Jason Rogers Isn’t Letting His Sexual Performance Anxiety Define Him
Former Olympian Jason Rogers Wants Men to Know It’s OK to Be Vulnerable
By: Sean Abrams
* This article is a repost which originally appeared on AskMen.com
Things like erectile dysfunction and sexual performance anxiety do not make you less than. They don’t drain you of your masculinity, changing from you the man you’ve always been to someone you barely recognize. Countless men deal with it, but are too afraid to speak out. That’s why what former Olympian Jason Rogers is doing deserves all the praise in the world. You see, because even with a silver medal, Rogers allowed his inability to rise to the occasion in the bedroom to create a dark storm cloud over all other aspects of his life — until now.
When It All Began
“I think every teenage boy has awkward fumbling experiences, you know, when they’re first figuring out dating and physical intimacy, but it was pretty clear to me from early on that my experiences didn’t seem to be matching up with my friends’ experiences,” he says. “And while some of that can be chalked up to teenage exaggeration, I just felt different and I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. I wasn’t mature enough to be able to articulate to anyone properly. So, you know, it kind of started from the beginning.”
Out of the gate, Rogers makes it clear that it doesn’t mean he’s never gotten hard before. While he’s been plagued with symptoms that come with erectile dysfunction, he describes his sexual encounters more like “the sort of anxiety that you feel in an intimate experience with someone that can create a momentary failure.”
“I would say at a certain point in time in my life, I sort of skewed towards the more severe part of that, but I would kind of describe my overall experience more as the former, you know, because not every sexual experience was unsuccessful,” he says.
Trying to Deal
In terms of a coping strategy on and off over the years … well, there really wasn’t one. In fact, until Rogers really decided to saddle up and deal with it, he basically just prayed it would go away. Another way to avoid his penis problems was to just step away from dating and intimacy entirely, something he found himself doing as well.
“I would go through these kind of protracted periods where I was like, ‘You know what? I’m not going to handle that,’ admits Rogers. “I was a super achievement spoken young kid and college student. It was very easy to just bury myself in busyness, tests, practice and in competition. I was able to rationalize not dealing with it for a really, really long time.”
As you can imagine, that took a toll. Going into new relationships, the professional athlete always felt that overarching fear that he’d inevitably mess things up somehow. As expected, that connected to his thought that if he couldn’t get it up, this person would “suddenly” lose interest. Eventually, his bedroom worries blended into other aspects of his life, causing a shake-up he wasn’t accustomed to feeling.
“I certainly was a confident guy when it came to sports because I had this track record of being very successful in [fencing] early on, kind of flying on this trajectory,” says Rogers. “But there were definitely times in my career that I was struggling with that sexual confidence, and understanding who I was and getting those needs met that it entangled with my overall confidence, and also my athletic confidence.” Rogers recalls tanking performances and not being able to figure out why. “It’s hard to draw a direct line between those two things because obviously the brain works in mysterious ways, but I think it’s not just pure coincidence that I had periods of time when I really went through some serious fencing and athletic difficulties that coordinated with periods of time where I was in the depths of my struggles with the sexual confidence stuff as well.”
Putting the Pieces Together
It was hard for Rogers not to draw a parallel between sex and sports. To him, both were about being in the moment and responding to what is happening directly in front of you. At the time, both were constantly flooding his mind, leaving him unable to find an anchor that’d help keep him in the present.
“In the case of fencing, you train for years and years to understand what cues your opponent presents in order for you to react to in order to score a point,” says Rogers. “That all relies on that pure, present awareness. Any distractions from that are going to essentially put the brakes on your ability to show athletic potential.”
As for sex, he sees it as a really similar process. “You have to be present. You have to be paying attention to your body and the sensations that feel good. You have to be sort of in tune with your partner. But in my case, there were just thoughts that would come into my head that would just pull me right out of the moment. Whether you’re talking about fencing or sex, all they did was distract me and take the majority of my focus away from where it really should be.”
Rogers just felt broken. It got to the point where the fencing champion felt as though he would never be the man he wanted to be. Rogers even began questioning his sexuality, wondering if failed encounters with women were due to the fact that he was actually attracted to men.
“What happens if you’re denying some very critical aspect of your own sexuality that’s causing this persistent issue?” says Rogers, referencing a question he asked himself during his struggle. “I’m not the type of person that is super binary in the way they think about sexuality. I kind of see it more as a spectrum, and I was like, ‘Well, you know, if that’s the case, I should really explore that.’ And I did explore that for about a year with a few really awesome dudes.”
Unfortunately, the issue continued to present itself, leaving Rogers to deduce that it went beyond the base layer of his sexuality.
“There’s a deeper issue related to shame, or there’s a deeper issue related to how my mind works in these kind of like intimate settings that is completely unrelated to who I’m attracted to,” he says. “And so, it was kind of like, ‘I’m glad I experienced that and I think it’s really important to understand the full pallet of your own sexuality, but ultimately I need to try new things.’ That’s kind of why I returned to dating women again from there.”
Breaking From the Norm
Rogers hopes to help push past these pre-established cultural narratives, including money, cars, and the overall alpha masculine stereotype. “I love a James Bond movie, but [it’s] probably not an amazing example for men of like what masculinity is, right?” he quips. You’re not able to see the underside of imperfection, something that does exist even if it’s not necessarily shown in characters on screen.
The thing I get frustrated with is that this is so common, and the statistics vary significantly depending on what study you look at, but there’s no question that this stuff is happening to millions of men,” he says. “We sort of learn through culture and through the way men tend to react in that kind of tribal setting that if you have an issue once or more often than once, you know, it’s like, ‘Oh bro, don’t tell me about that. I don’t want to hear about that.’ And I think that implicitly teaches us that we’re not worthwhile, or there’s something deeply wrong with us. And that’s just crazy. I think that’s just fundamentally crazy.”
All of this has led Rogers to this point — speaking out about his personal struggles, not only through a memoir currently in the works, but by partnering with Giddy, a new company that offers “an alternative tool for the very real issue of erectile dysfunction.”
“When I first started writing the book, or I should say when I shifted the project to focus more on this aspect of my personal story, the thing that I thought about most was myself as a teenager in the height of my confusion, and the level of isolation that I felt,” says Rogers. “I didn’t have the perspective to understand that it shouldn’t be a big deal. And I’m sure there are men that have talked about this in the past, but I’ll go first. I’ll be among the first men to really tackle this, and I hope it’s like dominoes … I hope it becomes a more commonplace topic and the negative charge around it starts to deplete.”
As for Rogers’ collaboration with Giddy, he says they “share similar missions.”
“I think we just need to change the narrative, and that begins by talking about it,” he says. He also points out that it shouldn’t be a completely one sided conversation. “Men are struggling with this issue absent of their partners, and their partners need to be a part of this, too. That’s one important point that I know Giddy is really wanting to bring into this conversation, and I fully support that. It felt like an appropriate time for me to step forward, and it felt like an appropriate partnership to try and team up to achieve this mutual goal.”
Putting ED at Ease
If you’re wondering what exactly Giddy is, envision an upgraded version of your average cock ring that’s been crafted specifically to help overcome erectile dysfunction.
“It’s effective, comfortable, doesn’t require a prescription and has no side effects,” says Erika Jensen, founder and CEO of Giddy. “Giddy was designed by a team of engineers, urologists, mathematicians, and ED specialists to fit your body perfectly applying pressure to the dorsal vein while leaving the corpora cavernosa and urethra unencumbered for a comfortable, pain-free experience. [It’s] safe to use every time you have sex, and can be used even if you don’t have ED but you want a stronger sensation or longer play time,” she explains.
Jensen adds that while Giddy can essentially be carried with you wherever you go, the company’s long-term goal is to help people understand that “pleasure is not defined by penetration, performance does not define your masculinity and that it’s essential to have honest conversations with our partners.”
“ED is a spectrum disorder meaning some men experience it every once in a while while others experience it every time,” she says. Giddy partnered with Board Certified Urologist and ED Specialist, Dr. Chris Kyle, and Certified Sex Educator, Shan Boodram, to create a 30-day plan with exercises to help fix ED over time and bring your confidence back to what it once was. “By coupling education with an effective, wearable ED treatment, our hope is that men will begin to reframe what it means to be intimate with their partner and relieve the pressure to perform every time, putting more emphasis on being present with themselves and their partner and less emphasis on making sure they remembered their Giddy for a night out.”
Rogers hopes his words, along with the great work Giddy is doing, will help with an inevitable redefining of how people see masculinity. He isn’t trying to go backwards by saying everything we use to traditionally define the term is completely wrong. Instead, he wants to men to be thoughtful, focusing on the proper application of the qualities that make up what makes a man masculine in their own way.
“One of the key things that we need to incorporate into masculine identity is this idea of vulnerability,” says Rogers. “Most men tend to feel that if they show any vulnerability it’s weakness, which automatically subtracts from their man score. And I think that’s such a wrong-headed way of thinking because that’s not what vulnerability is.” Instead, he says, vulnerability is a strength. “It’s the ability to express something honestly and authentically, which not only helps you get that thing off your chest, but helps other people around them feel less alone, and feel able to collaborate and talk about things that are not easily talked about. There’s no one way to be a man. True masculinity is about just expressing who you are.”