Trigger warning: What follows is a frank discussion of sex and my sexuality as a man. IF you don’t wish to know of this side of me, please don’t read what I have written.
In 2012 I wrote what I believe was the first online personal writing on living with erectile dysfunction. I can’t find any other writings when searching now. My writing was in Voice Male: The Untold Story of the Profeminist Men’s Movement after previously being published in Voice Male Magazine - see:
( I would to try to share more of what I’ve experienced as a man with erectile dysfunction.)
In 1998 I visited G in Minneapolis for a weekend of sharing our (sexual) love. I was shocked that I could not get an erection. While I had had occasional moments in the past where I couldn’t get an erection, it always had either had had a clear cause, e.g. too much booze in my system, or it went away nearly immediately. For the entire weekend I could not get an erection. G didn’t get upset at me. The pressures I felt were all from within me.
Prior to this my visits with G had been lush, wonderful times with a lot of sex and no “performance” issues. We were together for long-weekends with a lot of sexual touch and intercourse multiple times each day. Now I faced a reality where sexual intercourse might be impossible at any time.
Intellectually, I could fully accept my new reality. Emotionally it was very different. There was no one to talk to. There were no resources available to discuss the experience. While I wasn’t devastated, I was disturbed. Over the next several years, sometimes I could have sexual intercourse and at other times I couldn’t. I never knew whether I would succeed or fail.
I never discussed my feelings with anyone else.
About four or five years later I asked my family practice physician about medications or other treatments for erectile dysfunction. He seemed to have little knowledge or interest beyond referring me to my first urologist. The urologist gave me samples of Viagra, Levitra, and Cialis, indicating that he would prescribe whatever worked best. Only Viagra seemed helpful; without side effects. I began using Viagra when I wanted to try to have sexual intercourse.
Viagra initially worked some of the time. I discovered that I needed to take it on an empty stomach. I needed to plan things carefully. All spontaneity was gone. As I took Viagra over time its effectiveness seemed to go away. I then stopped taking it. Sexual intercourse was then “successful” rarely. Getting erections was difficult and it was difficult for them to last more than a very brief time. Nearly always they would be gone before I was ready to have intercourse.
At one point, for a brief period of time, I tried injections into my penis. This was scary at first, but I got used to it. Its success wasn’t consistent and I stopped doing it. I’ve never tried any other means of having erections.
I adjusted as I needed to adjust. B wished that we could simply have “sex” meaning “a quick f__k. She accepted that this was impossible. “Sex” became mutual stimulation to orgasm. Though I couldn’t get an erection, I could get sexually aroused and I could orgasm at least some of the time. Over time it has gotten more and more challenging, but I can still orgasm some of the time. It is much, much, much easier to do so with B, rather than trying to masturbate. Masturbation fails a moderate amount of the time. Occasionally with B, I can’t orgasm or move towards orgasm.
Moving into this new world has been very different. On the whole it is challenging and disconcerting.
I had no “boner” to embarrass me, showing through my pants. I did not wake up some mornings with “piss hard-ons”. My body could rub against hers, but it was strange in not good ways. Some feelings came in my head, but when my penis touched her, it remained totally soft. Previously I’d usually had some sense of the state of arousal of my penis. Now I had no sense at all of whether it was totally soft or partially aroused.
As a man, I’d had a “relationship” with my penis. It was similar to other parts of my body in some ways. I took it for granted most of the time and it didn’t interfere with anything then. It served its function when I peed. When I put my underpants on and off it might be noticed, but not significantly.
At the same time my penis is somewhat different than other parts of my body. In the past I had both a pride in my “sexual capabilities” and doubts related to my being “good” or “good enough” at times. In my younger days at times premature ejaculation was an issue, and general nervousness around sex with a woman was a concern.
As I grew into middle age, being sexual particularly with G was important to me. We had wonderous times together. I was happy that “good sex” had little to do with the number of orgasms I had. Sexual touch, warmth and closeness were most important. She and I could be together easily for 6+ hours of being close sexually. This felt incredibly good!
Later on It was challenging to not know if I’d be able to get an erection, and if so, if it could last long enough for intercourse. It didn’t feel right that everything needed to focus upon me and my needs/desires to have any chance at “success”. Sex was no longer a pleasurable, wonderful thing. It was a gamble. It wasn’t relaxing, never knowing what might happen.
Gradually it got more and more difficult to get erections. At one point I went to another urologist and he prescribed medication that I injected into my penis. That was scary, but doable. Not having consistent sex there, we gave up on medical solutions.
Unlike a lot of other men, I never questioned my self-worth as a man, because of my erectile dysfunction. It is very sad to read stories of women, whose partners have erectile dysfunction. Often their male partners not only give up on sex, but remain detached and alone with physical affection.
I think that it is very, very important to have physical affection and a strong connection with B. Regardless of the sex that we have, it is important that I am good as one who holds B’s hand, one who kisses her regularly, one who massages her in non-sexual ways (as well as sexual ways when B is open and wanting sexual connection).
It is, however, somewhat disheartening to live in an alternate reality, sexual wise. In this world, I can not know how my penis is, absent touch from my partner or myself. It is a peculiar disconnect – physically which affects me emotionally as well.
It feels bad contemplating any possible conceivable relationship with a woman. Why would she want me, if she has any interest in sex? What could I give a woman sexually? I know that I can please a woman sexually with my fingers and tongue, but that doesn’t feel like it is “enough”! Despite all the intellectual justifications, a part of me always feels that sexually if I can’t be a part of intercourse, that I won’t appeal to a significant percentage of women.
I regret that I didn’t appreciate what I had, when I had it! I regret that I didn’t have a greater variety of sexual experiences while I had “more capability”. I regret a number of the relationships I had in that I relied nearly only on simple foreplay preparing for intercourse and then intercourse. I wasn’t concerned about my partner orgasming.
I try my best as a sexual partner now. I do enjoy the sex that I have.
I am lucky to have a loving partner, who accepts me with the limitations that I have. We can have most wonderful sex, when we both desire it. It has limitations, which I can accept.
Living with erectile dysfunction is challenging and disheartening. It is also my life, which I have learned to (mostly) accept. I welcome dialog with others on the issues that each of us faces! Thank you!
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