Dear Alice,

I'm a guy who's had many sexual partners and I've managed to ejaculate through sex only some times. The other times I either just didn't come or my erection went down. I have no trouble getting erect in the first place. And especially now with my new girlfriend (we're in love), I can't get an orgasm at all, not even from a handjob and that was normally a dead cert. I know in my mind I'm thinking, "I must cum, I must cum," and I guess I put a jinx on myself. Please Alice, how can I have sex and an orgasm with my girlfriend?

Troubled Spikey One

Dear Troubled Spikey One,

You write in your letter that while you are erect, you are having trouble orgasming and/or ejaculating with your girlfriend, and that you want to be able to have this experience with her. It sounds as though this has happened with other partners, but not to this extent.

Since you are able to become aroused and erect, it is possible that you are experiencing ejaculatory inhibition. While this condition can be physical in nature, it is generally caused by psychological factors. Some men who experience this have difficulty staying erect and/or orgasming. Others are able to orgasm alone, but not with a partner.

As you mentioned, thinking that you "must cum" can cause you, and even her, frustration and anxiety. Pressure might be the reason that you may not orgasm at times. The inability to "let go" can be the cause. Not feeling safe and/or comfortable with a partner can influence your sexual response, as can medications, chronic illness, physical disability, alcohol or other drug use, stress, performance anxiety, fear, guilt, or low self-esteem.

Since a handjob was normally a dead cert, Alice wonders if you are able to orgasm when you masturbate solo. If so, then it's possible that you need to show your partner exactly how you like to be touched.

Trying the following may be helpful. When you are intimate with your girlfriend, explore one another's bodies, expressing to one another how you like to be stroked, rubbed, caressed, etc. Build sexual arousal leading up to intercourse. Try to be present, in the moment, and focus on each and every sensation rather than think about orgasm. Using water-based lube can help heighten sensations. Sometimes it can be helpful to fantasize. If you lose your erection, you can often get it back with touching and talking. If you become hard again, ease into sex when both of you are ready. Rather than tell yourself, "I must come," tell yourself that you have all the time in the world to enjoy all this pleasure. Then relax into the pleasure. This is not a homework assignment. It is not about getting an A. It's about teaching your body to respond to a new sensation or situation. This takes time and practice, and people can make changes. If you are unable to get your erection back, then take a break for a while or try again at another time. Practice with this technique several times for a while, each time taking it a little farther.

If after trying some of these ideas on your own, or with your girlfriend, and over a period of time, you are still unable to orgasm, it makes sense to see a sex therapist. S/he will work with you for a limited time, will listen to your feelings and responses, and will give you suggestions to try at home. You will learn from these experiences, having more to talk about and more to try. In the meantime, focus, if you can, on the pleasure you do feel rather than what you don't. To find a sex therapist in your area, contact the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT) at:

P.O. Box 1960
Ashland, VA 23005-1960

For more information, look for Barry and Emily McCarthy's book, Male Sexual Awareness: Increasing Sexual Satisfaction, Bernie Zilbergeld's book, The New Male Sexuality, as well as Richard Milsten and Julian Slowinski's book, The Sexual Male: Problems and Solutions.


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