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“Stay hard, dammit!!” : Performance Pressure for men with penises.

performance anxiety for men

(The author wishes to clarify that the article talks specifically about men with penises, not to be trans exclusionary, but since he identifies as cis male. He does not wish to appropriate experiences of men who do not have penises. ‘Men with penises’ includes cis, trans and intersex men of all sexualities whose sex life involves penetrative intercourse.)

She was way older than me and had slept with so many amazing men. We had been sexting for the past few months. I was finally in her city. In her room. Her face was inches from mine. Minutes later, clothes were off, bodies writhing in the midsummer heat, her naked body stretched before me. I did not want to disappoint. I knew the drill, and I was gonna follow it to the dot. Simultaneously, my mind was filling up with questions –

Clothes off. Check. ‘Does she like my body? Should I have trimmed my chest hair? Have I put on weight?’

Kiss her lips. Check. ‘Are my lips dry? Does she prefer more tongue or less tongue? Should I bite on her lips? Have I been kissing long enough? Have I been kissing for too long?’

Kiss her neck. Hand in her hair. Check. ‘Do I tug her hair? Should I leave a hickey? Do I make it wetter, or maybe she doesn’t like it that wet?’

‘Ok. Maybe I should go with the flow. Do what feels right, see how she reacts, and manoeuvre accordingly. Time to tap into those instincts, G.’

But leaning into my instincts wasn’t that helpful either. Now not only had I to be more conscious about how she was reacting, but I also had more mental space to ponder larger philosophical questions. ‘Am I being unique or just another sex partner? Should I try and do something new that none of her former lovers would have done? What moves have I got? How many guys might she have been with? Wouldn’t they have been more experienced than me? What if they had bigger cocks? What might be that one thing/position that pushes her over the edge? Should I dirty talk? What sort of role would I take? Would it end up being too dirty? What if it turns her off?’

Next thing I know I’m not hard anymore. Shit.

A few minutes, and a lot of conscious trying to stay hard later, we were done. I was feeling nothing less than utterly miserable. And spent. ‘Had I done well? Did she enjoy it? Who am I kidding, I must have cum too early.’ My lover cuddled up into me and slept like a baby. I stayed up, these thoughts swirling in my head.

Performance Anxiety for men

Often sex is romanticised as an instinctual, primal act. And yes, sometimes it is. However, that isn’t the case most of the time. But that isn’t bad – it is just how it is. A lot of the time sex is a conscious performance. And this is often felt more by the partner(s) taking a ‘directional role’. A directional role could be anything, from a dom role in BDSM to the partner who feels like they are in charge, even in regular ‘vanilla’ sex. In other words, the one(s) who is fucking as opposed to the one(s) being fucked.

However, sex feeling like or being a performance is not bad or abnormal.  In fact, it comes from a need to be receptive and responsive to our partner(s)’s needs and desires, which is honestly great. The problem begins when we feel responsible for it.

Feeling responsible for our partner(s)’s sexual satisfaction is often the biggest cause of performance pressure. Whether it is the first time we are sleeping with someone or a frequent sexual partner who we believe might lose interest in us for our ‘poor performance’ in bed, the situation may vary. The cause remains more or less the same. That said, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t care for our partner(s)’s sexual satisfaction. It just means that we shouldn’t have to feel like a failure for not being able to satisfy them, should that happen. You don’t have to beat yourself up about it.

While it is easy to say these things, accepting it and overcoming performance pressure, is an uphill task. This is because of the many myths that porn, society, pop culture and peers have made us unquestioningly believe. Getting over performance pressure and anxiety begins with unlearning certain deeply held misunderstandings and myths.

The next article (link) will try to smash these myths that we associate with sex. Is size important? What if I’m not as good as their ex? Read on.

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