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Ask Bish – I’m ashamed of erections

A question about feeling ashamed of erections, sexual desire and being male (which I’ve split into 3 sections).

Hi I am 16 years old, a boy, and I am confused. First, what do I do if someone, especially a girl or a large group such as an audience in front of a stage, notices an erection I get? I just feel so ashamed because this lady on the tube did notice an erection I had (which I got because of her). I just am confused as to how to respond.

It’s actually okay to worry about this. This happens to lots of people and lots of people have asked my advice about this. I can imagine a lot of people reading this right now are thinking ‘*cringe* I would hate that to happen to me.’ Erections are funny things – when we might want them we might not get them and we might get them we might not want them.

Erections … when we might want them we might not get them and we might get them we might not want them

Sometimes it’s because people are near someone they are attracted to, sometimes because they are thinking of something sexy, sometimes because of the way their clothes are pressed against their bits, sometimes because of the vibrations of a bus or a train, lots of reasons. Sometimes it feels sexy and nice, other times it feels annoying and not sexy (see also trying to pee in the mornings when the penis is hard).

My advice about an unwanted erection is the same as really wanting an erection. Try to accept that erections come and go – it happens. Try to just breathe, focus on what’s happening in the rest of your body too and allow it just to go away by itself. The more you focus on it the more it will be a problem and the longer it will hang around.

It’s probably something that you are going to be much more aware of than other people, but whilst it’s happening you might just want to hide it. Maybe cross your legs, put your hands in your pockets, cover it with a bag or a jumper. People say to me that what helps them is to wear jeans rather than trackie bottoms. If it happens a lot some people try wearing two pairs of pants: maybe pants and boxers maybe? Or wear lycra boxers or trunks that might hold you in a bit.

You might also be interested to know that this doesn’t just happen to men or even people with penises. It happens to women and people with vulvas too. Because the penis and the clitoris work in a very similar way, clitiorises can get hard in the same way that penises do – like penises sometimes this is wanted and feels nice, other times it can be annoying and embarrassing. So this kind of thing can happen to any body.

Another thing is that I feel ashamed at my sexual desires. I feel ashamed that I get these feelings when I see certain women and that my private parts respond-it for some reason makes me feel weak despite me knowing its natural and as a religious believer something that God has created and is natural.

It’s okay to feel ashamed. Although you might think sex and bodies are natural we are taught a lot of things which might make us feel different. We are taught a lot about sex, desire and attraction whether we realise it or not. It happens from a very early age and comes from the people around us and the places we go to (school, places of worship, etc). This is then copied and played back to us from media, TV, politics, religions and cultures. Some of it makes us feel valued about our sexual feelings, some of it makes us feel less valued. Some of it makes us feel ashamed about ourselves.

We are taught a lot about sex, desire and attraction whether we realise it or not. Some of it makes us feel valued about our sexual feelings, some of it makes us feel less valued.

Maybe what you’re doing is playing some of this stuff about how ashamed you should be back to yourself too. What if you could play something different? Instead of ‘I feel ashamed that I get these feelings’ how about ‘I find these sexual desires difficult to deal with at the moment, but that’s okay, I’m still learning about this stuff.’

It sounds to me like there’s a difference between what your body is doing and what you want to do with your body – try not to think of it as a conflict between your brain and your genitals. Instead just try to do a bit of thinking about how you can gently accept what your body does and try to be at one with it without necessarily doing anything with it. There’s more about this here.

You sound like quite a thoughtful kinda philsophical kinda person. Maybe when you aren’t feeling really ashamed about yourself and you have a bit of time and space you could think about what it is you’ve been taught about sex and what you think is valuable about what you have learnt and what you might like to learn. You might want to try this activity that I wrote to help parents.

And also why is it men get stronger sexual urges, are the ones who mostly commit sexual crimes like rape and child abuse, visit prostitutes, and generally are less sensible when it comes to controlling their sexual desires? Thinking about this makes me feel ashamed at being born a male and I get depressed and cry, however ridiculous it may sound to you. Please help, Bish. Thank you

It’s okay to get depressed and to cry and it doesn’t sound ridiculous at all to me. This stuff can be really difficult.

There’s a *lot* in this paragraph so I’m not going to go into it in great depth. You’re kind of putting lots of things together here. I don’t agree that men get stronger sexual urges, many men don’t get strong sexual urges, if at all, and many women have very strong urges (as do other genders). I do agree that they are the ones who mostly commit sexual crimes (though visiting a prostitute (sex worker) is very different to committing a sex crime). I’m not sure I can give you a brilliant answer as to why that is.

Maybe think about this. What names do we hear used to describe men who have sex? What names do we hear used to describe women who have sex? What does this tell you about what society says about men and women’s sexuality? Who is expected to be interested in sex? Who is expected not to be interested in sex? What effect might this have on men? What effect might this have on women? (More on this here)

Speaking of being a man: think about some of the ‘rules’ about how to be a man. Being tough, being sexual, being competitive, being a leader, taking charge, not showing weakness. Do you *have* to be any of those things in order to be a man? Can you do some of them and not others? Are there ways to be a man that are valuable and more positive to you. Are there men you can think of that you admire? Do you even have to be ‘a man?’ Check this article about Big Ups from me – maybe you can focus on your character and values rather than your gender?

Last bit of advice (phew this is a long one). As you can see, I’ve answered your question in three bits. I’ve broken everything down into separate parts to try to help you see some solutions. Perhaps you’ve been putting one thing on top of another and making this all much more difficult to deal with? Sometimes when we have a difficult feeling we can get another difficult feeling about that, then another about that and then another about that until we are just overwhelmed with difficult feelings that we are fighting. So perhaps if you could give yourself a bit of a break, stop fighting your feelings and start by just learning to hide your hard ons you might feel better?

Big up


© Justin Hancock, 2015


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