3 min

Sexually suppressed

Encouragement for a late bloomer

Dear Dr Ren:

I think I’m straight, but at 34 I’m single and at this time still a virgin.

I get very nervous around new people and I’ve always had extreme difficulty in approaching a woman.

This winter I met my first “girlfriend” online. Although it lasted only two months I really enjoyed it, but it brought up something I hadn’t counted on —I couldn’t get it up.

I could get halfway there and sometimes even more, but it never lasted. I assumed it was nervousness, but it hasn’t gone away.

Now, even watching porn I can’t get hard unless I touch myself. I’m terrified that I’ve “trained” myself to like only my own touch.

Have I missed any chance of really having sexual fun? My one and only ex asked me if I was gay. Could I be?

If I’m attracted to women, shouldn’t I be able to perform with them? I tried Viagra and it works, but I feel that at my age I shouldn’t need that. I want to be able get out of my shell and enjoy a sex life, but my last experience has made me want to crawl right back in.

I often think I should consider an escort just so I can get over the hump (pun intended) but I find myself terrified to do even that, and what if I couldn’t pull that off (yet another pun). What can I do?


Dear Hermit,

you probably feel unique, but it is not the case. There are many lonely souls wondering why social situations seem beyond them.

In fact you have reached out and found a girlfriend through the internet and “really enjoyed it” —not bad for your first time out of the gate.

It sounds like you are very hard on yourself. No pun intended. You tell me you are socially anxious, yet you penned a personals ad that attracted at least one response —not surprising as your humour is evident.

You carried through to meet a woman and successfully dated her for two months, so you must have some relationship skills. You managed to enjoy and maintain your romantic connection and were even sexual to a point. It is not surprising that your first attempts were less than successful given your level of anxiety coupled with your low self-esteem and inexperience.

It was gutsy to write this letter. Clearly, you do not lack motivation or willingness to try new things. You might benefit from books or classes on flirting. How about speed dating?

You have some unrealistic expectations of your body.

After your 20s, your body requires more than sexy thoughts to attain erection. The older you get, the more direct stimulation you will require and the longer will be your refractory period, the time between one ejaculation and the next erection.

Your own touch will always be the most efficient, but efficiency is not always the point, as the anticipation of a lover’s contact is more erotically thrilling than our own familiar touch. So while you can count on your own hand to make you hard, it will not give you the thrill —or the anxiety —that a lover’s touch will.

As to being washed up at 30, you needn’t worry.

New Canadian research found that many are sexually active and reporting great sex well into their later years. In fact they report the sex gets better with age. Yes, you are getting a late start, but you can give up any hope of having a better past. Your future, however, can be anything you make of it.

Your ex asked if you were gay, did she? It’s not daft for her to question a single man in his 30s who has never dated women and is having sexual difficulties with her, but it was surely poor form!

Nevertheless, you answer the question: you are attracted to women. That makes you a straight man —a late-blooming straight man, but a straight man nonetheless.

Your performance anxiety rather than your misdirected orientation likely led to your downfall (pun intended). As you learned, Viagra makes good erections but not good lovers. That will develop with practice and confidence.

Rather than take your last experience as a failure, I encourage you to consider it a success. Build on what worked well for you. Refine your personals ad to reflect better who you are and what you seek. Be proactive about managing your social stress and learning new interpersonal skills.

Hiring an escort may be a good idea if practicing uncomplicated sex with low social risk is what you need, though I suspect when you face the dating world with confidence you will find its reception friendly.

Authenticity, attentiveness and attention to detail create marvellous sexual encounters. None of these is genitally based.

Assume that your date is nervous, too, and eager to please and be pleasured. Approach from a human perspective, which leaves you vulnerable to rejection —and acceptance.

For whatever reason, you have waited a long time to reach out… and inward. Do not waste another minute.