Erectile dysfunction in your 20s: 'I couldn't orgasm for almost a year'

Erectile dysfunction in your 20s: 'I couldn't orgasm for almost a year'

5 months ago

“Guys think it's sexual suicide to admit things have gone wrong”

Erection problems are the topic of our first episode of Safe Space, where two guys sit down in a pub to discuss a taboo subject. Watch Chris and Angus's episode here.

“I didn’t orgasm at all for almost a year. I was worried my tubes were frozen solid.”

This is Chris, who couldn’t get hard after he discovered his boyfriend had been cheating on him, which caused the 25-year-old to lose confidence in himself - and his erections. Before being cheated on, like most men his age, Chris had been “pitching a tent” every morning when he woke up, and had multiple erections throughout the day. 

A 2013 study suggests that Chris isn’t alone - 26% of men under 40 experience issues with getting it up - but barely anyone is talking about it. JOE asked our audience and 58% of voters said they'd felt shame when they couldn't get hard, and 71% said they would worry how a partner would react.

Men go floppy for so many reasons. For Chris it was a mental block, for others like Angus who we speak to below, it was triggered by caning it too hard on the cycling track. The stigma around erectile issues meant both men put off seeking help or talking to their mates about it.

“Young men with no underlying medical conditions will most likely have psychological erectile dysfunction,” says Professor Neves, who specialises in psychosexual psychotherapy and advises men on erection issues.

Professor Neves confirms that struggling to get it up “can provoke devastating shame in some men,” making it hard for them to speak out. “The more we normalise those conversations, the better,” he adds.

JOE sat down with Chris and Angus to inspire others suffering in silence to open up.

 “One guy I tried to have sex with got aggressive

Chris De Sousa, 25, 

Chris couldn't understand why his body was letting him down (credit: Gareth Shoulder)

“I used to wake up and ‘pitch a tent.’ Erections were constant. Then my problems started - there was a period from March 2020 to December 2020 when I didn’t orgasm. That’s almost a year. I started to think, would I ever come again? Had my tubes frozen solid?

The most comedy situation I’ve ever found myself in was going to my doctor. He kept calling me daddy the entire time. I know it’s because he’s a family doctor and calls all the men “daddies” and the women “mummies”. But still - it was strange to have a guy feeling your groin and being like, ‘daddy.’ Usually,  it would have turned me on - but in this case, obviously, it didn’t.”

“As a gay man, without your penis there’s not a lot you can do. One guy I tried to have sex with got aggressive. He was saying, ‘I’m so hot, why can’t you get an erection, what’s wrong with you?’ He forced me against a wall. I broke down in my car afterwards. 

“For two months after that I abstained. Then my friends dragged me to a pool party in November 2020. It was there, I met my current partner. 

“After chipping away at it with him, it slowly started working again. He asked which other parts of my body felt good when he touched me. His patience really helped. By the start of last year, I was pretty much back to what I was before. There was an air of confidence again. I did it.”

“Guys think it's sexual suicide to admit things have gone wrong”

Angus Barge, 31 

Angus Barge was "terrified" when he first experienced issues getting it up (Photo: Gareth Shoulder)

The first time I couldn’t get it up was with a girl I’d known for ages. I put it down to booze as I knew friends had issues when they were drunk. But a few weeks later it happened again with someone from uni. I put it down to being out drinking. But when it happened in the morning, sober, I was broken.

“Getting it up had never been a problem, even if I was hammered, so when it happened out of the blue, aged 27, it was a heart-drop moment. I didn’t know any of the stats like 50% of guys in their 30s from a sample size of 2,000 men struggle with sexual issues. It was like being hit by a train.

“I kept trying to have sex. Every time it was happening it was getting worse, to the point where I was terrified. Masturbation was possible but nothing else.

“In hindsight it’s quite obvious why it happened. I’d been cycling and had crushed blood vessels in my perineum, but back then I didn’t know that. 

“I tried viagra but by that time my problem was no longer just physical. Viagra worked but left me feeling hollow. I’d get hard then lose it because I was worrying so much about it. 

“A conversation with my cousin, Xander, changed everything. I’d done a lot of work on my erection problems and was feeling back to normal. I used masturbatory exercises or breathing exercises, CBT stuff to cure my ‘inner critic.’ 

“Now, I think erectile dysfunction was the best thing that ever happened to me. I started Mojo, an online community for men who can’t get it up. One of the first questions girls ask on dates is, ‘What do you do for a job?’ I tell them I run Mojo and they say, ‘Why do you do that?!’ 

“Guys often think it’s sexual suicide if you tell potential partners something’s gone wrong with sex, but by talking it can help them share any anxieties they have, and frankly everyone has anxieties about sex.”

If you’ve got erection problems, don’t stress out - here are some tips to fix it

Chris and Angus ask each other questions in Safe Space (Photo: Gareth Shoulder)

Firstly, forget the blue pills and any pills starting with the letter V, with ‘iagr’ in the middle and ending in ‘A.’  The good news is ‘pilly willy’ is actually able to be overcome in many cases with the right physical and mental exercises.

“Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed to get help,” says sex therapist Lorraine Grover, who confirms anxiety often makes the condition worse. Doctors can explain daily physical and mental exercises to help you get out of your head when it comes to overthinking about your erections.

Drinking too much booze is a major cause of erectile dysfunction, and taking party drugs can cause it too, says Lorraine, who tells us bingeing on chocolate won’t help either, as diabetes is another cause. Stress, tiredness and anxiety are other causes of erection problems listed on the NHS website.

The best advice is just to start the chat with the docs as soon as you can. Honestly, they’ve seen it all before. It’s a “common problem,” says Lorraine. “Talking and understanding why it’s happening can help relieve the anxiety that often makes things worse,” she says. 

Even if you’re deep in the thick of erection problems, you still deserve pleasure - and you can get it as not all pleasure derives from your dick.

“The skin is a massive erogenous zone to explore,” reminds Lorraine. “In sex we use our senses of sight, smell, taste and touch. Taking time to kiss, caress and allow your body to sexually respond is important, don’t rush thinking it’s all about getting an erection.”

Follow JOE on YouTube for more episodes of Safe Space in the future

Mojo is an online subscription service for men with psychological erection problems. Men can try out clinically-proven physical and mental practices from home