A Young Man Struggles with “Issues in the Bedroom”

Dear Liz,

I am having an issue in the bedroom.
I am 27 years old, and when I have sex I can’t finish. I can go for hours, but to no avail. Honestly, I’m out of breath and exhausted well before I ever get close to any feeling of being close to ejaculating. I have no problem finishing when I masturbate, but never when I have intercourse. What is wrong with me?

Dear Friend,

Your body seems to be working fine, in that you’re able to climax/ejaculate in response to sexual stimulation—you’re able to “let go” in that most vulnerable moment. It’s the only when I’m alone part I’d like to focus on.  I’m curious…have you ever enjoyed mutual masturbation with a partner?  The reason I ask is because if you can ejaculate while masturbating with a partner (which is arguably as intimate as intercourse) then perhaps the “issue” is the level of stimulation you need in order to climax. If that’s the case, you may want to explore ways to attain a level of stimulation that is satisfying for both of you; you could begin to explore ways to be sexual with each other without your intimacy ending in intercourse, and work on your arousal level through other sensual means.

If your sexual encounters are casual, then “sexual exploration” will be far more challenging, because such exploration requires trust and comfort, aka, intimacy. If you are only engaging in sex with folks you are not in a relationship with, then I’d ask you, why?  At the risk of sounding like a grandma, I’d like to invite you to consider that sex might be a bit more meaningful than contemporary culture is willing to acknowledge—we can be deeply intimate without sex, but when we take intimacy out of sex, we suffer all sorts of messes.  Just something to think about…

If you are not able to climax in front of your partner, ever, then it seems it’s just not comfortable or safe to be that vulnerable in front of someone else. At some point during love making we actually have to let go and give in to the heightening pleasure, which definitely takes us out of our head and into our deeper self—we are “unprotected” at that point, and that is the vulnerability I am speaking of.  If you cannot fall into that space when you’re with a partner, there is likely some emotional/psychological hesitation around intimacy.

Are you comfortable “letting someone in” in contexts other than a sexual one? Perhaps bring yourself into a quiet meditation around intimacy in general, and what that means for you, and gauge your level of both desire and comfort with genuine intimacy—do you feel worthy of being seen?  Do you feel good enough?  Do you feel lovable?  If we have walls around letting someone in, the issue isn’t a sexual one, though it could easily play out in the bedroom.

There could be a sub-issue here. If you use pornography to arouse yourself when alone, it may be interfering with your ability to climax with your partner.  Pornography is the absence of all tenderness and care; the “sex” being depicted is the physical use of another for nothing more than physical pleasure.  Pornography takes the mutuality out of sex, moving our sexual arousal into a “me space” rather than a “we space”.  If you want to begin to nurture your ability to bring your whole, beautiful, multi-dimensional, vulnerable self to another, it is best to avoid pornography.  Pornography calls itself “sex”, but it actually deletes our need to “see and be seen” while in the context of climaxing, and when this becomes habitual, it can interfere with real life sex.

You have a great opportunity here— I think your physical body is doing an incredible job sending you a message, one that is worth honoring. Either your body needs you to recalibrate in terms of what brings you to climax, or your body is communicating that being vulnerable just isn’t safe.  I’ve got a hunch it’s the latter, and with an insightful and caring therapist, you will get to the bottom of things—you will be able to journey back to the origin of whatever wound it is that is interfering with a most natural and beautiful expression of intimacy, and heal it.  When you heal the emotional aspects of this hurt, you will be free to experience the depths of sexual pleasure with another person.

This is not an easy thing for any person to speak about, and in such a macho-patriarchal world, it is especially difficult for men. I think you are incredibly brave for bringing this to me, and while it may feel awkward to consider therapy for such a personal issue, I don’t think you’ll regret it once you take the leap.  Asking for support so you can bring your whole self to another is courageous and sexy, though our culture often sends a different message to men.  Be brave, and look forward to a relationship that will be emotionally and sexually gratifying—you deserve it, and so does your partner.

Love, Liz

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