[A] study has revealed that 36% of young men between the ages of 16 and 24 have experienced sexual performance problems in the last year.
The figures are higher for men between 25 and 34, with nearly 40% of those surveyed admitting to having issues in bedroom.
Sexual dysfunction is often linked to older men and Viagra use in the public consciousness, but it’s not just the over 50s who can have problems with sexual function.
The Sexual Function in Britain study shows that men of all ages are experiencing a range of sexual issues, including lack of interest in sex, lack of enjoyment in sex, feeling no arousal in sex, experiencing physical pain, difficulty getting or maintaining an erection and difficulty climaxing or climaxing too early.
Between 36% and 40% of men under 35 are experiencing one or more of these problems.
An honest conversation around these issues is long overdue.
The lead author of the study, Dr Kirstin Mitchell from the University of Glasgow, believes that sexual problems can have a long term impact on sexual wellbeing in the future, particularly for young people.
‘When it comes to young people’s sexuality, professional concern is usually focused on preventing sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancy. However, we should be considering sexual health much more broadly.’
Due to the sensitive and potentially embarrassing nature of the issue, it’s likely that many young men are not confiding in their partners or friends about it or visiting their GP.
Lewis, 32, has suffered from several of the problems mentioned in the Sexual Function study. He tells Metro.co.uk: ‘It can become a real issue in the bedroom but being completely open with your partner is always the best solution’.
After Lewis discussed what was going on with his girlfriend, they talked about how they could take the pressure off him to perform. Just being able to communicate the problem made it feel ‘less of a big deal’ and in turn made sex easier.
Men are far less likely to visit the GP than their female counterparts, with men only visiting the doctor four times a year compared to women who go to the GP six times annually. This can be potentially devastating for physical and mental health, and it also means that there are likely to be many men suffering in silence from serious sexual dysfunction issues who don’t feel able to reach out for professional help.
Last year, the government announced plans to make sex and relationships education compulsory for all schools in England. If young people are taught about the importance of consent and healthy relationships early on, it’s much easier for them to communicate with their partners without embarrassment and have positive, respectful sexual interactions.
Aoife Drury, a sex and relationships therapist based in London, blames the rise in sexual dysfunction among young men on easy access to porn without high-quality sex ed to offer a more balanced perspective on relationships.
She tells us: ‘Young men who lack sex education may be comparing themselves to porn stars on a physical and performance level (size of penis and how long they seem to last).
‘This can cause anxiety and self-esteem issues and can make intercourse with their sexual partner difficult. Erectile dysfunction may be the result alongside low libido.
‘The younger the age of the male when they begin to regularly watch porn, the greater the chance of it becoming their preference over partnered sex and the likelihood of developing a sexual dysfunction increases.
‘These is still more research needed around sex education, the ease of access to porn, potential for viewing preferences to escalate to more extreme material and the consequences for the younger generation.’
However, not everyone sees a direct correlation between porn viewing and problems in the bedroom. Kris Taylor, a doctoral student at the University of Auckland, writes for VICE: ‘While searching in vain for research that supported the position that pornography causes erectile dysfunction, I found a variety of the most common causes of erectile dysfunction.
‘Pornography is not among them. These included depression, anxiety, nervousness, taking certain medications, smoking, alcohol and illicit drug use, as well as other health factors like diabetes and heart disease.’
According to a 2017 Los Angeles research study, sexual dysfunction may be driving porn use, not the other way around. Out of 335 men surveyed, 28% said they preferred masturbation to intercourse with a partner. The study’s author, Dr Nicole Prause, concluded that excessive pornography viewing was a side effect of a sexual issue already being present as men who were avoiding sex with their significant others due to a problem would watch it when masturbating alone.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with masturbating or watching videos of consenting adults having sex. The issue is choosing this because you’re unable to perform with a partner and feeling too ashamed to talk about it or seek help.
24-year-old Jack from London agrees. He told Metro.co.uk that he’d experienced sexual problems when he was with new partners.
He said: ‘After one month, you think you’re worthless and that she will leave you – this can cause a downward spiral and once you start thinking negatively, you’re even less likely to perform.
‘I talked with my partner about this (she was relieved it wasn’t something she’d done wrong) and opened up to my trusted friends. It felt like I really needed to do both of these to stop a shadow following me around.’
Jack spoke about growing up with male friends who wouldn’t talk about their feelings.
‘It was considered “gay” to do so. This whole culture needs to change.’
It’s absolutely essential that young people are given access to comprehensive sex and relationships education that emphasises the importance of communication and mutual respect. Partners who can effectively communicate with one another are more likely to have pleasurable and rewarding sexual experiences.
If you can’t ask for what you want in bed or speak up when there’s an issue, there’s a risk that sex will be dull, awkward, uncomfortable or worse.
Toxic masculinity also plays a role here, preventing men from opening up to friends or partners, or going to seek professional help. This can keep young men trapped in a cycle of sexual dysfunction and propagate the myth that sex issues are something that only old blokes need to worry about.
It can be a tricky subject to broach with your mates or your partner, but it doesn’t need to be. If you’re struggling in the bedroom, you’re certainly not on your own.
Ben Edwards, a relationship coach, is clear that the stigma around sexual dysfunction needs to change.
‘We need to accept that mental illness, anxiety and sexual difficulties are not weaknesses,’ he tells us. ‘They’re actually very common and should be dealt with. Admitting you need help is a great step and you’ll reap the rewards.
‘Men often feel they shouldn’t show their emotions, but it’s important to put egos aside and fix these issues for our own benefit.’
Basically, stress and shame are huge boner-killers. Ditch them in favour of openness, honesty and mutual pleasure.
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