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Q: My male partner seems to have a lot of orgasm anxiety; he gets stressed out and can’t come no matter how I stimulate him. It’s frustrating and embarrassing for him, and it makes me feel insecure and apologize a lot. We’ve tried mutual masturbation, and he can’t get off that way, either. We haven’t had sex, but from what he’s told me, this is totally normal for him. I sense he has a history of sexual trauma that he hasn’t fully addressed, but I don’t know how to bring this up. Is there anything I can do to help? – In a Tizzy

Sexologist Dr. Carol Queen: When you say mutual masturbation, I’m assuming you mean that you and he masturbate together, not masturbate each other, and ordinarily this is the number one thing I’d suggest to get the two of you comfortable together. You may be right that there’s something really difficult underneath this anxiety, but it’s not your job to delve or to try to repair him. So let’s back away from that precipice for now (assuming that’s even what’s going on), and instead, let’s try to get to the point that your erotic time together isn’t anxiety provoking at all.

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Stop apologizing. In fact, stop even thinking in terms of having sex — though I will tell you that if you’ve had your hand on his cock, in my book, you’re having sex already. Don’t focus on intercourse or even orgasm, at least not until he feels more comfortable.

If you are right about your abuse theory, he should see a therapist, but this needs to happen at his own pace if it happens at all. It might be worth having a copy of Staci Haines’ fine book Healing Sex: A Mind-Body Approach to Healing Sexual Trauma lying around your place. That gives him a resource if it’s relevant and useful to him.

Some other things might also affect his ability to come with you in the room. He might have anxiety about sex in general, the kind that comes from growing up in a shame-filled environment. He might have kinky fantasies or unusual masturbatory practices, and he doesn’t feel he can share those with you. He might have a vivid fantasy life linked to masturbation and it feels rude to him to indulge in it with you present. He may be on the asexual spectrum and loves the intimacy, but isn’t truly down with the explicitly sexual.

Some men learn to masturbate via body rubbing, not touching themselves with their hands at all, so when it comes time for penis-grabbing, that just isn’t what they like or know how to relate to. He might also be super-sensitive physically (is he uncircumcised?), and you might be touching him with too much zeal. If you’re not using lubricant, going very slowly, and asking him to tell you if he wants a firmer touch or more speed, give that a try.

For now, luxuriate in the sexy close feelings and try to let it be all about that. Like a feral kitty, this might be what he needs to edge out of his personal hiding place. If that’s not how it is, it leaves you with closeness, sexiness, and sensuality. Could be worse.

Carol Queen's latest book (written with Shar Rednour) is The Sex & Pleasure Book: Good Vibrations Guide to Great Sex for Everyone.

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Top photo: Flickr Creative Commons/Tina Franklin

This article originally appeared in the June/July 2017 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!

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