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Performance Anxiety

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A difficulty that besets the modern male in relationships is the variety of female responses with which his insistent sexuality is greeted. Every male quickly learns that these are more likely to be negative than positive; he also learns that the longer his relationship is established, the less likely it is that he will meet with an enthusiastic response to his overtures. Every male also discovers very early on in his sexual life that females seem to want to do it less often than he does, most of the time, and seem to have little understanding of the intensity and insistence of his feelings.

It is a fact (often not understood and sometimes ridiculed by females) that the male sexual ego is fragile and prone to damage; this is partly because, since his prime objective in life is to inseminate, his penis is the most important part of him. If, within a relationship, it is rejected often enough, he can very quickly feel as if it is him that is being rejected.

This actually is far from being the case and the whole situation arises out of a lack of recognition. For the male, sex is instantaneously valuable, thanks to his continual 'ready' state inherited via millions of years of breeding from the most virile males (who produced by far the highest number of off-spring). Each act can create a new tribal member. For the female, sex is far less instantaneously valuable, since she can only produce one child every 12 months or so and high numbers of couplings may therefore be superfluous.

It is 'no big deal' for a female if sex doesn't happen one time and it is therefore quite easy for her to say 'No' when she simply is not in the mood. But the male interprets this refusal as a rejection, taking it to mean what it would mean if it where him saying 'No' to her… she doesn't want him.

If the 'rejection' happens often enough, one or both of two things will happen, either of which are likely to exacerbate the relationship difficulties. It should be immediately obvious why this should be:

  1. He will become sexually insecure
  2. He will embark on a sexual liaison with a more receptive female

When (1) happens, he will suffer from any one of the typical male sexual dysfunctions as a result of the anxiety that he is now experiencing. Typically, he will suffer this for some time before, if ever, seeking help. He will blame it on stress, age, smoking, work, children, alcohol… almost anything except the truth: he believes he is no longer required by his female. Indeed, he may not even recognise that that is the fear behind the difficulty and will occasionally state that the relationship has transcended sexuality and that it is not the important thing that he once thought it was.

The likely outcome is that sexual activity will occur either only at certain times (Saturdays, the first of the month, birthdays, or some other tacitly agreed, though not spoken about, interval) or when he receives the indication from his sexual partner that she is receptive to the idea. Often, this carries on for a while until he is abruptly unable to overcome his dysfunction, even when his partner is urging him to 'perform' - indeed he will then start to suffer Performance Anxiety and the problem will get worse.

At this point, he might talk to his partner about the problem, he may seek help from a GP or a therapist, he may decide that his sex life is now over - or he might switch to option (2) above. All of these 'solutions' are fraught with their own problems.

Talking to Partner
Although it is often touted as the answer to all relationship problems, for the male, this is actually often the cause of greater difficulty than in any other circumstance. In general, the male is not given to discussing his problems; it is not something his ancestors did - to have done so would have shown a weakness and left them vulnerable - so he has no instincts for it.

Not only that, he will not unusually feel awkward discussing something that he feels the female would rather not talk about. This can escalate into accusative arguments with each half of the couple being defensive, seeking to protect his or her 'corner', rather than finding a way of resolving the issue. When this awkwardness is avoided or transcended, and a constructive conversation ensues, the male will often then do something that is completely characteristic of his gender but which will irritate his partner:

He 'turns on' and wants to do it now.

The problem is that his partner will often be working in a totally different mode and will feel that now is most definitely not the time because that is clearly what he has been leading up to, just to get his own way. Either of these circumstances, of course, will do nothing to alleviate the anxiety or the dysfunction. Rather, they compound it.

It should go without saying that conversation is necessary, but it is a situation that needs certain ground rules. The following (also given as a separate download on the website) provides a good starting point:

Sexual Communication

  1. Ask if your partner is willing to discuss a sexual matter with you. If they say "No," you can go no further and you must find a different way to work.
  2. Ask them to allow you to finish what you want to say.
  3. Be specific. Using euphemisms and metaphors often does not allow a proper understanding or resolution. Use the proper words for parts of your or your partner's body, where possible.
  4. Be sure to say clearly all that you need to say and remember that keeping it brief usually aids clarity.
  5. Don't be shy or coy. This can often make matters worse. Act confident.
  6. Discuss your partner's responses calmly, even if they are manifesting anger or ridicule. Ask, without anger: "Why do you want to [hurt/ridicule] me?" if that is the response you get.
  7. Remember that animosity of any sort only tells you how your partner feels. Listen and calmly discuss but don't necessarily believe that what they are saying is justified.
  8. Don't expect miracles - and if you are male, don't expect sex immediately!

© Copyright Terence Watts 2006