Many men find themselves having to assume a façade to fulfill unreasonable or false expectations when engaging in sexual activities with their partner, despite it being a potentially enjoyable experience.
Most of men’s primary concerns can be summed up as:
- That they are not attractive enough
- That their penis is too small
- That they struggle to maintain an erection or perform for a long enough period
While some guys worry about just one of these, many men worry about all of them.
Addressing worries and anxieties about sexual inadequacy internally is rarely the best solution for having a good experience or pleasuring a partner.
The optimal solution is to speak up about the anxieties one may have about sexual inadequacy, but that is a difficult task for those brought up in an environment that shuns the idea of expressing vulnerability.
Mixxxer recently consulted with our favorite sex therapist from New York, Lisa Murdock, to gain a better understanding of male fears in the bedroom and how to approach discussion of those worries. The professional discussed why sexual inadequacy issues pose such a challenge to discuss, as well as strategies for responding to insensitive remarks.
Her advice follows.
Identifying Men’s Common Sexual Struggles
When men feel they are falling short of expectations, their minds can come up with various excuses. In general, though, a few typical beliefs are usually relied on by males.
According to Murdock, the primary worry for many men is not having a sufficiently large penis.
Murdock also includes early climaxing (also known as premature ejaculation) and difficulty maintaining an erection (also known as erectile dysfunction) on this list, emphasizing that people often regard these difficulties as permanent and unalterable.
Here are some other surprising things guys worry about and often internalize when it comes to sexual inadequacies:
- Body image: Struggling with body dysmorphia or the appearance of their body
- Lack of performance: Feeling inadequate due to inexperience, lack of knowledge, or perceived inability to please a partner
- Fear of judgment: Feeling that they are being judged on certain aspects physical looks or sexual knowledge
- Intimacy issues: Experiencing difficulty with forming close, intimate relationships or difficulty connecting emotionally during physical encounters
“Men often suffer with low self-confidence and other issues such as depression, stress and anxiety due to unrealistic expectations,” she said. “Society expects men to understand their partner’s needs, to always be ready sexually, and to stay in shape.” All of these demands can be tough to achieve without proper instruction and support.
It’s not shocking that being anxious about sexual inadequacy during intimacy isn’t really a mood-enhancer. And this can keep going on endlessly.
The Vicious Cycle of Sex and Anxiety
Murdock talks about how our physical and mental health are connected, so psychological issues such as worry and nervousness can lead to physical issues like trouble sleeping, weakened immunity, or even more worry. These physical issues, she adds, can lead to other issues, such as difficulty lasting during intercourse.
She points out that feelings of anxiety almost always decreases your sex drive.
Our brains have two “ways” of responding to situations: one is for facing danger and the other is for feeling calm and content. The first is known as the ‘fight or flight’ response and it helps us to survive – like when we’re in a fight or trying to run away from something. The other is the rest and relax system and it helps us to calm down and take it easy.
It is virtually impossible to be aroused when your body is in a state of fear. When threatened, your body should prioritize supplying energy to your muscles, allowing you to quickly respond, rather than to reproductive organs.
When your mind senses danger – even if it’s just an emotional worry such as anxiety about how you’re doing in the bedroom – it can set off your body’s fight-or-flight response, which can interfere with your arousal and make it harder to get an erection. To put it simply, the fear of being a bad lover can actually make you a worse one.
Murdock explains that when someone continues to fail to perform, they may end up completely avoiding sex, or being stuck in rigid patterns that make it harder to be communicative and open when it comes to their sexual issues. Engaging in such activities can bring feelings of alienation and difficulty in conveying one’s difficulties.
Rather than trying to fit a masculine mold in order to meet someone’s expectations, men should communicate openly and honestly. This is a much more productive solution to the problem than relying on medications, contraptions, and other such items.
Discussing Your Concerns with Intimacy Issues
If you’re not used to sharing your troubles, discussing personal matters can be intimidating, especially if it’s a situation you’re not accustomed to dealing with.
Mentioning your insecurities during lovemaking can be daunting, but this vulnerability can also be quite attractive. Openly discussing your uncertainties can create an avenue for conversation and connection, instead of pretending and attempting to appear perfect.
Murdock advises that any feelings of sexual insecurity that go unaddressed can have a negative effect on both partners. For example, if one partner feels like it’s taking them an excessive amount of time to reach orgasm, but they don’t bring it up to the other person, it can lead to a decrease in arousal.
It’s worth mentioning that your actual weaknesses may not be as dire as you assume; often, the only person who views them as such is yourself.
Murdock explains that the cornerstone of this inquiry is imagined insufficiencies, making sure to note that these insufficiencies are not true issues for the partner. Men fretting over the size of their penis, she notes, are typically of a completely ordinary – even larger than average – size. Yet the underlying concern resides in their own perception and confidence.
Regarding premature ejaculation (PE) and erectile dysfunction (ED), it could be an issue that impinges upon you rather than your self-confidence. There are strategies you can take to address PE, such as utilizing creams, developing techniques, and conversing about penetrative sex, as well as shifting your focal point to pleasuring your companion.
For ED, pharmaceuticals and lifestyle modifications may be of assistance; however if the underlying cause is psychological, identifying methods to de-stress and invigorating the restorative nervous system may be the optimal remedy.
But there’s no need to make a big fuss of it when you decide to confide in your partner, regardless of how well they know you.
“It’s a good idea to be up front with your lover if you experience difficulty with arousal or ejaculation,” Murdock shares. “That way, they don’t think it’s something they’re doing wrong. After all, both of you can be feeling a bit anxious when it’s your initial time or you aren’t used to having closeness in a while. We all have these moments of vulnerability.”
In a deeper bond, it is beneficial to address lingering sexual issues in a way that is meaningful. According to her, one approach is to pre-plan a conversation about it.
“Fostering an environment of truthfulness is essential to addressing such matters,” she elucidates. “So take the time to have open dialogue with your significant other about intimacy and any emotions that come along with it.”
Reflect & Communicate
When having a conversation, it’s crucial to remain level-headed and collected when talking with your partner,” suggest Murdock. “It may help to do some preparatory research beforehand so that you can come into the topic feeling secure and sure of yourself. Make sure not to pass any undue stress, worry or blame onto them.”
She encourages finding a way to open up and share your feelings on the matter, how it may have changed your intimacy, what kind of effect it is having now, and how to work together towards a solution.
“Take your time and express what you’re feeling in a way that is true to yourself and the things you’ve gleaned from your experiences,” she recommends.
And why not also offer uplifting words of support for any kind, thoughtful gestures your significant other has made to try and help? It might just really mean the world them if they’re worried about being blamed for the situation.
“For men, addressing these sexual issues can be especially challenging without a compassionate or empathetic partner,” Murdock stressed. It is understandable that the dread of parting ways with someone, in the midst of feeling anxious about sexual inadequacies, might make it difficult to articulate these matters.
Reassuring yourself and having the courage to share your feelings surrounding your penis, body and capability to satisfy another person is an essential step toward overcoming any mental barriers keeping you from prioritizing sex in a relationship.”
More Tips on How to Open Up in the Bedroom
It can be daunting to talk about fears or worries in the bedroom. Here are some more simple tips from Lisa, on how to facilitate such an open dialogue:
- Set aside time for a calm and relaxed conversation. Avoid discussing sensitive topics when you’re feeling particularly tense or fatigued. The best time for this is typically at the end of the day while sharing a bottle of good wine.
- Listen actively and without judgement. This helps create an atmosphere of trust and understanding so that your partner feels comfortable sharing their feelings with you.
- Refrain from making assumptions or giving unsolicited advice. It’s important to allow space for your partner to express themselves without fear of being judged or shut down.
- Be patient while your partner is learning how to communicate better in the bedroom – she’s probably feeling some anxiety too. It takes time to build trust and connection! With practice comes progress.
- Be sure to check in with yourself; identify any anxieties about sexual inadequacy that may be getting in the way of open communication and address them accordingly if need be!