Problematic erection and ejaculation?

Originally Published: March 1, 1994 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: July 22, 2011
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Dear Alice,

I'm having a problem with penis erection and ejaculation. It only happens during sex when I cannot have complete erection and ejaculation comes quickly. I don't have the same problem during masturbation which is o.k. for both erection and ejaculation.

First, are both problems the same? And why does it only happen during real sex with my girlfriend? And are they really psychological problems? How can I deal with them, considering that I'm 26 years old and that was my first sexual experience ever and I'm otherwise healthy?

Thanks, Physically Able?

Dear Physically Able?,

The barrel's firing before you've fully cocked the pistol. Sounds frustrating! Since you are able to "perform" with yourself, you can most likely rule out a physical problem, which is encouraging. In addition, it may help you feel better to know that there is almost certainly a solution for your problem, one that many men will experience at one time or another in their life. Erection and premature ejaculation problems tend to generate incredible amounts of concern, anxiety, and shame, but the irony is that these emotions sometimes exacerbate the problem. This cycle as well as troubleshooting suggestions are described in Trouble with erections?

Although emotions as well as physiology could explain your situation, the answer may be even simpler. Many men find getting or maintaining an erection to be more difficult at the beginning of a sexual relationship. You mentioned that this is your first sexual experience. Do you feel nervous or pressured to please your girlfriend when you're having sex? When you masturbate, the only person you have to worry about is yourself, but when you're with someone else, their enjoyment is thrown into the mix. To address this performance anxiety, practice relaxing and easing your way into the experience. Explore different methods of foreplay so when you're locked and loaded, you feel more in control of when you pull the trigger. After you become more comfortable with your partner, this may get easier and your erections may become more reliable.

While ejaculation is a reflex that can't be controlled perfectly, over time men may be able hone this ability.  However, some men have very little control regardless of practice or the type of sexual activity, whether masturbation, oral stimulation, or intercourse. Others are okay when by themselves, but not with a partner, as in your case. Still others, perhaps the largest group, are fine except for intercourse. These issues are almost always due to a lack of knowledge, skill, or attention. The buildup of sexual tension and anxiety may also play a role. To determine if these may be affecting your performance, ask yourself, "Am I concerned about my lack of sexual experience?" or "Do I feel the need to impress my partner during sex?" If these or similar thoughts steal your concentration during or in the lead up to sex, this could be a contributing factor.

Given all this information, it seems like you probably just need more time to get to know your partner and feel comfortable being sexual with one another. Explore this new facet of your relationship slowly — this isn't a sexual quick draw. Discuss what each of you like and what gets your guns firing. Talk to each other, during sex and in your lives. As you become more at ease in your relationship, your sexuality will also become stronger and more fun.

If your concerns persist, consider contacting a health care provider to discuss them. Columbia students may call x4-2284 for Medical Services or log on to Open Communicator. You may also find it helpful to speak to someone at Counseling and Psychological Services by calling x4-2878. These tips combined with those outlined in the Related Q&As below ought to help you come out with your guns blazing!

Alice