achieve this in all sorts of different ways.
So why is sex still the #1 issue?
In this post, I’m going to explore something dark and mysterious that plagued me for much of my life, and has now become a staple conversation I have with my male clients, particularly the ones who identify as Nice Guys and people-pleasers.
MY DARK HISTORY WITH SEX
When sex first entered my life as a topic of interest, it was already fraught with uncertainty and pressure. I was the last of my friends to try masturbation, because I thought it was somehow gay to have sex with yourself.
In high school, many of my friends had sex quite early on (some started around 13 years old) while I could barely get a handle on just asking a girl out. I felt left behind. I ended up lying about getting laid just to get them off my back about being a virgin.
With my first proper girlfriend, I was so nervous about sex that it took me 3 months just to build up the courage to try, and my first time was an abysmal experience (about 30 seconds of epileptic salmon-like thrashing). I was devastated.
Prior to this first experience, I had avoided trying to make sex happen because even at the age of 15 I was suffering from ED. While even the vibration of the school bus would get me hard, if I was actually with a girl who wanted sex, my genitals would simply refuse to participate. I was too scared to share this with anyone, so I had to hide it.
After my first long-term relationship ended, during which this issue slowly went away, the problem came roaring back immediately. I started to become afraid of showing sexual interest to a girl in case she actually reciprocated because I knew I would be put to the test.
I started to develop something I now call “anxiety squared” – I would get anxious about sexual anxiety possibly happening in the future. My worry about ED became the cause of my ED. It now seemed inevitable that I would never perform well in bed.
SUBCONSCIOUS SEXUAL AVOIDANCE
What followed can only be described as “subconscious sexual avoidance” – I began to self-sabotage when it came to sex and dating.
I couldn’t see myself doing this – in my head I thought I was desperately trying to have sex and find a girlfriend – but nowadays I can look back see that I subconsciously did my best to prevent sexual opportunities coming to fruition.
I would look away if a girl made eyes at me. I would become slack at texting a girl back if she showed interest in meeting up privately. I would get too drunk at a party if a girl want to go home with me afterward.
Then came the excuses.
I “couldn’t” sleep with one girl because a friend used to be interested in her and it might hurt his feelings. Another girl was only two months out of a big break-up and I was concerned for her emotional well-being and didn’t want to “take advantage” of her. Girls I was attracted to suddenly switched to not being “my type” if they showed interest in me.
Another common recurrence for me was “oneitis” – which is an obsession with a girl who is unavailable. I would become loyal to one girl at a time – swearing off all other women because this girl was The One – even though I had no chance with her. Many of my clients do this; they hide from sexual opportunities behind a one-sided commitment to a “safe” girl.
I would still be pursuing girls and trying my best. I couldn’t see it at the time, but I had a tendency to become wildly attracted to girls who were unavailable – e.g. already in a relationship, living far away from me, single mother with no spare time, only interested in being friends, etc. The less likely a girl was to have sex with me, the more attractive I found her.
In terms of both mindset and behaviour, I was making it very difficult to go through with having sex or start a relationship. I told myself I wanted to, but I seemed to be a victim to “uncontrollable” circumstances that prevented it from happening.
For almost 4 years, from the age of 21 years, I didn’t have sex.
CONFUSION – “BUT I DO WANT SEX, REALLY!”
Like many of my clients, I was sure that I wanted sex and a relationship. I would often fantasize, masturbate and watch porn. I talked about sex all the time and complained to my friends about my lack of ability with women.
I tried online dating sites. I went to bars and clubs. I hung around girls (in the friendzone) for months at a time, hoping something would happen.
If someone had told me,
“Dude, you’re avoiding sex!”
I would have been unable to believe it. That’s the one thing I was sure I wasn’t avoiding! Or so I thought.
While I definitely was keen to get laid, I was even more keen not to experience sexual embarrassment.
What I couldn’t see was that my subconscious brain was wired strongly in favour of safety, and sex was definitely not something I considered safe – emotionally or socially.
So my brain let me think I was pursuing sex while in the background it did everything it could to sabotage any realistic opportunities.
One night I was out with a cute girl and a couple of friends. The girl told me directly that she wanted to fuck me. I was sober driver; when it came to taking everyone home, I dropped her off first. This was actually out of my way! I told myself it was an “unavoidable” logistical problem, but in reality my brain had secretly pushed the eject button.
Another time, a girl started sexting me, sending my pictures of her using sex toys on herself and invited me to join her. I’d had one beer. So I promptly drunk another 6, firmly putting me over the legal limit and now, unfortunately, I couldn’t drive to see her. Whoops!
I didn’t get many direct invitations for sex, but when they did come I somehow managed to wriggle out of them.
On the rare occasions when sex was unavoidable (e.g. being dragged into a bedroom with a girl), I would become so nervous that my dreaded ED would return. Every sexual experience I actually went through with didn’t go “well,” further subconsciously confirming my belief that sex was somehow dangerous for me.
When I thought I had no chance at all with a girl, I would put a lot of effort to try “get with her.” Because I pursued some women so vigorously like this, it was impossible for me to see that I was actually avoiding sex.
Well, almost impossible…
With many of these experiences of avoidance, there was some self-awareness. I at least knew that I was hesitant because I worried about sexual performance. The more sexually aggressive the girl was, the more I worried that she’d be too much for me to handle. Disappointing her seemed inevitable.
As a Nice Guy people-pleaser, disappointing a woman was firmly on my “NEVER DO THAT!” list.
Like so many men reading this, I was conditioned to believe that your worthiness as a man – your masculinity – is primarily measured by your sexual abilities and conquests. Getting laid often and blasting a girl with orgasms was what was expected of a “real man.” Anything less than this was a dismal failure. I had believed this since early high school.
From my few sexual experiences, I knew I couldn’t rely on myself to do this. Every guy I knew was bragging about his sexual prowess, porn showed nothing but superhuman feats of endurance and pleasure-giving, and every girl I knew would reminisce fondly about the guys who’d blown them away in bed.
Based on this undeniably “true” evidence, I came to a clear conclusion about what my sexual experience meant for me as a man:
“There must be something wrong with me.”
I came to believe I was different, broken, lagging behind the others. My best friends were constantly in and out of relationships or having one-night stands, and here I was: lucky if some girl got drunk enough to make out with me in a bar before being dragged away by her disapproving friends.
I couldn’t even dream about sex without something going wrong. Even in my dreams I would screw it up somehow and never quite follow through on the sex part.
PRESSURE! PRESSURE! PRESSURE!
I was programmed by my peers to believe that a man should always try to get laid when he pursues a woman.
Talking, dating, holding hands, friendship, connecting and kissing… all that stuff was just considered pre-show entertainment – a test you pass to win the big prize. It was made very clear to me that if I didn’t end all this foreplay with sex, I had failed as a man.
When I got back from a date, my friends had one question and one question only:
“Did you fuck her yet?”
I came to see interacting with women as simply a job interview for sex. Every time I was attracted to a girl, a measurement system would emerge in the back of my mind, constantly assessing and re-assessing how “well” things were going, i.e. how likely I was to have sex with this girl.
If I tried to have sex with a girl and she wouldn’t let me, my friends were generally pretty compassionate – “At least you tried!” But if I dared to end an interaction with a girl and chose not to have sex with her, they would give me endless shit about it and question my claim of being heterosexual.
The pressure I felt while interacting with women slowly but surely increased during my early twenties. I was beset almost constantly with stress and anxiety. I found it almost impossible to have fun and enjoy a conversation when an available and attractive woman was nearby.
I started to see women as a different species – a type of Goddess who would assess my sexual performance to see if I qualified as a Real Man. The pressure was immense – like being told to jump off a cliff and fly, knowing you’re fully incapable of this feat and you will splat on the ground if you try.
Before long, I went from just being afraid of ED, to being afraid of sex, to eventually being afraid of women in general.
And all this time I thought it was sexual failure I was afraid of. Imagine my surprise when I finally realised it was the opposite.
FEAR OF SUCCESS
Many men fantasize about fabulous sexual experiences. A common one is the threesome – to have sex with two different girls simultaneously.
However, if you were to give an average guy the actual opportunity to have a threesome, he would likely panic and bail out, especially if both girls were attractive, sexually experienced, and capable of reporting back to his friends about how well he performed.
The same problem comes up for chronically single men who fantasize about getting into a relationship. Give them a chance at an actual girlfriend and they’ll either deliberately sabotage it or run for the hills.
The issue is the fear of success. The fantasy is OK – that’s why men are obsessed with porn and hookers. It’s safe to simulate the idea of sex and relationship success. But when it comes to handling the real deal, many men will pussy out.
While I fantasized about having sex and finding a loving partner, the idea of this coming true scared the shit out of me, for two reasons.
Firstly, I didn’t think I deserved it. I was stuck in a cycle of shame – I didn’t think I would perform well enough to please a woman (and get a good reputation etc), so I unwittingly avoided sex. And my lack of sexual experience aggravated my fear that I couldn’t perform… round and round I went! I determined that surely a guy like me shouldn’t be allowed to “have” a quality woman.
Secondly, I was scared I wouldn’t be able to handle what I was asking for. I believed that a woman of quality – the kind I got oneitis for and fantasized about – would be thoroughly disappointed if she found out the truth about me. She would surely abandon me just as I got attached to her, ripping my heart out and running to tell everyone, who’d then mock me, stamping on said heart and crushing it completely.
Men with sexual shame end up trapped in an impossible situation – they’re scared of failing in sex as much as they’re scared of succeeding. They run towards it, then they run away.
In such a situation, only one outcome is possible: nothing happens.
Thankfully, my story doesn’t end there.
HOW I FIXED IT
These days, this simply isn’t a problem for me anymore. That doesn’t mean I don’t have the occasional off-night in bed. It means that I finally believe the truth: That it’s not a big deal, and that being a man and connecting with women doesn’t have all that much to do with sexual performance.
If you’re a guy reading this (or a girl who’s chasing a reluctant guy), there’s a few things you need to understand. These realisations transformed my life, once I acted on them.
1, This is only happening for a single reason: you have sexual shame. Overcoming this shame is the only thing you need to be focused on. ED and other bedroom issues are rarely a physical disorder. This is all in your head.
2, The pressure you feel does NOT come from other people. Sure, they might have started it, but you’re the one who continues it. You’re the one putting pressure on yourself to perform. Notice how sometimes you feel the pressure even when no-one else is around – who is that coming from if not yourself? I’ve had clients feel pressure even after their girl says she doesn’t care about performance.
3, Pressure to perform RUINS sex, and therefore ruins dating and relationships. Once you learn to stop pressuring yourself, sexual interactions and dating in general will finally become enjoyable. Make it OK to fail and you’ll be more likely to succeed.
4, You’re not alone! Many guys have ED and other problems with dating and sexual experience. We never talk about it because we think that we’ll lose Man Points somehow, but I promise you this: I couldn’t do what I do for a living if there wasn’t a high demand! Almost all of my coaching clients have sexual shame.
5, You’re not a weirdo/failure. You remember all those guys bragging about their sexual conquests and abilities? They’re mostly lying. Women go on about the great sex they’ve had simply because for most of them it’s incredibly rare. Most guys are uninspiring in bed; even the experienced ones. This is mostly because they don’t understand that what makes sex truly great is connection, not uncomfortable porn positions or being able to maintain jackhammer humping pace for 45 minutes.
6, Some women might not like you, but almost certainly you get in your own way as well. You won’t be attractive to everyone, but you can focus on the problems you cause all by yourself. Primarily, you can work on becoming more shameless, bold and honest, and therefore less creepy, passive or anxious.
7, Take the pressure off from going “all the way.” The #1 tip that my clients have reported being the most helpful is just giving themselves permission to date and interact with women without making sex a required goal. You can go on a date and make out with a girl and everything and still be able to decide that you won’t have sex. Give yourself permission to quit at any time. You can even have a back-up plan – for me, if I couldn’t get it up I’d just bust out the massage oil and make the night all about her. I’ve had no complaints about this approach!
8, You need to start becoming shameless about this. My big breakthrough came when I was in bed with a girl, couldn’t perform, and then I told her about it. I didn’t pretend it was a weird one-off – I admitted this happens often. She was fine with it. The more I did this, the less of a big deal it became – I finally had a way to deal with it “going wrong.” Then, one day, ED just stopped happening, and I was able to enjoy sex consistently and stopped missing opportunities in love.
9, Your worth as a man has NOTHING to do with your sexual performance. Insecure high school boys and wannabe-alpha douchebags might disagree with me, but who gives a fuck what they think? They are the least qualified to comment on healthy masculinity and true confidence. Who you are as a man is defined by what you can control – your values, your treatment of others, your integrity – and sexual performance is not in that category. You get to decide what masculinity means, not your dick.
10 – are you ready for this? – Bad sex is actually NOT the end of the world!!! OK, for a few insecure outcome-dependent women with daddy-issues it is, but trust me: you don’t want them as a partner. While sex is a fun and important part of a relationship, inexperience or lack of ability in bed is NOT a deal-breaker. Most women will prioritise other aspects of you over your abilities in bed – things you can control; like honesty, decisiveness, protectiveness, compassion, courage, caring, leadership, playfulness and vulnerability. Nail those down and your performance in bed will be a secondary consideration.
No-one was born being good at sex, and most men die never figuring it out. Who you are as a man depends on how shamelessly you deal with this, how healthy you are in your self-acceptance and honesty, not on how good you can bone down.
If it wasn’t already made clear, I coach guys on working through this, so if you want my help to go from sexually frustrated and ashamed to powerfully masculine and able to connect deeply with women, get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org