Q. My boyfriend is only 17 and cannot get an erection. I thought only older men had this problem. What could possibly be causing this? I fear that I am not attractive to him, or perhaps he is cheating on me. Am I the cause of the impotence? Is there anything I can do? I try to talk to him about it, but he just gets quiet or frustrated.
A. You must be patient. At 17, there are few medical reasons for erectile dysfunction. In fact, I don’t think I have ever treated or seen a healthy 17-year-old with this problem. However, it is possible to have a problem with the penis if he has ever had injury or surgery to the penis. Also, there can be hormonal reasons for erection problems, such as testicular failure. Still, if a boy goes through puberty with normal pubic hair and body growth, and if he has sexual desires, then there is little to no chance that he has a hormonal imbalance.
It is possible that he might be suffering from psychological issues. As pleasurable as sex can be, for many people the first time (or the first time with a new partner) can be very stressful — stressful enough to cause a person to distance himself or avoid situations that might lead to intimacy, out of fear that he might not be able to perform to another’s expectations. This is called performance anxiety. Another common condition is called fear of failure, in which the person is so scared he won’t get an erection that, in fact, he doesn’t.
I can assure that you almost certainly are quite attractive to him and that he is not cheating on you. I know it is frustrating, but you might try to avoid putting any further pressure on him, and let him know that it is OK to not have sex. Many men perform well when they feel there is no pressure to perform at all. If he has any doubts, then he might want to see a counselor or his doctor.