Sex is all the craze nowadays! Everybody wants to be having it and they want it to be out of this world with eyes rolling into the back of their heads and throats sore from all the unbridled shrieking of ecstasy. While sexual bliss seems to be glamorised in our society, what if you and your partner are experiencing troubles in the bedroom behind closed doors?
This can be quite traumatising and a blow to one’s self-esteem and sense of masculinity, particularly since we men are socialised to be adept and skilled at sexual prowess and conquest. These stereotypes of men “always being ready” and “virile with lots of stamina” put a lot of pressure on men to sexually perform like gods and threatens their identity as a man should problems arise in that part of their lives; they can feel like a failure or that they don’t “measure up” because so much emphasis is put on perfectionism in this area.
If you are going through a rough patch in your intimate life, you are not alone! Sexual dysfunctions are very common, but the good news is that they are usually very treatable! This article will offer gay men a glimpse at some of the more common sexual problems that exist and will provide some tips for coping and potential resolution.
The Clinical Syndromes
In both my therapy and coaching practices, sexual issues make up a large percentage of the relationship problems that clients bring to the table, whether it’s the primary emphasis or a side-symptom of something else that’s going on between the couple. At some point in their lives, most men will experience some kind of sexual-based problem and this is perfectly normal and to be expected. It is when these issues become frequent and the predominant norm in your sex life that you will really want to take notice and take some steps toward addressing it.
In her book The Art of Sex Coaching, Dr. Patti Britton, PhD outlines nine common sexual concerns that men can experience. I agree with her naming these issues as “concerns”; the medical field has long used such words as “dysfunction” and “problems” to label peoples’ sexual impasses and this only serves to pathologise them. What’s important to understand is that these sexual “bumps-in-the-road” are very common.
Buying into the concept that there’s something wrong with you because this is happening to you will only perpetuate your struggles and keep you trapped in a vicious cycle of shame and belief in yourself as being deficient. Couldn’t be further from the truth! These issues can be overcome! The popular concerns cited include:
1. Low or no sexual desire (low sex drive, infrequent sexual urges)
2. Early ejaculation (coming sooner than wanted)
3. Erectile dysfunction (impotence, unable to produce or maintain an erection)
4. Delayed ejaculation (inability to ejaculate)
5. Sexual inhibitions (unable to be free and “let loose” during sex due to past trauma or having internalised negative messages/values about sex being “bad”)
6. Body dysphoria (worries about sexual performance, penis size, masculinity, or adequacy; vanity, body image issues)
7. Social/dating skill deficits (lack of experience, awkwardness, lack of confidence, poor communication)
8. Desire for enhanced pleasure (wanting to become a more skillful lover)
9. Sexual trauma (difficulties with intimacy due to past history of rape or childhood sexual abuse)
Why Is This Happening To Me?
While sexual complications are commonplace, they definitely do create a backdrop of unpleasantness and concern. This angst can actually amplify the problems, so it’s important not to jump to any premature conclusions and to try and examine the possible origins behind their emergence. The causative factors are typically either medical or psychological in nature.
Medical causes could include side-effects to medication, underlying organic issues that might require diagnostic testing, complications resulting from health problems like diabetes, or they could be the function of a sexually-transmitted disease. Psychological causes to sexual disorders could include the negative effects of stress, anxiety, depression, relationship issues and dynamics, guilt, a history of trauma, among others.
The above sexual concerns listed can afflict men of all sexual orientations– straight, gay, and all those in-between. Being gay can bring a whole host of other possible causative factors to explain why problems in the bedroom might originate. For example, someone who is questioning his sexual identity might have difficulties with intimacy. Internalised homophobia is another erotica-killer as layers of shame and self-loathing over the social stigma associated with being gay overshadows any pleasure that could be derived from man-to-man sensuality.
Perhaps you and your partner are questioning issues surrounding monogamy or managing an open relationship. If you’re both not on the same page with these issues, conflicts can arise that can weaken the spark between the two of you and lead to the development of one of the above sexual concerns. And then there are the universal possibilities of being too busy and too tired or relationship issues such as mistrust or poor communication getting expressed through a sexual dysfunction.
It’s important to get an accurate assessment of your situation to determine what could be causing your particular issues so you can then develop personalised goals to remedy them. More often than not, sexual issues diminish once the underlying symptoms have been targeted and intervened upon.
Tips: Putting The “Function” Back In Sexual “Dysfunction”
- First and foremost, get a physical examination and medical check-up with your physician or urologist to rule-out any possible organic causes to your sexual problems. This should be your first step before anything else!
- Realise that your sex life will change over time in a long-term relationship and that it’s normal to have discrepant sex drives and needs. This does not mean that anything is wrong and merely calls to your attention to find creative solutions to re-ignite a whole new level of passion. Commitment and true intimacy can overcome most obstacles if you set your mind to it.
- Recognise and overcome the myths that exist about sexuality that can set you up for perceived failure, like “sex must be like fireworks every time you make love for it to be any good” or “a man should be able to get an erection at any time and sustain it for hours!” Be kind to yourself against these saboteurs, and as a couple decide what kind of sex life is best for you instead of comparing yourselves to unrealistic standards promoted by media, society, and what your friends may be saying.
- Get out of your own head! Many sexual problems are the result of not being fully present in the moment with your partner and instead thinking too much in your brain. Worry, frustration, and fear of failure will almost always kill the mood. What’s worse yet, these negative thoughts create vicious cycles of defeat that further complicate the problem and make it more embedded and difficult to break free. For example – “Oh my God, there’s something wrong with me” leads to “I’m defective! I’m a loser!” which then leads to “I have to do it this time! I have to try harder to make it happen!” which leads to “Oh my God, I’m terrified this is going to keep happening.” And then it ends up turning out that way. You’re working too hard and can’t enjoy the experience.
- Practice relaxation techniques to stay cal