My porn use has destroyed my sex life

Tell Me About It: I am trying to abstain from porn and masturbation to re-sensitise myself

I have a hard time maintaining a strong erection for penetration. Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

I have a hard time maintaining a strong erection for penetration. Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

 

Problem

Ever since I started my sex life, I have had a hard time maintaining a strong erection for penetration and I eventually lose it. It happened with my first encounter with my ex and we never got to sort it out with her (we tried a couple of times).

Our intimacy suffered as anxiety took over and I developed a mindset of: “What is the point if I am going to fail?”

This caused us a lot of pressure and dissatisfaction, and the only thing I got off from was porn and masturbation which I have been doing since I was 13 and now to think of it is depressing and pathetic.

Now we have broken up and I never got the hang of it. I believe it is all my fault. I feel that porn and too much masturbation is the reason I behaved the way I did, withdrawing sex from my ex who I found incredibly attractive.

Because of the problems I avoided sex out of embarrassment. My approach to sex was wrong – I saw it as performance and orgasm as the goal, not pleasure, sharing and fun. My biggest mistake was not dealing with the issue and trying to find out ways to fix or improve it.

I feel hopeless and depressed because of my past and don’t know how to cope with my sexual difficulties. I am trying to abstain from porn and masturbation to re-sensitise my penis, reboot my brain and boost my libido and sexual desire. I need help to move on.

Advice

You are very tuned in to the issues you are having and the causes of these but it sounds as though the suffering you have gone through has led to a very negative self-image and an attitude to your body that is critical and disillusioning.

It seems that consistently watching porn since the age of 13 has created a sexual response pattern in you that is difficult to change and this pattern has made it very challenging for your body to respond to a real, live person. 

You are not the only person experiencing this as research from as long ago as 14 years has suggested that the average age of accessing porn is 11 for boys.  

Your body becomes used to responding to a particular stimulus and when there is a demand on it to perform in front of another person, it can struggle with fear, judgment and demand.

Desire usually gets us to focus outwards and it makes us reach out for another but your pattern is that desire is linked to a computer and it diminishes or disappears when not in that situation.

Your new understanding that the aim of intimacy is pleasure, sharing and fun is a wonderful piece of wisdom but it is going to require some adjustment and risk-taking from you.

While you say you are abstaining from porn and masturbation and this is indeed part of changing the pattern, you will need to also challenge yourself by engaging with an attractive partner now and do not put it off for some future time when you feel “fixed”.

The problem is located in the fear of performance failure; the fear of judgment and the focus on success rather than on pleasure. Your body responds to fear by creating a lock-down or a frozen response – the very opposite to desire.

If you are to overcome this fear it requires that you take the risk of engaging with someone that you are attracted to (this allows desire to work) and then you try some vulnerability such as telling them that you are not going to have sex immediately as it will take your body time to feel safe. 

Spending time on sensuality (massage, taste, oils etc) without any expectation of intercourse will allow your body to relax and let go the fear of condemnation and the plus side of this is that couples report that this activity is enormously pleasurable and fun.

Engaging with someone at this level is hugely intimate and it will require a lot of courage from you but in my experience, potential partners usually respond with a willingness to help and are honoured by the risk and disclosure you are willing to take for them.  

Taking action by setting up dates will begin to shift your sense of hopelessness and treating your body with compassion and care can only lead to more body confidence and libido.

If you find you are unable to get started on this process it might be a good idea to engage with a psychotherapist with whom you can work on your negative self-talk and confidence. 

If this seems too big a step, taking a friend into your confidence would be a great starting point towards your aim of intimacy and it will help that you have someone to share your risks and challenges with.

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