Dear Dr. D…

Dear Dr. Date,
My boyfriend and I have tried on several occasions to have sex. He can’t seem to stay erect. On the other hand, when I give him a hand job he can stay hard until he cums. I don’t know much about his sexual history, he could be a virgin. I haven’t talked to him about this, I don’t want to embarrass him. Is there something I can do? Thanks.
— Hands Full

It sounds like your boyfriend is battling some performance anxiety. It doesn’t necessarily follow that he’s a virgin just because he can’t keep it up during sex. I guess I’m shocked that you don’t know much about his sexual history. Sex in the 90s must include a healthy amount of communication. You should know what you’re getting into before you end up with an STD you can’t get rid of. At the very least you should know whether he’s had sex before and whether any of that sex was unsafe.
A good talk about sex should answer many of your questions. Something about actual intercourse is preoccupying him. It is common for men to have trouble with sex in the beginning stages of a relationship, because the excitement and paranoia is too much. Time may solve this, so take things slower and ease into sex. Try your best to relieve as much pressure on him to perform as you can.
Your boyfriend may also be suffering from a self-esteem issue stemming from his body or his sexual technique. Usually in this situation, the partner of such a person believes that they are the problem. This further complicates matters by adding more pressure on him to validate. Take the confident and patient role and give him lots of encouragement.
There are so many politics tied up in sex that it’s nearly impossible to not talk about what you’re doing together. Perhaps he is a virgin and is unsure about giving up that status. Talking to him about sex should help.
To his credit, he may just prefer manual stimulation above all other forms of sexual play. Why is unclear, so again, you’ll have to talk to him about all of this.
Only he can tell you what is going on inside his head, but he may also have an aversion to the power dynamic inherent in sex. Traditionally the man is supposed to take the lead and control the pace and flow of sex. Perhaps he is not comfortable in the role waiting for him.
A hand job is different than intercourse because all he has to do is sit there and enjoy himself. Actual intercourse requires more participation and hence more room for error. I know you’re smart, so try to construct sexual scenarios that allow his performance not to be an issue as with a hand job. Good luck.