A watched pot

Pub date January 14, 2009

By Andrea Nemerson

› andrea@altsexcolumn.com

Dear Andrea:

I am gay and my boyfriend has trouble getting me off. I don’t like anal sex much because receiving or giving it usually doesn’t make me come. And my boyfriend usually can’t get me off orally, either, which means I have to resort to my own hand sometimes. I bought a Fleshlight, which my boyfriend uses on me. I can come with the Fleshlight, but now I feel disconnected from my boyfriend.


Not Feeling It

Dear It:

No doubt. That sounds a little grim and technical — plugging yourself (or getting plugged) into the sex socket a few minutes a night — and then rinsing it under the tap and going to sleep — sounds more like maintaining a set of false teeth or an ostomy than it does like having a sex life. What’s missing in your story, though, is how it has come to this. I get the feeling you’re young, but how did you operate before this particular boyfriend? And, um, what is he doing wrong?

We all have to resort to our own hands occasionally, and not only do I not think that’s a problem, I quite often consider it a solution. You shouldn’t be the only one who can do anything for you, though. I think you need to undertake a program like those followed by women trying to overcome anorgasmia. Of course, there are a lot of those women and relatively few men in the same boat, and while I know the girly experts and their work, um, inside and out, their male-oriented counterparts and clients are less familiar. Mostly, you hear about premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction. Male lack of arousal and aroused-but-just-not-coming don’t get — rather, have not demanded — the same sort of respect, and don’t get discussed much except in the context of drug side effects, which…. Hey! You’re not taking any antidepressants or anything, are you? That would be great, actually, since if you were your doctor could probably fix this by jiggering your meds or dosages around.

Let’s assume there are no drugs involved. And you can’t have a purely physical problem, like scarring from an operation or diabetic neuropathy, or your Fleshlight (and may I say how much I hate the name of that masturbatory gizmo?) wouldn’t work either. So what you’ve got is something psychological holding you back, or causing you to hold back, however you want to frame it. You could be judging yourself unworthy of pleasure for any number of reasons, none of which really matter here.

If you are focusing on the sex you’re having as a performance instead of as an experience, you are doing what sex therapists call spectatoring — "Do I look hot when I’m doing this? Does he think I’m hot? Is he looking at my (putatively unattractive body part here)? Am I as good at this as his last boyfriend? Is he only with me because of (insert pathetic reason to be with you instead of someone better here)?" — which may sound ungrammatical but is certainly a useful concept. If you’re willing to put in the time with a therapist, or even with a bunch of self-help articles, you can probably figure out what you’re doing and learn to not do that. Since you’re gay, there’s a whole other avenue to wander down, too, the one with guilt and self-loathing and feelings of disappointing parents and angering assorted gods — all those things which have never done sexual minorities any good but can be pernicious and damned near impossible to shake if they happened to get their claws into you. Anyway, you’ll have to learn to stop watching and judging yourself, either by learning to focus on your sensations or on his — anywhere but on your own perceived suckitude, basically.

So, (1) it’s performance anxiety, and therapy, or self-help literature and then therapy if the former doesn’t work, will help. And let us not discount the possible — enormous — benefits of drugs. Say, anti-anxiety meds if it’s determined that you’ve got an anxiety thing going. Also, not that this is a common treatment protocol or anything, but I read one abstract where oxytocin, my favorite molecule and the hormone implicated not only in mother-infant bonding and human orgasm but mammalian pair-bonding and (this may be key here) our ability to trust each other, was successfully used to treat male anorgasmia. Yay, oxytocin!

Or then again, (2) it isn’t performance anxiety so much as it’s the result of initially practical but ultimately unhelpful masturbation habits — you trained yourself to respond to a very specific sort of stimulation. Since none of these other acts or orifices except the Fleshlight approximate what you’re used to, none of them are working. If it’s that, you have to retrain, and it will take a while, but women do it all the time and you can too.

My last suggestion, and please don’t quote me on this: Your boyfriend needs lessons.



Andrea is teaching Sex After Parenthood at Day One Center (www.dayonecenter.com), Recess (info@recessurbanrecreation.com), and privately. Contact her at andrea@altsexcolumn.com for more info.