A male model has opened up about suffering from erectile dysfunction in a bid to encourage other men not to suffer in silence.
Champ Imi, from Manchester, had just turned 22 and was seeing his modelling career start to take off when he split up with the woman he loved.
Imi, now 28, found that the heartbreak impacted his sex life in an unexpected way.
After eventually making the decision to move on from the split and become intimate with another woman, he found he was unable to “perform” in the bedroom.
“When it came to having sex, I just couldn’t do it,” he explains. “I was thinking: ‘Oh my God, what is happening to me?’ It was so surreal.”
Imi says the experience of erectile dysfunction left him feeling afraid to have sex.
“I was happy to kiss possible partners, but would make excuses so we didn’t go home together,” he continues.
“It became imprinted in my mind that I couldn’t have sex, so I avoided it.”
Now the model is speaking out about his experiences in support of the Time to Raise It campaign, which aims to remove the shame and stigma associated with erectile problems. The campaign was started by pharmaceutical manufacturing firm Upjohn, charity Men’s Health Forum and relationships expert Sarah Louise Ryan.
Imi believes his own erectile problems (EP) began after he and his former fiancée, who he does not wish to name, went their separate ways.
“It was a really intense relationship,” he recalls.
“But, our relationship started to fall apart when I travelled across the world for work.”
Following the couple’s split in 2014, Imi travelled to Pakistan, where he was originally from, to spend a couple of months with family to get over his heartbreak.
Returning to London later that year, he started dating a woman from Birmingham, who he would visit regularly.
Despite developing strong feelings for her, when they tried to make love, Imi found he could not perform.
“This had never happened before,” he explains. “I didn’t think this could even happen to someone my age. I was in my prime at 22 and I put it down to stress.
“We were together for about four months and every time we started to get intimate, the same thing happened. I couldn’t perform,” he continued.
“I don’t think we properly had intercourse for the whole time because of my erectile problems.”
Imi says he became increasingly depressed and anxious about his sexual performance, but was too embarrassed to tell anyone.
“It was a horrible feeling. It’s one of the worst things you can imagine,” he explains.
“Seeing a woman’s face change when she realised I couldn’t perform was awful.
“Most women I dated were very kind and would say, ‘No, no don’t worry about it. It happens.'
“But there were times when I could tell they didn’t mean it, which made me feel much worse.”
Eventually Imi realised he needed to talk to someone about his problems and told a friend during a drunken night out in 2015.
“I was amazed when he was really honest with me and told me his own problems with EP,” he says.
“I felt so much more at ease, knowing it wasn’t just me who this had happened to.”
Opening up had a positive impact ion Imi’s sex life too with Imi claiming as soon as he started to relax and understand the emotional cause of the issue, his problems with intimacy disappeared.
He is now enjoying a relationship with a girlfriend, who would prefer to stay anonymous, and says he feels like himself again.
“When I have sex now, it’s fine,” he says. “I’ve prepared my mind for it and I accept that there’s nothing wrong with me in any way.”
Imi hopes telling his story might encourage other men with EP to come forward to seek help.
“It’s a very natural thing and there’s a solution to it. Rather than blaming yourself, discuss it with your doctor, or at least a friend,” he says.
“There is no shame in it and I know that if I’d been more open and honest about my own EP, I wouldn’t have felt as bad as I did.”
What is Erectile Dysfunction?
According to the NHS erection problems (impotence) are very common, particularly in men over 40, but it can happen to men of all ages.
A Men’s Health Forum survey of 5,000 men found that 25% of participants suffered from EP – despite being under 35.
The same poll found an estimated five million men in the UK experience EP, yet almost a third (27%) have never spoken about it.
Most men occasionally fail to get or keep an erection.
This is usually caused by stress, tiredness, anxiety or drinking too much alcohol, and it’s usually nothing to worry about, but you should see a GP if it keeps happening as it could be the sign of a more serious problem.
Additional reporting PA Real Life.