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Let’s be real — sex doesn't always go smoothly. It often isn’t as seamless and carefree as it is in the movies.
Sexual performance anxiety is common — and while it can affect anyone, people with penises often have to deal with it at a greater level. They’re expected to have a physical response to arousal, and few people are willing to talk about how often things go awry.
Mike Johnson — of Bachelor franchise fame — recently spoke on the Lovers and Friends With Shan Boodram podcast and openly discussed his own experience with erectile unpredictability. It takes him around two and a half months to have consistent erections during sex, specifically with women that he cares about, he said on the podcast.
“For me, I get in my head and I don’t want her to feel that I just want her for her body, and I overthink and overcompensate for so many different things,” he told host Shan Boodram.
Unrealistic body standards and porn can also play a role in erectile unpredictability: Despite knowing these are paid actors creating a fantasy, it sets a standard that no real human can meet, said Carolanne Marcantonio, a sex therapist based in Brooklyn.
So much of erectile unpredictability (aside from medical conditions) is also about not being able to stay present in your body for pleasure because you're so focused on performance, she added.
“There's often a lot associated with this connection of masculinity to physical perfection,” she said. That can exacerbate body image concerns and in turn decrease the ability to have or maintain erections, she said. “It is very normal for erections to wax and wane during sex or during foreplay or play or whatever someone wants to call it. It’s unrealistic to think you're going to be rock hard for hours.”
Norms and judgment associated with masturbation can also increase the risk of premature ejaculation, Marcantonio said. “For them, it’s about figuring out how to manage their pleasure and how to feel in their body what's going on so they can back off when they're getting close to orgasm and slow down,” said Marcantonio.
If you are experiencing any sexual performance issues, it’s important to see a doctor. A urologist can check for any health conditions that might require medical intervention. If you have sexual performance anxiety, it can be treated with education and talk therapy, she said. A sex therapist may help you come up with a unique plan and address any underlying anxiety or depression.
There are a few books Marcantonio recommends that clients read, including Come as You Are by Emily Nagoski and The New Male Sexuality by Bernie Zilbergeld. In addition, sex therapists can help you learn to use performance-enhancing toys.
“Cock rings are absolutely something I suggest,” Marcantonio said. “We see a hundred different versions of cock rings. Some of them vibrate, some of them don't. They're all different materials. A really great beginner cock ring, but also just a cock ring to have in general, is something that's gonna be really stretchy.”
This option from FirmTech does not vibrate, but it is specifically designed to fit around the penis and testicles. According to FirmTech, it applies soft pressure around the base of the penis and testicles to slow blood leaving the penis, which can lead to sustained erections, as well as delayed and longer-lasting orgasms.
Marcantonio explained that this design allows blood to flow into the penis and stay there, which helps to create a firmer, stronger erection for longer.
If you’re looking to take things up a notch, they also make a tech ring specifically designed for combating erectile dysfunction that tracks vital signs of erectile fitness.
You can buy the Performance Ring from FirmTech for around $60 and the Tech Ring for around $275.
If you’re looking for similar functionality that’s a bit more affordable and versatile, this cock ring set from Lovehoney is a great place to start. The thick silicone rings are all different sizes and can be used solo or in various combinations around the penis and testicles to delay ejaculation and strengthen erections.
Promising review: “We love these, it makes sex last longer and heightens stimulation for both of us.” —Tits&Ginge
You can buy the Get Hard Extra Thick Silicone Cock Ring Set from Lovehoney for around $15.
Masturbation sleeves are another option to help with erectile issues, especially premature ejaculation. This one from MyHixel was created to improve ejaculatory control, with a smartphone-compatible program that has videos to help you learn how to use it to your advantage. One note: It’s designed for those who usually last at least three minutes.
Promising review: “Although I was not convinced because of the price, I gave it a chance and I don't regret. It worked... easy to follow, simple but effective.” —Steven
You can buy the TR Sleeve from Amazon for around $229.
Penis pumps help to manually bring blood flow into the penis, which can be a huge help for those dealing with erectile unpredictability. Using a cock ring in conjunction with a penis pump is even better, Marcontonio said, because it will help the blood stay put during sex.
The HydroMax7 uses water as opposed to air, which the company says helps provide consistent pressure and results.
Promising review: “I bought this Bathmate, not knowing what to expect but hoping for something good. I'll tell you right now. It did not disappoint. The water actually allows you to get to a higher pressure without feeling that pain threshold that is so common to air pressure penis pumps. This is definitely worth the investment. The sensations are stimulating and I have seen an increase in girth for sure. Consistency is key.” —Xavier
You can buy the Bathmate HydroMax7 Penis Pump from Lovehoney for around $160.