Dear Dude: Love At Half Mast

Dear Dude is an occastional column in which my good friend, The Dude, answers some of your questions about the hairier sex. Dear Dude is an industrial designer by day and a serial flirt by night. He owns entirely too many bikes and a fairly well-behaved dog. He loves good food, good music and smart ladies.

Dear Dude,
I’ve been dating a guy for three months – I really like him and I know he really likes me. He tells me all the time that he thinks I’m hot and sexy but when we’re having ‘The Sexy Times,’ um, the evidence indicates otherwise, ifyouknowwhatimean. Like, we can’t seal the deal at least half the time.  He’s made a variety of excuses (stress, weed, etc) but I feel like it’s got to be at least partially me. Thoughts?

Dear Unsealed Lady,
First, calling it ‘The Sexy Times’ made me think of Borat in that over-the-shoulder speedo, and for that, I deduct 20 points, for the mental assault you just perpetrated on me. But, plus 40 points because now I am thinking about who would be cast in the role as a “female Borat” character – I am thinking it should be former mono-brow wearer Salma Hayek!

But seriously, I can tell you are being sensitive about this issue. For that, I commend you, because this guy is already self conscious about it at this point. Add to that an impatient or mocking girlfriend, and you have a recipe for sexual dysfunction.

I’m left wondering what “we can’t seal the deal” means… is he having trouble maintaining an erection, or is it his failure to orgasm? I’m no doctor, but I have heard that low blood pressure can disrupt the body’s ability to push blood into extremities.  Diet could come into play here, along with stress, drug use, or even depression as libido-stifling factors. Then, at sexy time, nerves and stress, anxiety, personal history, emotional scaring etc. could be considerations. All these factors could be at play, creating a perfect storm of impotence.

There is plenty of medical literature out there to be found regarding erectile dysfunction – a great resource is The Sex is Fun Podcast.

Labeling it as a failure – failure to “seal the deal” – immediately calls into question the whole experience. Did you have a good time? (YES!) Does he say he enjoyed the experience, even if he didn’t orgasm? (YES!) If either answer is no, then there may be a problem, but if all answers are yes and you know that he likes you and finds you attractive, I don’t think you have a problem.

The Dude

Have any of you ladies experienced anything similar?  What advice would you give to our friend?

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  1. Becca

    I just have to comment, here. Not to make a broad generalization that all guys who experience some form of ED necessarily have this as the cause, or that I am passing judgement, but porn-induced sexual dysfunction is a real thing. Basically, our brains aren't equipped to deal with the over-the-top stimulation that porn provides, and so it can actually lead to addiction and create a situation where real-life sexual situations just can't compete with the dopamine overload that porn can offer (go to to find out more).

    My boyfriend and I had been having similar issues, on and off: when the sex was good, it was a lot of fun, but there were definitely times when he couldn't maintain an erection, had trouble orgasming, etc… Only recently did he come across an article about how porn can lead to erectile dysfunction, and he did the scary but brave thing of bringing it up and admitting that he might have a problem.

    The website suggests that 'rebooting' (staying away from porn, masturbation, and sexual fantasies for a period of one to three months) is the only way to retrain the brain away from the extreme stimulation of porn, and back to neurologically normal levels of arousal. My boyfriend has hit the one-month mark, and it hasn't always been easy, but I know that I am supporting him doing something that will ultimately keep him happy and healthy, which makes it worthwhile for me. 🙂

    So I don't know whether this has any relevance on your situation or not, but porn-induced ED was something that I was surprised to find out existed, and that I wish I had known about before. Maybe this will help out other couples having similar issues to have that talk… and perhaps be better off in the long run!

  2. Sarah Von Bargen


    I had no idea – thanks so, so much for sharing!

  3. Little redhead

    I'm not sure either if you mean that he as an ED, or that he can't 'finish'. ED can have a wide variety of causes, stress and drugs definitely being one of them. But if it persists it might have a medical underground, or the reason Becca says, although it might be awkward asking your boyfriend about his porn watching habits. Another reason might be that because it happened once, he's so worried that it will happen again that the anxiety of having the problem again might just cause the problem. My very first boyfriend has that little issue for a short while. It was pure worry. So really, it could be a lot of things. But if he can rule out most of those type of reasons, a doctor might be an option, as it might be a medical problem. If he can't orgasm, well just because he's man doesn't mean he can't have the usually female problem of not being able to finish during 'sexy times'. If he enjoys it and you enjoy it, then that's all the matters really.

  4. Vanessa

    I just have to mention that if it's a "can't orgasm" issue, that is probably more likely to be a different disorder rather than a problem with you (If any number of my guy friends were to chime on this, I'm sure they'd say that the fact he's having sex with you probably indicates he thinks you're hot).

    Male Orgasmic Disorder is a real thing where men do generally feel sexual pleasure but are unable to orgasm. This can be very frustrating (no one likes blue balls, for lack of a better term) and embarrassing, and men tend not to seek out professional help for sexual dysfunction due to the stigmatized nature of those dysfunctions.

    Caveat: the DSM (the big-huge offical book of psychological disorders) DOES mention that a disorder like this isn't necessarily present if drugs are involved (or other disorders account for it). So if it really is the weed, lay off the weed and see what happens.If it isn't and he feels so inclined, a therapist could help.

    I'm mainly putting this long comment here because even if this may not be what's effecting this guy, it's a lesser-known sexual dysfunction that should be recognized.

    And that's me putting my college psychology classes to use.

  5. Laura

    I am assuming you mean he can't get it up, and I definitely don't think it's you turning him off. If he didn't want to have sex with you, he wouldn't keep trying… especially in the face of this issue continually reoccurring, which guys find humiliating. He wouldn't keep putting himself in that situation if he didn't want you.

    But seriously, he should lay off the weed, as that is definitely not helping anything here. Perhaps he needs some sort of medical help.

    I also just wanted to commend you for being so patient and understanding. I have been seeing a new guy for the last 6 weeks or so, and we have tried to have sex twice now, and both times, he couldn't get hard. I know it was really embarassing for him and I know he likes me so I don't think I'm the problem. I've reassured him that it's no big deal, but honestly… it's kind of a big deal to me. I want to have sex with my boyfriend. He can't be my boyfriend if he can't ever have sex with me. I can be patient and try another couple of times and see if it works, but if not, I think I will break things off with him.

  6. Kelsi

    I agree with Becca. My husband's porn addiction ultimately destroyed our marriage. I enjoy sex and am comfortable with my sexual nature, but to him I was the "safe" option because I was his wife, and apparently that didn't provide the rush he was looking for… no matter what I tried. This led to lies, secrecy, and infidelity.

    He went to SA meetings, tried abstinence, had a sponsor… but I don't really think he ever believed he had a problem. He continued to turn me down for sex and never seemed interested in me.

    I did not want to give up on him or us, so we tried marital counseling. During the second session, he looked me in the eye and said he wanted to do whatever it took to save our marriage. The next day, he slept with another woman in our house while I was away. I discovered the evidence very quickly upon my return and kicked him out of the house. Turns out, she gave him chlamydia.

    We had been married in September 2010, and I filed for divorce in March. I'm 26 years old, and I feel happier or more fulfilled on my own now than I ever did when he was around.

  7. Maddie

    Hi Sarah,

    My name is Maddie and I have a blog called spark where I write about my experiences as a first year Teach for America corps member. School starts in 1 week a half – ah! Belinda at BisforBel told me about your blog and said you might be interested in talking with me about my experience. I'd definitely be willing to share if you think that it could be beneficial to yes and yes!


  8. Erin

    When I first started dating my BF, we had a similar problem where it took an immense amount of time and effort on both of our parts to get him where he needed to be and keep him there long enough to finish the task. I'm talking hours sometimes. Sounds fun at first, but it was actually quite exhausting.

    Anyway, the interesting part is that it's gotten much easier the longer we've been together (about 3 years now). We still never really have "quickies", but I'd say we're right in the zone where things are neither longer nor shorter than they need be. We attribute the decrease in difficulty both to his being more relaxed and comfortable these days, and to us just sort of figuring each other out better – we know what works now.

    So give it some time and be patient, and most importantly always sensitive. I made the mistake of asking "what's wrong?" a few too many times before I learned my lesson. He might also want to consider visiting his doctor just to make sure everything is in good working order otherwise.

  9. Joyeaux

    I think it's very important not to dwell on it being YOUR fault- that's an easy way to become depressed. Focus on something positive and really just enjoy your time together. Make it a relaxed environment- don't put any pressure into the situation.

    My boyfriend has ED and he feels really bad about it. It's really difficult because that means we don't have sex as often as we used to when we were first together. Sometimes I think he's lost interest in me (we've been together 5 years) but I know that he really does love me.

    Guys really hate failing at something especially "sexy time".

  10. Anonymous

    The Dude's advice was right on. My husband and I have been struggling with this on and off since we first started dating over 8 years ago. It has gotten better, but stress and depression are the big contributors for him, and his "effectiveness" comes and goes. It wasn't a big deal until we started trying to have a baby 2 years ago. Can't have a baby without having access to his juice on demand. And the stress of that situation doesn't help matters. He's had check-ups and bloodwork, and everything seems to be in working order, except that. It can be frustrating!

  11. Jackie

    My boyfriend and I had this problem for a few months, and we both blamed it on stress and anxiety, which he has always had problems with. But I would recommend your boyfriend sees a doctor, if at all convenient – my boyfriend had a symptomless (except the sexytime problem) prostate infection and had to be on antibiotics for a month! Not to scare anyone, but just keep in mind it might not be psychological.

  12. Amanda

    Had to chime in because I've experienced this and will freely admit that it's very frustrating. Sometimes it really does feel like a failure and there's no way to spin it into a positive.

    With an ex-boyfriend, his inability to ever achieve anything more than a doughy half-erection was, honestly, a deal-breaker. He never mentioned the issue and would act as if things were perfectly normal. Being in my early 20s at the time, I felt uncomfortable raising the topic and resentful that he wouldn't discuss an obvious problem so it definitely contributed to the demise of our relationship.

    A decade later, I'm now married to a wonderful man who had a similar problem when we started dating. At first, I wondered if this was really bad karma on my end or if erectile dysfunction is some kind of an epidemic but, with communication and time, the situation improved greatly. As he became more comfortable and secure with me, the problem minimized. It's not entirely gone but I'd guess that 80% of the time it isn't an issue.

    Sorry for the long-winded comment. Just wanted to make clear that gentle but open communication is vital. And, at the risk of sounding harsh, you've got to ask yourself if you are invested enough in him to continue the relationship even if he never improves. (There's nothing wrong with an answer of "no" either.)

    Good luck!

  13. Daily Deals

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