I am a virgin but I really want to have sex with my girlfriend. I am able to become hard when I watch porn, masturbate or think of my girlfriend in a sexual way, but when she is there in person, it’s like my body won’t work. Please help.

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Having trouble getting or keeping an erection is a common concern among guys and is sometimes referred to as “performance anxiety,” which reinforces the notion that sex is like the movies, which is totally false. In fact, some researchers who study the effects of porn report that both men and women who watch porn often have unrealistic expectations of sex. For example, the men in porn movies are perfectly fit, have large penises and have erections that never fail and last for hours. Even if you know that porn is “fake,” if you watch it regularly, you may begin to think that it’s normal which can make you feel inadequate.

Since you are able to have erections when you masturbate or while watching porn, you know your male parts work. It appears that anxiety, stress and negative thoughts may be responsible for not being able to have an erection when it counts. It may be helpful to take a step back and reconnect with your girlfriend without the expectation of sex. Holding hands, hugging, kissing, touching and talking about what feels good is a great place to start. Practice being in the moment and let things happen, rather than worrying about having sex again. Try to break the cycle of negative thinking. Stop watching porn, keep busy with a new hobby and try to exercise more. Most importantly, you should be able to talk with your partner without feeling judged.