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Ask Bish – I Can’t Get Hard

Sometimes it can be hard to get hard. Usually this is because we are putting a lot of pressure on penises. Poor penises.

I’m a 16 year old male and I’ve tried to have sex a couple of times but I just can’t get fully erect. I feel very comfortable with my girlfriend who I find incredibly attractive, I’m not stressed or taking any medication, and I wasn’t worried about pregnancy risks (my girlfriend takes microgynon 30). I was wondering whether you could give some advice. I’ve improved my diet and got more exercise lately, but to no avail – I can only get semi-erect. What else can I do for greater libido/testosterone? Thanks so much for helping.


That’s a really good question so thank you for asking.

Questions for you

Do you ever get fully erect? Do you sometimes wake up in the morning with a hard on? Can you get hard when/if you masturbate? If you generally find it hard to stay hard then it might be a good idea to see a doctor. There are some medical conditions which can interfere with hard ons: they wouldn’t just affect you when you were wanting to have sex with someone but all the time.

However if you do get hard at other times it’s probably not a medical thing and is more likely to be to do with what ‘society’ says is ‘normal’ and how your head (and penis) respond. Let me explain ….

What does sex mean?

There are very strict rules about what counts as ‘sex’: lots of people think that the only ‘normal’ sex is penis in vagina sex (or another kind of entry sex if you don’t have a penis or vagina). As well as this there are also strict rules about how men (with penises) are supposed to have sex: you have to get hard, put it inside someone and ejaculate at the right time (not too quickly but not too slowly either).

As well as all of that you have the worries and anxieties that people usually have when they are new to entry sex (how is it going to feel? will it hurt the other person? are they aroused enough? have I put this condom on properly? will I get an STI? will I enjoy it? will they enjoy it? are their parents coming back soon?)

That’s a lot of stress for your penis (and brain) and the biggest factor that makes getting hard hard is … stress. So the key to getting hard is to try and take as much pressure off your penis as possible. Here’s how.

Do you actually want sex?

Have you thought about whether you are ready to have sex yet? It could be that your penis is trying to tell you something. Are you wanting to do it for you or for your girlfriend? Because she’s on contraception? Are you doing it because you think you should? Because you think everyone else has done it? Because you’re 16? Because you’re doing the ‘big man thing’? Spend a bit of time thinking about whether you are ready for sex yet. I suggest reading Should I Have Sex? (not me, you).

Breaking News: Penis in Vagina sex isn’t for everyone

There are loads of ways of being sexual with someone that doesn’t involve penis in vagina sex. Many couples find that other kinds of sex is actually much more exciting and pleasurable. You might think I’m bullshitting you but I’m really not, remember I’ve given advice to thousands of guys. A lot of guys (with penises) find that penis in vagina sex doesn’t give them the sensation they need or like. Often guys are hard to begin with but then find they lose their erection because they’d prefer to masturbate or have oral sex or to rub bodies together.

Also most women (with vulvas) can’t have orgasms from just penis in vagina sex. The clitoris is the key to enjoyable sex for female bodies but it’s not easy to stimulate it with the penis inside the vagina because the most visible bit is on the outside. Women are more able to have enjoyable sex (and maybe orgasms) from different kinds of sex.

So think about having different kinds of sex. It might be much more of a turn on for you both to have non entry sex. Then if you start having really enjoyable non entry sex then entry sex will seem like less of a big deal.

Once You’ve Tried All of That

If you’ve tried having a think of all the pressure your penis is under and have tried exploring other parts of your body that give you and your girlfriend pleasure then you might be in a better place to try having penis in vagina sex again. Here are a few tips to help with that, but don’t try them without having done all the above first, cos I don’t think these tips will work.

  • Try Using Condoms? Some people worry that condoms reduce the sensitivity a bit so this may not work for you, but it also might. Perhaps your penis is very very sensitive to the new feeling of being at the opening to someone’s vagina? Maybe also a bit of you is worried about STIs? Condoms may give you a little bit more security and may make you a little bit more comfortable. Also some people find that the tightness you feel at the base of the penis with a condom makes them feel like their penis is a bit harder.
  • It’s not football, you can both use your hands. You can masturbate each other to make sure that you are both as aroused as you can be just before you have entry sex. Your girlfriend could masturbate you before guiding your penis into her vagina for instance? It’s important that you are both aroused, that means that it’s important that her vaginal opening is relaxed and moist.
  • Try rubbing your genitals together. Even if your penis isn’t fully erect you can still rub it up against your partner’s vulva. This can be very exciting, particularly if her vagina is wet. Maybe use some additional water based lubricant so your penis slides over her without it hurting either of you
  • Little bit at a time. Slow it down and try just slowly inserting the penis a little bit at a time. You don’t have to put it all the way in straight away (like they seem to do in TV/film/porn sex). Lots of people find that when the penis is inside a little bit that it hardens up a little bit.
  • Enjoy it! Sex isn’t about performing it’s about enjoying. This is all new, so cut yourself some slack. New things are always weird at first but keep practising but more importantly keep enjoying. Don’t beat yourself up if you keep losing your erection because then you keep piling pressure on your penis.

Hope this has helped a bit!

The Hard On – I now have a longer more detailed article about this

© Justin Hancock, 2013

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