Male Performance Enhancers – Yes, Lots of Guys Use Them, But Why?

A close friend of mine and I were taking a walk when he started sharing a story about a new woman he started seeing. In the middle of the story he casually mentioned that, “I popped a pill before we went to bed.” I think he just assumed I would know what “a pill” was because of my job as a sex therapist, but I had to ask, “What pill? Like Viagra?.” “Yeah, Viagra.”

I was a little shocked for a few reasons: we are pretty close and he had never mentioned having trouble getting hard. Seeing as though I specialize in male sexual dysfunction, I thought this conversation may have come up if he needed help or had questions. Also, he and I have a sexual history together and he didn’t have any issues getting hard then, so why he needed performance enhancing drugs was off my radar.

He went on to say why he decided to take Viagra. He said that with new people he can get pretty nervous. He felt there was so much pressure to make the first time a really good time for her. The fear of not being able to last long enough and stay hard enough was just too much pressure for a new relationship. He said he also had a few drinks at dinner, and sometimes that can affect how hard he can stay. So instead of worrying about it, he just took a pill at dinner and had no worries for the next few hours. He reported that they had really great sex, for so long that he was actually a little sore all over his body from the physical activity.

I was reminded of a 30 year old client I was working with who struggled to stay hard during sex with partners and had started using Viagra in all of his sexual experiences. Originally, he wanted to find a natural way to last a long time sexually. We worked together for about six months and he finally realized that what he really wanted was to outperform other men. In his mind he imagined the level at which other men performed in bed, and wanted to last the longest and stay the hardest. It was more important for him to create the image that he was more than mere mortal, than to just be who he was without the pill. He was attached to the unrealistic way the pill made his cock stay hard.

What most people don’t understand is that it is completely normal for men to go up and down the arousal curve during sex. You may get really hard and then go softer for a while, and even so soft that maybe you are unable to have penetration sex any longer. That is normal. When that happens, take a deep breath and see if there is something that you want. Do you want to get a blow job? Then ask for one. Do you want change positions? Do you just need a break? If you are lasting longer than 10 minutes, I’d say it is normal and not a problem if you start to lose your hardness.

One of the major issues that I see getting created in this situation is a false sense of how men’s body’s function. If women are encountering men on Viagra without evening knowing it (neither of these men told their partners they took something) then when that same woman is with a man who is not on performance enhancers, she may think something is wrong with him. Or she may think she is not turning him on. The number one thing women think when you go soft is that you are not into her. It reminds me of Olympic athletes who now rely on blood doping, aerodynamic gear, or other measures just to keep up with their peers – it creates a dangerous cycle.

Is it wrong to use sexual performance enhancers? If it makes you feel more confident and secure then I support you doing what you need to do. Is it a problem when you are not using them any longer and your partner wonders what the hell happened? Yeah, that can be a tough one to explain. Is it OK that your cock doesn’t stay rock hard for 45 minutes? Yes, of course it is!

Nikita thinks a major reason men have become so concerned with other men’s sexual performances is because of porn. In most porn videos the male actors have large penises. A certain negative effect of watching lots of porn is a growing feeling of penis envy, of not measuring up, so to speak. That self-consciousness in a realm so important for male identity is surely a source of disguised discontent and the take-away message  is likely to be ego-deflating because of the assumption that what you see is what is the norm, the only acceptable way to perform, the appropriate way to relate to a sexual partner; worst of all, you see that size not only matters but it dominates everything.

Through watching porn men also feel pressured to fulfill what they believe are female fantasies, mainly having a giant hard cock that lasts for hours. A lot of guys think there is something wrong with them if they have a normal-sized penis or think they have premature ejaculation if they orgasm after 10 minutes. It’s like putting a treadmill on the highest speed on the highest incline – pretty much no one is going to be able to do that for any extended period of time. Nevertheless, a lot of guys develop sexual performance anxiety when preparing to have sex with a real in-the-flesh woman because of this set of false expectations that are built up as normative over successive viewing of similar scenarios. New research supports this notion, for example, a 2015 study at Ohio State University found that porn use was positively linked to male body dissatisfaction and decreased confidence about personal appearance as well as relationship anxiety and avoidance.[1] Other studies have had similar findings: the more content a man is with his body, particularly penis size, the less sexual anxiety he has.[2]

Just as female models and actresses in the media have plastic surgery and are photoshopped to look superhuman, porn presents unrealistic representations of men. Porn actors are selected for their size and stamina, and then likely take medications to enhance their arousal. But what you don’t see are breaks in the action to change camera angles during which they may get “fluffed” by an assistant, take meds, or get secondary assistance from vacuum pumps or penile injections. So, too, their seeming ability to perform non-stop for long periods of time may also include off-screen timeouts.

In real life, most women feel sexy and sexual when their partner gets a hard-on. We’re not denying it plays an important part of great sex. But women don’t keep score the same way men do. Focusing only on how you measure up to imaginary others takes away from the other aspects of great sex, like connecting with your partner, enjoying sex, being in your body so you can feel your own pleasure, etc.

We hope this helps shed some light on this *rising* trend.

– Keeley & Nikita

Featured image via WeHeartIt

[1] Tylka, T. (2015). “No Harm in Looking, Right? Men’s Pornography Consumption, Body Image, and Well-Being.” Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 16(1), 97-107.

[2] Wilcox S., Redmond, S., & Davis, T. (2015). Genital Image, Sexual Anxiety, and Erectile Dysfunction Among Young Male Military Personnel. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 12, 1389-1397.

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