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Hello all you freakazoids d’amour, and welcome to Ask Dr. NerdLove, the only dating advice column that’s been lootbox-free since 2013.

This week we’re getting deep in the drama. One couple is trying to learn how to play well with others, but whether they’re putting on a show or a private performance, one of the main stars refuses to rise to the occasion. Another reader is stuck in a foreign country and trying to maintain his marriage… but he and his new study partner can no longer deny the feelings developing between them.

Time to gird your loins and insert coins. Let’s do this.

Hey Doc:

I’m a 35 year old man and have been married for 11 years now. My marriage is fantastic. My wife and I agree on all the important things like what we want out of life, travel, finances, family planning. In fact, our relationship is so strong that we decided to attempt visiting a sex club with the intent of watching and maybe some exhibition, something my wife has always been turned on by.

After building up the courage, we had sex in one of the semi-private rooms, meaning we were pretty much on display for everyone to see. We were both extremely turned on mentally, the problem was, I couldn’t get an erection.

This is something that had never happened to me before so I blew it off and used other means to please my wife and put on a good show. We attracted the attention of another like-minded couple and after dinner and drinks we took it back to their place. Again, I was unable to get an erection no matter how much physical stimulation I received. I again resorted to other means, but I’m starting to get concerned.

My wife and I want to continue exploring “the lifestyle” but the more this happens, the more I get anxious about it, and I imagine the more problematic it becomes. I’m otherwise very healthy and have no issues with ED when my wife and I are together privately. It’s not a jealousy thing, I’m completely open to partner swapping.

I’m more than willing to try pills as I don’t exhibit any of the risk factors for complications, but I’m not sure a doctor will prescribe pills to a young man who only has issues specifically in public sex situations. My wife and I are taking a trip to the Netherlands soon and we want to hire an escort while there, but I’m worried that I won’t be able to perform in this likely once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and by worrying I think I might create a self-fulfilled prophecy. What’s my best path forward?

Thanks for your column, I read every week.

Sincerely,

Publicly Limp

Your story reminds me of the difference between “concern” and “panic”. Concern is the first time you can’t get it up for the second time. Panic is the second time you can’t get it up for the first time. And it sounds to me like you’re hitting panic mode, PL.

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Now, normally I’d tell you to remember that just because your dick’s deflated and took your hopes with it, that doesn’t mean that sex is off the table. Your fingers never go limp. Neither does your tongue. And frankly, most of your partners really wish you’d focus on those more than your penis.

But you already knew that. You’re already implementing best practices for an turbulent tumescence. The problem is that it keeps happening.

Funny thing about dicks, PL: they’re Tinkerbell. They’re prima donnas. If you don’t believe, then it’s not gonna work. The Luciano Pavarotti in your pants has a tendency to only want to perform when things are absolutely perfect. Does he have a slight sniffle? Nothing’s going to happen. Was the water in the green room a degree over-chilled? No dice. Is the moon in the wrong house and Mercury is in retrograde? Your JT’s stressed on the QT and so the VIP’s gone MIA and left you SOL.

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Now, since this has only happened twice before, we can safely assume it’s not a chronic physical issue like low blood pressure, smoking, antidepressants, etc. You are, after all, managing to perform to satisfaction with your wife. So if we want to get to ease this particular badger, then we need to get down to what’s different in those occasions where things failed.

One possibility is alcohol. Depending on how much liquid courage you felt the need for while you were at the sex party or with your swinger friends, you may have given yourself a bad case of whiskey dick. Dialing back on the booze, even as you feel the need to relax your nerves, will help.

But there’s a more obvious cause here: the common denominator in both your bouts of malfunctional member. It’s like Sartre said: limp dick is other people.

I suspect that having other people in the room is your boner-killer because, well… you’ve got stage fright. It’s one thing when you’re with your wife. You’ve been together for 11 years. The only sexual mishaps that you two haven’t gone through together likely involves something akin to outtakes from The Story of O. But when other people are around… now you’re not just fucking, you’re performing. You’re being judged. What are people going to think about you, your dick, the way you’re banging your wife?

Something tells me that you’re expecting to have to give a J-Mac level performance with less than MyFreeCams-levels of experience. That sort of self-imposed pressure is, in all likelihood, going to make things shrivel like a stack of dimes. So what do you do about this?

Well, Viagra and Cialis are one option. Not necessarily because you need them but because the confidence of having them might work like Dumbo’s magic feather. Any sort of pill, including the dodgy next-to-the-cash-register ones at your local porn store, will probably do the trick if you let yourself buy into the placebo effect. And let’s be real: you can probably get your hands on free samples easily. There are doctors out there who’ll throw boner pills at you before you get to the second syllable of “erectile.”

Another option is to take away the audience. Not literally… but a case of “out of sight, out of mind” might do wonders for you. Playing around with a blindfold, either as part of your exhibitionistic streak at a sex club or with a couple, may be what the not-a-real-doctor ordered. If you can’t see the people, you are less likely to imagine them watching with skeptical eyes and are better able to focus on the sensations. Is that your wife? Or did she invite someone else to join in? Who knows, better concentrate real hard and see if you can tell the difference.

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Another possibility would be to take baby steps into exhibition and swinging. Have that other couple watch from across the room or behind curtains. Make sex tapes and trade them with potential partners — hell, put ‘em up on Make Love, Not Porn, or submit them to HUMP. Getting positive feedback without having to actually have someone there may give you the confidence boost to get things going in the flesh.

And, as always, taking the emphasis off your penis can do wonders. Make the first time or two with a new couple about everything but penetration. Roll around, go down on one another, masturbate… just take it like horny teenagers at first. Ease in with the new folks and you might feel less on the spot.

And hell, at some sex clubs, PIV is practically mundane. The fact that you aren’t getting hard isn’t going to make anyone think twice if they’re adjusting their glasses and saying “My word, Gladys, I don’t think I’ve seen it go up to the elbow before.”

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The more you can train yourself to be unconcerned with the imagined judgement of the crowds, the less you’re going to have an issue with things going limp when you don’t want them to. Good luck.

Dear Doctor NerdLove,

I’m currently traveling and am studying in an institution abroad that is helping finance my studies. My wife was originally studying with me but she only wanted to stay for one month and then get back to her life. Our original plan was for me to stay here another 2 months and then get back to her. I had made this objective clear to one of the coordinators of the program but only recently discovered via a conversation with the money person that if I leave the program after 2 months they will charge me for the entire program, backwards and forwards. So I had to agree to stay for another 2 months or be charged about $6,000USD.

This news was not something my wife nor I were happy about but we’ve tried to make the best of it. We both decided it was best to stay and I’ve been trying to learn as much as possible.

But now things have gotten even more complicated. The way this institution works is that the first few weeks of the program all the students try out different “learning partners” until you find someone who’s a good match for you. I’ve got a great male morning match and a great female afternoon match.

After a few weeks of studying with her (and going on field trips with her) I started worrying that I might be developing feelings for her. I’m married to an amazing woman and my study partner is dating someone back in her home country. Needless to say I’ve not tried to initiate anything with her, and when I started worrying about whether I was catching feelings I cut off all physical contact with her (no hugs, no sitting next to her, etc) to make sure nothing would happen accidentally. Thankfully all of this was hypothetical and I was very aware that I was being hyper-vigilant for the sake of my amazing marriage.

Fast forward a few weeks and it’s the last night of class before a two week break. And late that night my study partner confides in me on Facebook Messenger that another guy from the program had tried to kiss her before the end of classes that day and she rejected them. I apologized on all mankind’s behalf since this guy knew she was taken and still went for it. I then said the following:

“Attempting to kiss someone who is taken is a bit far in my book. I usually go the route of minimizing any touch between us”

I didn’t really think about how transparent that comment was. And in my mind I was referencing how I acted much further in the past. But her response was that she had noticed I had been doing that, and that she has feelings for me too.

Fuck.

So then we started discussing the feelings, and while nothing overtly bad happened the fact that we discussed the feelings is already a problem. I immediately told her that I would be telling my wife about what happened.

This seemed to freak the girl out because she had no intention of telling her boyfriend. She is now back in her home country for the 2 week break while I am trying to figure out how to smoothen out this situation.

I’ve kept my wife very involved about this and she is very supportive of what’s happening, and seems to be drawing the line at “as long as nothing physical happens.” Other than telling my wife about the situation, I’ve been asking a discrete staff member of the program, and some friends in my sphere to help keep me accountable. But I’m really concerned because I’m actually trapped into further involvement with this girl. How so? Well, here is how I would love to handle this situation:

1. Leave the program and go back home to my wife

Unfortunately, I can’t do any of these. If I leave I’m charged over $5,000 US. So that’s a no go.

2. Stop being study partners with girl.

All the other students are partnered up already, if we “break up” that means other study partners have to be broken up for us and reassigned. We would have to explicitly tell the staff why the married guy and taken girl need to be broken up, and rumors would start amongst the students.

3. Stop any outside hanging out with her.

Outside of class we are very much trying to work on the same goals within certain communities that we are impassioned about. I’ve introduced her to people in my sphere and there is a lot of good potential interplay for her with them and I don’t want to ruin that.

So once break is over, she and I will go back to having lots of individual time together, 5 days a week, between 3 to 7 hours a day. And so the question is: Do we just accept the feelings and talk about the line we aren’t supposed to cross? Do we trust each other to be responsible about this? Or do I actively try to sever all contact with her, knowing that even if we aren’t partnered up we are still in the same rooms with each other all the time, adding to the forbidden fruit mystique. I want to REDUCE tensions with this girl, and I can’t think of a way to do it. Got any suggestions?

Yours,

Unbelievably Trapped

OK, before I get into your letter UT, let me get a minor pet-peeve out of the way. I hate it when guys say things like “I apologize on behalf of my gender” or “on behalf of all mankind”. It’s a way of saying “I’m not one of the bad ones!” and like #notallmen, misses the point. Even without meaning to, you’re making it about you, not about what happened.

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When someone’s confiding in you that a dude stepped out of line, they don’t want to hear about how you’d never do that, they want to hear “Oh man, that really sucks, I’m so sorry that happened to you. What did you do?”

Anyway. Rant over, let’s talk about your dilemma.

Pop quiz, hotshot: You’ve caught feels for this woman. She has feels for you. You’re spending all this time together and it’s causing stirrings in your pants. What do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO?

Easy: don’t do anything. No, for real. Don’t do anything about this.

Crushes happen. They happen all the damn time. Doesn’t matter how much you love your partner; there’re going to be times where someone just happens to flip your switch because hey, welcome to the human experience.

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And hey, crushes are fun! There’s a great little thrill to having an infatuation on someone, a little of that new-relationship energy that provides a bit more texture and excitement to your day. Thing is, though: the fact that you feel something doesn’t mean you need to act on it. Your boner’s not a mandate. Your infatuation isn’t a command. You can just feel the fuck out of your feels without actually doing something about it.

And when I say “doing something about it,” I mean either acting on it or trying to force it away. One of the worst things you can do when you’re dealing with an inconvenient crush is try not to feel it. It’s like trying to squeeze a water balloon. It may work for a second or two, but eventually it’s going to explode all over you. I get what you’re going for with your strict no-touchy rules… but really, all you’re doing is making the other person that much more alluring. There’s nothing quite so tempting as the thing you can’t have.

This is why when you have a rule of “no physical contact whatsoever”, you’re setting yourself up for looking over and realizing just how soft the skin on the inside of her forearm must be. Or how nice her hair must smell or how warm her neck is where it meets the shoulder. In trying to keep yourself out of temptation’s way, you’re just turning the temptation dial up and turning your willpower down.

Trying to go all Mike Pence on her is just going to make shit harder. Not only does it mean that your inability to deal with your boner is going to fuck over her networking opportunities, it can seriously screw up the working relationship you already have. On the other hand, if you can just acknowledge that you have these feelings? They lose their power. Note them. Feel them. Observe them. Tell yourself “Huh, guess I have a crush on her. Cool.” It becomes simply a matter of fact, instead of a moment of crisis. Water is wet, the sun rises in the east, you have a crush on someone. If you treat attraction as just another fact, it loses its terrible power.

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So what I’d suggest is that you just accept you have a crush. It’s not something that needs to be discussed to death with your study partner, outside of mutual agreement of “hey, it’s cool we both feel this way, but we’re not going to do anything about it. Deal?” Hanging out together is fine, even if there’s a part of you that’d love to see her naked. Treating the existence of attraction as a disqualifier for friendship is just surrendering your ability to be a grown-ass adult.

Now, the only concession I’d make towards not “accidentally” making out with her is to avoid situations that hinder your decision making. This means being careful about things like your alcohol intake. The last thing you need is to be four beers in and then decide “Yes, a blowjob would be lovely tonight.” But otherwise, treat her as you would treat any other platonic friend, of any gender. Crushes are like camp fires. Don’t add any extra fuel, and it’ll go out on its own in time.

Good luck.

Hey Doc,

A few months ago this girl and I went to see a movie. After I dropped her off I told her I had feelings for her, but if there were no mutual feelings I still want to be friends. This is her text response:

“I’m very flattered that you are interested in me. I must say, we should probably stick to remain friends though, seeing how we work together and all. I hope you understand :) “

You might be wondering what does work mean exactly? She is a student at the university I work at. She is also a student worker and the president of the club I advise. So such interaction could ruin my career. I will say that we both do agree on the idea that work relationships are bad. So for me, at least her rejection took a lot of stress of my shoulders.

Fast forward to today, I still have feelings for her and she knows it, according to a mutual friend. Good news, she will be graduating soon and will have a full time job elsewhere, But I still wonder about a few things. She was just offered a job in another city 2 hours away. Which may complicate things...However I feel that if we were to go beyond friendship it would be a good test to see how well we can manage long distance relationship. My 5-10 year goal is to work internationally. But I’m probably overthinking.

She is however waiting to hear back from another interview.

Since then though we have hung out many times, just the two of us. Such as eating out, hiking and etc. She also ask me for a lot of advice career advice. She’s really trusting me on that.

One activity coming up is a conference, where we will be sharing a room together. Interestingly enough, she called me to talk about it. I had asked another student to go so that things wont be awkward. To be honest I was surprised she wanted to talk about that.

Another variable to add, I had a mutual connection ask her what she felt about me. She told the mutual contact the same thing she told me, “we work together, we should remain friends”.

I’m just afraid after this 2nd time and she rejects me, we are no longer friends. I genuinely enjoy being around her and I don’t want to ruin that. Perhaps I can just wait a while to see if she makes a move? I’m very patient and if nothing happens beyond friendship, then cool I have an amazing friend. I have also never told her my exact feelings for her either. Not sure if I should or not...

I have never meant someone in my life of the opposite sex give me such joy in life. I don’t want to lose that.

Without a doubt I have a lot of questions. But here is my main one: Despite the rejection and after we no longer work together, should I ask again?

Second Time Around

Here, let me translate her behavior for you, STA:

SHE DOESN’T WANT TO DATE YOU. YOU AGREED TO BE FRIENDS, SO SHE’S ACTING LIKE YOUR FRIEND.

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You already know this. You’re just looking for reasons to pretend it’s not true. You’re not the Love Lawyer (a name which I am now trademarking), so stop looking for loopholes and technicalities. Her saying “we work together” doesn’t translate to “...so wait until we don’t.” It’s her trying to ease the sting of the fact that she’s not into you like that.

There are no hidden meanings or ulterior motives. Stop waiting around. Accept that she only wants to be friends, have a sad about it, and then move on.


Did you and your partner join the Lifestyle? Did you deal with an inconvenient crush? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments. We’ll be back with more of your questions in two weeks.


Ask Dr. Nerdlove is Kotaku’s bi-weekly dating column, hosted by the one and only Harris O’Malley, AKA Dr. NerdLove. Got a question you’d like answered? Writedoc@doctornerdlove.com and put “Kotaku” in the subject line.

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Harris O’Malley is a writer and dating coach who provides geek dating advice at his blogPaging Dr. NerdLove and the Dr. NerdLove podcast. His new dating guide New Game+: The Geek’s Guide to Love, Sex and Dating is out now from Amazon, iTunes and everywhere fine books are sold He is also a regular guest at One Of Us.

He can be found dispensing snark and advice on Facebook and on Twitter at @DrNerdLove.