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Heather Corinna replies:
Both me and my boyfriend are virgins so I'm not really sure what is normal. The two times we have tried to have sex he has lost his erection. He is completely turned on before hand, but as soon as the clothes come off and it's time to actually have sex, he loses it. He's coming back into town next week since he's been on vacation so is there anything I can do so that this time so we actually have sex?
You know, it can be pretty stressful for guys to feel like they have to have an erection... OR ELSE.
The real pisser is that stress is one of the most common reasons a guy won't get an erection or will lose one (same goes for women's bodies -- when we're stressed out, we often won't self-lubricate, our clitorises won't get hard and/or our vaginal canals won't relax and loosen up: for all I know, just like his erection didn't stick around, any of those things may have been the case with you in these attempts).
So, you perhaps see the conundrum many guys experience, particularly when a partner gives them the impression that they have to have an erection at a certain time or when they feel like that themselves. Like I said, women experience this same sort of thing, too, but the difference is that often, even when women don't get or stay fully aroused, they can still have intercourse: it just doesn't usually feel as good as it can otherwise. You have to feel for a brother when it comes to that difference, especially when women aren't understanding that men can't just think, "Penis: erection now!" and make their bodies work as if they were machines. Women who want to can often fake it 'til they make it: when it comes to erections, men can't do that.
There's nothing any of us can do to guarantee that our bodies are going to behave a certain way sexually on a given day or time, or in a certain situation. Since first-time intercourse can be so daunting, so emotionally loaded, and have so many expectations globbed unto it, it's pretty normal for guys to have trouble maintaining erections when it's all new, particularly for both partners, and when their partner is looking to them to make it or break it.
As well, erections can be wily critters: guys can get'em when they are the last thing they want, and not get'em when they'd like nothing more than to have one. Sometimes, just being turned on or wanting to have sex isn't enough to keep an erection going, sometimes for a particular reason -- like stress, certain medications, illness, depression, being tired -- sometimes for no reason at all.
The very, very best way to do what you can to nurture anyone feeling relaxed enough to get aroused, and for a body to be sexually responsive -- whether we're talking about men or women -- is to be sure you're not exerting or enabling any pressure, and doing the best you can to take the pressure off of your partner or yourself.
Sex can happen with or without an erection: after all, intercourse is only one kind of sex, not the only kind of sex or necessarily the best sex, ever or all the time. So, I'd start by changing your tune when it comes to the mindset that no erection = no sex. That's just not true. It just means no intercourse, which shouldn't be a big deal since there are so many kinds of sex any two people can engage in. You can "actually" have all kinds of sex whether he's erect or not: you can make out, mutually masturbate, engage in manual sex or oral sex, erotic massage, some kinds of anal sex (for you or him), sex toys, frottage... all kinds of sex. I'd suggest you let him on that idea too, in the interest of both reducing some of the stress he's probably feeling and in you two nurturing a sexual relationship that doesn't treat any one sexual activity like the be-all end-all. Let him know that he shouldn't feel like his body has to deliver or you're going to be bummed out, but that what you'd like to do is be sure that at any given time you two are having any kind of sex, it's something that's about what both of your bodies are responding to, since that's what feels best for everyone. if and when he gets an erection that sticks around and he wants to have intercourse, great, but until that time, it's still all good.
I know it can be tough to manage sometimes when you can only see someone at limited times, but often any kind of sex deadline is also a big-time sex buzzkill.
In other words, rather than planning for when sex is going to happen, why not just be prepared for if and when the time is right, and let it happen. Spontaneity tends to be a big factor in most people's enjoyment of sex. If intercourse doesn't happen when he's in town next week, that's okay. The good stuff keeps. You two can have other kinds of sex, or do other things together entirely. If we drive ourselves nuts to make sex happen, sometimes even when it does all "work" all that crazymaking stuff results in sex that for all intents and purposes, happens, but which isn't likely to be all that great under that kind of duress.
If it takes a few months for the timing to be right, and for everyone's bits to hold up their end of the bargain, then it does: there's nothing all that unusual about that. And if both of you can chill out knowing that, when it does happen you're both more likely to have sex that's enjoyable and feels good, physically and emotionally.
Lastly, if he's using condoms, he might also still be getting used to putting on one and how they feel. If he's nervous about doing that right, that's one more source of stress. So, it can be helpful for guys to practice putting condoms on alone, without the pressure of a partner. It can also be helpful to make condom use part of your sex play, buy putting a little lube on him, then rolling them condom unto his penis with your own hands: those things will usually feel good and be arousing as well: that can also help make condom use a little more exciting and less mundane.
Here are a few more links to help you both: