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Sexual Difficulties’ Threat to Masculinity

Every man* has an idea of what defines their masculinity. What do you feel defines yours? Is it your strength and leadership? Is it your stoicism? Is it the way you present yourself to the world? Or is it your penis and what your penis can do? These are all normal traits men use to identify their masculinity, but what happens when their penis doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do? While it is completely normal for a man’s penis to not cooperate at least occasionally, this can send many men into a tailspin of anxiety and depression.

When I say that the penis “doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do”, what I’m referring to is 1) having

difficulty obtaining or maintaining a full erection 2) having a delay or absence of ejaculation with most sexual activity with another person or 3) having a pattern of ejaculating very early following penetrative sex. While there are several other sexual issues that can be present, these are the most common. And by no means is this the only criteria needed to diagnose a sexual disorder.

Now that we’ve gotten that out the way, let’s dig into what happens when these issues take place. As with women, once there have been a few instances of sexual dysfunction, it becomes very hard to not become anxious around sex. Questions like, “Will this happen again?” or “Will I disappoint her/him?” tend to creep up, making it increasingly difficult to enjoy the intimate moment. Once pulled away from the intimate moment, you’re more likely to have more unwelcome experiences, and it becomes a frustrate cycle of anxiety, undesirable performance, disappointment, and back to anxiety.

Because this can be such a huge blow to the ego and may feel hopeless, depression can make its way into the mix, especially if so much of a man’s value and masculinity has been placed on his ability to perform sexually. It can be embarrassing to discuss these issues with your partner. There might be concerns about how accepting the partner will be or if the partner will assume she/he is the cause of the issues. It can also be difficult to reach out for help.

While I always recommend speaking with a doctor to rule out any medical issues, oftentimes the goal of therapy is to work through the sexual dysfunctions by easing the mind and releasing the anxiety that has become associated with sex and sexual performance. I do this by providing education, a safe space to explore thoughts, potential communication with a partner(s), and problem-solving.

It’s common to tie masculinity into your ability to perform sexually. It’s also common to feel anxiety, embarrassment, and frustrations when faced with difficulties in sexual performance. While there are several medical explanations, it could also be an anxious loop you have difficulty stopping. If you’d like talk further about this, email me at or call me at 256-697-0691.

*By man, I’m referring to penis-owners.

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