I am 22, gay, and I only recently started to have sex. There were so many factors contributing to me starting so late - according to friends, media and my ego - which were hindering but when I try something happens. I want to have sex so bad, and I will be really into a guy, but my penis will not get erect. I thought this was just a problem for older people or people who had health problems. I am very good-looking and in shape, and I date people who are the same. So the desire is there, but its like my member just died. It is so frustrating, so embarrassing and just makes me so sad. Plus, since the guys I do want to hook-up with can be a bit douchy, they get either annoyed with it, or offended by it. Do you believe it could be a psychological block, because once I get comfortable the thing stays up fine. I do not know what to do. I want to experiment, and explore what I like and what I am good at. However I cannot hook-up due to this problem.
Thanks for your email, I'm sorry that what's going on is making you sad and frustrated. Our bodies are not really machines that do our bidding or respond exactly when we want and how we want. And they don't work the way that we see other bodies respond on television, in movies, in pornography, etc... I think we all get frustrated (and maybe sad) when we want our bodies to do something that we can't get them to do. Of course our bodies are us, so it's complicated to even talk about bodies as something separate from who we are.
I'm going to start with a few key pieces of information that are well established and you should know about.
First, not being able to get an erection, which researchers and therapists call "erectile dysfunction" happens to men of every age, not just older men. It is more common as you get older, but it happens at all ages. There has been some research on erectile dysfunction among young men and you are not the only person this happens to. I don't know anyone who has a penis who hasn't experienced a time period where their erections weren't working the way they wanted.
Second, erectile dysfunction has nothing to do with looks, your own or the people you're having sex with. Desire and arousal needs to be there, but there's no standard of attractiveness that fits for everyone (we're all turned on by our own things) so looks aren't exactly a part of it. And related to that, while there are physical causes of erectile dysfunction one doesn't need to be buff or muscular to have strong erections.
My first question for you is about your erections at other times. If you masturbate, do you have difficulty getting an erection then? Does the erection last until you ejaculate? If your penis will get erect when you are alone, then you know it isn't a physical problem. If you often have difficulty getting an erection then you should go see a doctor if you have access to one, and tell them about it. It could be related to some other physical problem. Actually, if you do have access to a doctor it's a good idea to start with a physical if you don't get them regularly.
But you said that you do get erections once you are comfortable, so it sounds to me like the problem has something to do with the specific situation and not just your body. Penises are VERY sensitive to how we feel and even to what we think. If we are distracted, thinking of other things, if we are nervous or anxious, it can make an erection go away, or not happen at all. And no matter how much someone provides stimulation it may not become erect.
So what can you do?
There are a few ideas I have, although of course I cannot say if they will work for you. But here they are.
First, you say that when you are comfortable everything works fine. So I would ask you to make a list of all the things that make you comfortable. Why are you uncomfortable some times and then comfortable at other times? What are the things that need to be there for you to be comfortable? Maybe it is how you are feeling? Maybe it is about the person you are with? Maybe it is about the place you are? Feeling safe is often part of feeling comfortable. So you could also make a list of what you need to feel safe.
Let me give you an example. For me, I do not feel safe or comfortable having sex with a new person unless I ask them something about safer sex. I usually have to say it directly to them. I will say something like "I want to be totally honest and tell you that I think you're hot and hope we get to have sex at some point. But I can't have sex with someone without talking at least a little bit about safer sex. Can we talk about it?" The conversation that follows will depend a lot on the person, the situation, and what I want. I know this may sound very bold, and obviously I don't do this with someone who is a total stranger, but if I think things are going well, and it seems like we are both into each other, this is what I will say.
If I don't say something like this then I feel uncomfortable and also I am worried. And this makes it hard for me to enjoy sex. For you there might be different things, but if you can figure out what they are, maybe you can do things to make you feel comfortable.
Maybe you could try to think about your list, what you need, and then don't try to have sex with someone unless many of the things are your list are there.
A second idea has to do with the people you are with. Even though it may not be funny, I thought it was funny (and honest) that you described the guys you want to hook up with as a bit "douchy". Part of me wants to ask why you're hooking up with douchy guys to begin with. There are non-douchy guys who are hot and great in bed too. Is it possible that in some way your body is saying "no" because there is part of you that doesn't want to hook up with the particular guy you're with? This is only for you to answer, but it is definitely possible that if part of you isn't into it, your body is responding by shutting down in the erection department.
A third idea, again about the guys you're hooking up with, would be to focus less on experimenting with lots of different guys and instead find one or two that you do feel comfortable with, and then do lots of different things with them. It is great that you like sex and are excited to experiment. And it has to be difficult to deal with others judgment. In fact that could be contributing to the problem by making you feel sexual performance anxiety which absolutely contributes to erectile dysfunction.
Finally, it's possible that if you aren't doing something to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted diseases or of violence, that could be part of it too. No sex is 100% safe, but doing things like using condoms, not being completely drunk or high the first time you have sex with someone new, and being a least a bit picky about who you hook up with, are all ways of taking care of yourself and doing those things may also help you feel more comfortable and less worried. Particularly the drinking and drug thing. Alcohol and other drugs can get in the way of you getting and keeping an erection. So if that's a problem for you, you should try to cut it out at least the first few times to see if it makes a difference.
I hope some of those ideas are helpful or spark ideas of your own. I can also recommend you check out Ramon Johnson, About.com's Guide to Gay Life who has articles on erection problems, performance anxeity, and lots more about gay sex. If you have other questions please do email me back and I'll do my best to respond.