How I overcame performance anxiety, erectile dysfunction and difficulty achieving orgasm
Straight / Male / 28–32 / North America / Single
Throughout my adult life I have occasionally struggled between the sheets with performance anxiety, erectile dysfunction and not being able to have an orgasm.
In certain circumstances, it was a total crapshoot as to whether I would perform well in bed or be a total wet noodle. Although I had quite a bit of sex, I’ve always had a tough time truly enjoying it. I was often concerned with my performance, how my partner would describe the experience to her friends (the reviews better be incredible!) and of course, coming at the right time. How about a simultaneous orgasm?!?!
About nine months ago I decided enough was enough. I had to get down to the bottom of why I never enjoyed sex. If my time on earth was only a short sliver, then I figured it was about time to start looking for answers…
Quick disclaimer before we go any further. This is a story about only one aspect of my sex life, so consider this part one of many adventures, blunders and struggles to be shared in the coming months. I have found great strength in discovering/acknowledging the obstacles in my intimate life and addressing them head on. My hope is through reading this people will be able to learn more about themselves and also view their own obstacles as simply bumps along the road that can be conquered, or at the very least, understood. Side rant over, back to the story.
Starting in my teenage years, the major question that dominated my life was, “What do people think about me?”. Instead of sensibly having a philosophy on life that would guide me through my experiences, I was aimlessly strung along by a desire to make sure people liked me. And I was following that desire on an extreme level.
In my university years, I thought the best way to be respected by my peers was to have sex with as many girls as possible and also try to land the highest paying finance job. We were graduating during the Financial Crisis, so the high paying jobs were sparse, but the women were still a plenty. I used to chase women around town, day and night.
And I was incredibly good at convincing women to have sex with me.
It didn’t have much to do with enjoying the sex, creating pleasure or loving another person. It was more about the conquest, the story for my ‘bros’ and a notch on the ol’ bedpost. I found meaning in this pursuit and subsequently some respect amongst my friends.
Looking back, it is quite comical that I had an extremely well oiled funnel (my attraction skills) that led women to my bed to eventually have very lacklustre sexual experiences. It was like a business with an incredible sales team and an unbelievably shitty product. Needless to say there weren’t too many satisfied customers. Not so good for repeat business ;)
Equipped with this ‘conquest mindset’ and a lack of understanding of my own sexuality, I was continuously putting myself in situations that I didn’t thrive in or enjoy.
And who could I turn to?
Obviously not my pals — every story shared had to be about ‘smashing it’, multiple simultaneous orgasms and giving the greatest performance of all time with my foot long dick (obviously). I always found it curious that every single one of my guy friends made the all-star team for sexual performance and penis length year in and year out.
Around the vulnerable things, the imperfections, the non-masculine, there was a code of silence. So naturally, quiet desperation seemed liked a sensible solution for me at the time.
Now I am being a bit dramatic — it wasn’t all bad. Occasionally there were moments of bedroom brilliance and shared pleasure, but at a minimum I was way too cerebral and focused on performing as opposed to simply enjoying and being.
A couple of years after finishing university, I was looking for the next best place to focus my energy in order to gain respect from the people around me. I started diving into personal development — for many years my intention was to learn and grow with the express purpose to have others like me.
When I started challenging myself to improve, I foolishly tried to become perfect in all areas of life and in a weird way started to actually believe that this was becoming a reality. The hilarious thing is that I now think trying to become perfect kind of misses the whole point of becoming a better person; it makes me less accepting of others, less aware of the beauty in imperfection and less loving to myself and others.
As I’m sure you can imagine by now, my pursuit of perfection led to all kinds of challenges.
In the dating world, my social and communication skills were advanced enough that I mistakenly thought I was achieving a near image of perfection in my first few social encounters with a prospective mate. And as soon as we entered the bedroom, I was desperately trying to maintain this notion of perfection, which quickly brought up a whole host of issues.
I was putting the expectation on myself to show up with a perfect performance in the bedroom just to keep up this image I had created in my own mind. It had to be the best sex she’s ever had, most orgasms she’s ever experienced, an erection so hard it would be indistinguishable from a tree trunk, and I had to time my orgasm for the exact perfect moment. I also had to use my telepathic powers to know exactly what she wanted without having to ask her, like in the movies. I literally had to blow her away every single time. I had to be equal parts Johnny Depp, Peter North, Javier Bardem, Lex Steele, Elvis, maybe a hint of Dennis Rodman (if she wanted to get a little crazy) and Patrick Swayze ALL AT THE SAME TIME. The best ever, no exceptions.
Talk about a recipe for disaster.
Surprisingly amidst all this mental chatter I would mostly do alright in the bedroom and have a deeply satisfied customer every now and then, particularly if she wasn’t an intimidating partner for me.
My definition of an intimidating partner is usually someone who possesses at least one of the following qualities: intelligence, older than me, more sexually experienced than me, physically anything beyond short and skinny in the height and weight department, inside my friend circle and an aggressive personality.
Considering all women are fucking awesome and many identify with at least one of these traits; I would often find myself in the bedroom with an amazing/accomplished/beautiful girl and just cower with the sheer responsibility of giving this woman the best sex she’s ever had.
Forget performance: even the chances of me getting an erection that resembled anything other than a cooked spaghetti string was next to none.
Reflecting back on this now, I think the reason I was able to perform much better with ‘low stakes’ partners was because I was able to relax and not care so much about what my partner thought of me, and even start to enjoy the experience every now and then. Really exploring and uncovering this was the nugget I needed to make a change.
Two years ago was when I made the realization that I had this deep need in me to have others think I’m great, thanks to the help of a business coach. Once I became aware of this quality, I was able to start breaking free of it one step at a time.
For the past 6 months I have been working with a sex coach, and it didn’t take long for us to realize that this same need had wreaked all kinds of havoc in my sex life. And perhaps this need will never fully go away, but at least I am aware of the nature of the beast and can act with that knowledge in mind.
Beyond awareness, the next step for me was motivation, which wasn’t much of a challenge. How about “I have never fully enjoyed sex since the first time I successfully found myself between a woman’s legs?” That’s at least 10 years of non-enjoyment. If I have 50 more years to go in life, I would be doing myself a massive disservice by not enjoying sex. I thought about what my life would be like if all of my major sexual issues were things of the past or worse what my life would be like if I left these issues unaddressed, and immediately became deeply motivated to make a change.
Through my coaching work I began to learn that sex can have the ability to permeate many areas of life and vice versa; many areas of life can often have immense implications on sex. I also learnt that to become adequately aroused I not only have to activate my accelerators, I also have to deactivate the brakes that get in my way. Turns out I have some very sensitive brakes, and this happens to be the strongest predictor of problems with desire, arousal and orgasm. Go figure.
In order for my coach and I to properly cultivate the garden that is my sexuality, we had to address the root cause of what was happening to really see results. It was an incredibly freeing experience for me to ease up on caring about what others thought about me, particularly in the bedroom.
I started to focus on presence, on what the sensations felt like, on how my dick was feeling, on making eye contact, on just being in the moment, in my body and out of my head. It took some time and practice, but eventually I became quite good at letting go and allowing the more animalistic side of me take over. And I found that the performance naturally took care of itself. I get excited just thinking about the animalistic side of me coming alive.
Sure, every now and then I’ll have a ‘bad performance’, but it doesn’t matter that much to me anymore and I’m quite comfortable at accepting it and letting it pass. Great sex for me now is less about having a hard cock and inducing multiple thunderous orgasms — although I have no problem with either ;) — it’s much more about being inquisitive, experimental, aware and fully absorbed in the pleasure of the entire experience.
Having a mindset that was ultra conscious of my performance in the bedroom was incredibly toxic. I soon realized that not every girl had a mental clipboard every time we fucked, grading me relative to other men. I used to be infinitely more caught up in myself and how I was doing then how my partner performed. In fact, I didn’t care about how my partner performed at all. Funny enough, I think that’s how most other things are in life too; people are generally much more concerned about themselves and how they did than how the others performed.
And now for some wisdom courtesy of Wait But Why, telling it like it is…
For what it’s worth, I’ve also found in relationships that fucking things up and allowing my imperfections to be on display can create an environment where the other person is able to relax and feel more at ease, and true intimacy can be experienced.
For the “new me”, my best expression between the sheets has nothing at all to do with perfection. The more perfect an image of myself that I try to portray with my partners, the more pressure they feel to be perfect too. Lately I’ve found that talking about the vulnerable and imperfect parts of my life really let’s the air out of the pressure to be perfect and perform for both myself and my partner — truly allowing us to connect. It’s been incredibly helpful for me.
Of course I haven’t had enough diverse sexual experiences since I have started to get coaching to really know if I am going to be comfortable in every situation. I suspect not. But at least now I have a firm understanding of how my body and soul operate when it comes to sex.
I used to have major issues even achieving one orgasm in an entire evening of sex. The other night I had four for the first time in my life, and it was glorious.
It never would have happened if I wasn’t willing to put in the effort to be vulnerable and start looking for answers. And for all the fellas out there, I’ve found incredible freedom and tranquility in stepping away from the expectations of what a man should be.
Addressing the obstacles in my intimate life head on has not been the easiest of journeys, but it has lead me to deep psychological truths about myself that I believe I’m better off for knowing. And much more pleasure and enjoyment of course.
A sex coach has been a nice tool/mirror, as well as a handful of books and honest conversations with friends.
However, through all of this I was astonished at the lack of reliable resources available to people who want to make a similar change. It truly caused me pain to think that there are millions of people out there silently struggling when viable solutions to most of their obstacles exist.
That’s the reason the cambyo project exists, my co-conspirator Philip Stehlik and I have had similar experiences working with intimate coaches and want to create a safe place where people can go to make a change (and ride tandem bicycles).
Along the way we figured having our friends share stories and get the discussion moving was a great place to start, hence this blog. Please subscribe to our newsletter to stay in loop on new services and stories as they become available. If you would like to get involved with the project and share a story, please get in touch at email@example.com. Hopefully this story is of use to you in your journey.
All the best — Matt
You can also say hello to me on instagram at @MattHvnter.