The rising

Why am I having trouble getting it up?

Published February 13, 2003 9:09PM (EST)

Dear Cary,

I'm a healthy 24-year-old man. I work out irregularly but often enough. I've never had a history of sexual dysfunction, extremely odd fetishes, "stage fright," etc. I'm just your ordinary sexually active straight male. So what in the past three months could have given me such great difficulty in gaining and maintaining erections? This has all been very sudden and is really beginning to worry me. I don't have any problem getting an erection while masturbating. Once a day is not uncommon for me, though I've gone through some peaks and valleys in frequency. I do feel that sometimes I can please myself better than many women do. However I don't see myself as having any homoerotic tendencies.

My recent sexual history: I break up with girlfriend of three and a half years with mediocre sex life (whom I cheated on repeatedly ... I know, I know). I have a year of little sexual activity. Maybe one or two fucks a month on a given après-club morning with a girl I just met. This lasts a year. Then I have a dry spell of about two to three months. Then I get sexually active again, begin dating two girls, and I have a very, very difficult time gaining/maintaining erections with either of them. Most people I know consider both girls to be pretty hot, and I don't find them unattractive. One of them happens to be the horniest thing I've ever met. I've noticed, not necessarily a lack of sex drive, but some of the things that used to really get me going ... are still interesting but just don't make me run for the bathroom like they used to. Take girl-on-girl sex, for instance. Whoop-dee-doo. How about having a sex slave. Whateva. One of my girlfriends is only 20 and she will try and do absolutely anything I ask her to. She gets horny even thinking about a roller coaster ride. She's a thrill freak. Years ago I would have been pounding her like the pavement underneath a proselytizing Mormon's shoes, but I don't. Not very often anyway. Because I just can't get really hard.

Is this psychological or physical, and what can I do to fix it? Am I too young for Viagra? Why would I need it if I can masturbate just fine?


Dear Ryan,

You're just wearing yourself out, dear man. You're not 23 anymore. OK, you're 24. But still. Calm down. Dial back the sex machine. You've done the girl on girl, the sex slave, the one where she puts you over her knee and spanks you with her gym teacher's shoe (did you mention that, or did I?). Now it's time to think about old age. Like, soon, you're gonna be 25!

Two words: stable relationship. OK, maybe that's not what you want. But I'm telling you, you can't keep going the way you have. Whatever immortal priapic magic you may have been blessed with, it's not going to last forever. There are limits, for heaven's sake! Going out to clubs, not sleeping enough, drinking, doing club drugs, not eating properly, not reading enough literary fiction, all these things will just wear you down until before you know it you're 26, a broken-down, lecherous, laughable mockery of yourself, watching reruns of "Alias" and wondering why you never nailed Jennifer Garner when you had the chance.

There's nothing wrong with you that a little reality therapy won't cure. You're not Superman. Maybe, just for a few months there, you felt like it. That's why people, once they get to be 26 or 27, talk about how fleeting youth is. They know what they're talking about. That's experience talking. Listen to your elders. Find some guy sitting on a bench who's, like, 30 and ask him what happened.

You've got a great, happy life ahead of you, as long as you can adjust your expectations. You're in no danger of not being able to screw. It's just that, well, you're not Superman. You're not even Batman. You're just a guy.

One other note: You may have this belief that you're not fully aware of, just under the surface of consciousness, that in order to get love from a woman, or to have any kind of success or self-esteem in the world, you've got to be a sexual superstud. That's just not true. You have to root that belief out and discard it, because it's utterly fallacious. Fallacious sounds sexy, doesn't it? Like that other word. Anyway, the point is, in the same way that women often get signals from the culture that they're failures unless they look like Jennifer Garner, men get signals that unless they're, well, one of those handsome, chiseled, slightly starved CIA guys that jump off buildings with Jennifer Garner, shooting automatic weapons, hurling stun grenades, and then later ravishing her and taking a shower with her and then climbing through an air-conditioning duct onto the roof to be rescued by helicopter, you might as well be delivering the San Francisco Independent door-to-door in the Excelsior District. Well, my son, my fraternity brother, my foosball-playing superchamp, my fellow American, that thought is the spawn of branding professionals who learned evil postmodern sorcery at Brown. You have to root it out like a bullet lodged in your sternum, toss it aside, and get back on your horse and ride.

Just one horse at a time.

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Want more advice from Cary? Read yesterday's column.

By Cary Tennis

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