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Hi abby22 – thanks SO much for sharing your story, this is super informative and talks about a part of the problem a lot of people don’t know as much about!
To start with your question, this kind of thing is VERY common, for all the reasons you mentioned. Men who haven’t been able to penetrate their partners before often have issues with erections when the time comes, sometimes because they just aren’t used to the intensity of penetration and also sometimes because they’re afraid of hurting their partners. It’s an unexpected hangup that often lengthens the journey to penetration and I wish it was more talked about.
I think this isn’t discussed as much because often women need to be hyperfocused on their own bodies and progress at dilation when receiving treatment – it’s often a time when the male partner generously takes the backseat to support his partner, so any issues he might have are often overlooked until the time to perform comes. When I was doing dilation, my partner at the time had issues for a little bit with having an erection because he was afraid of hurting me, and we also had to deal with a separate issue earlier in our relationship because he could only have an orgasm when it was his own hand finishing him off (which turned out to be because he had gotten too used to his own grip when masturbating).
I’m glad you brought this up – I bet lots of women are experiencing this right now but have no idea it’s a common scenario when treating vaginismus!