Editor’s Note: This website is not designed to, and should not be construed to, provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion or treatment to you or any other individual, and is not intended as a substitute for medical or professional care and treatment.
Author’s note: I write this from a woman’s perspective, for other women, and I welcome a male perspective. Please respond to this if there is anything I’m missing or you would like to share your opinion.
Last night, my friend asked what I was doing. I told her I was busy writing an article.
She asked what it was about. I told her the title.
She replied,“You should be a sex therapist.”
I’ve been having the same thought.
I’m fascinated with sexual relationships.
I’ve read study after study, talked with person after person, couple after couple and I have some ideas I’d like to share in writing.
I’ve listed a few references below, for your benefit, as well as to give some clout to this piece and validity behind my thoughts. However, I’m not the only one who is taking a guess—the scientific community is at an impasse, or maybe I should say, it is still gray and unclear what modulates erectile dysfunction, and difficulty with sexual arousal.
It’s the quandary of the chicken or the egg.
Is it physiologically or psychologically triggered? Or, is it both, together?
What is at the root of sexual malfunction?
Although studies prove correlations and causations here and there, it’s still not confirmed.
It is my opinion, that it is not one cause, but a confluence of factors that converge at once. I know I’m not a sex therapist, yet, however, I’ve accrued a significant amount of field experience and research data.
I have spent half of my life in long-term relationships—18 years of monogamous commitment, surrounded by one night stands and summer, fall, winter and spring flings.
I have been with an array of partners—from a virgin (well over the legal age, don’t freak out) to a married man (it’s a long story, you don’t know it, so hold your judgments, please), and everything in between.
Some encounters have been explosively passionate without issue, and sometimes no matter what I do, there’s no lift off.
Before I list my reasons, I would like to take a moment to pay homage to the delicate nature of man.
Ladies, we may have to sit down to pee and bleed every month, but we really do have it easy. When it comes to sex, we can always perform. Even if we aren’t aroused or feeling desire for our partner, we can still have intercourse.
Of course, there should be a mutual interest in sex, but let’s be realistic: when you’ve been married for a decade or two, spend your days raising kids, cooking dinners and doing laundry, the last thing you want to do is make love, but sometimes you take one for the team.
We have the ability to fake it, all of it—our desire and our orgasms, but when men have sex, they have to show up completely, every single time.
What I’ve learned the most over the years is that I had it all wrong. I thought men were stoic, sex fiends.
Men are emotional and sensitive creatures. Their cocks really don’t have a mind of their own, they don’t. They are interconnected with the workings of their heart and brain. Their thoughts and feelings drive their ability to become aroused, sustain an erection, and avoid pre-mature ejaculation.
Men are transparent, exposed and vulnerable to the elements, especially to our judgments and reactions to them. So please, try to be kind, compassionate, understanding and patient with your partner—he needs that from you, even if he won’t say it.
Here are 7 possible (non-medical) reasons why he can’t get hard:
- The penis can’t rise without compromise.
This actually has nothing to do with the bedroom. Consider this foreplay.
A man needs to feel he has a say in decision-making in the relationship, otherwise he feels like another child or one of the pets. Do not nag him. Trust me on this one, I’ve learned the hard way, or the limp way, I guess I should say. Your man needs a lover, not another mother.
Emasculation destroys a man’s confidence and the last thing he is able to do is perform. If a man feels lesser than, he certainly won’t want to be close to you, not in that way.
Did you ever watch My Big Fat Greek Wedding? There’s a scene where the matriarch of the family is having a pre-wedding talk with her daughter and she says something along the lines of, “The man is the head of the family, but the woman, she’s the neck, and she can turn the head whichever way she wants.”
There’s an overload of power in our pussy. We sleep with a man and he becomes entranced. Have you noticed that? We are powerful, but we must be careful not to abuse our power. Our job in a relationship is to support and empower our partner.
How do you do that? Help him feel productive and useful. Give him tasks to do and ask for his help—men love when you ask for help; it bloats them with purpose. When he feels purposeful, he will feel impassioned, for you.
Remember, the neck is purposeless without the head and the head is paralyzed without the neck. A man and a woman need each other, equally.
- If he doesn’t trust you, he won’t get it up for you.
This is an extension of the first reason. A man needs to know he can trust you. He needs to know he can be vulnerable in front of you. He needs to know that when he is done being the man of the house he can be fragile and you will nurture him.
Men get scared, too. They tend to internalize their fear, hence the reason everything may seem fine on the surface, but he can’t get aroused. He feels the same inadequacies you do, and he needs your support. He needs to feel comfortable to come to you at any time to be listened to and held.
When a man senses there’s safety and trust between you, he will want to love you and be as close to you as possible, inside you all the way.
- He’s just not in the mood.
We have a lot in common, even if we don’t share the same genitals. We all have bouts of depression, anxiety and stress due to internal and external factors such as jobs, finances, familial issues, emotional and physical conditions. Hormones rise and fall for men, too. We are not the only ones who get weepy and agitated during the month.
When we are in our minds and disconnected from our bodies, genital arousal is the last thing on our to do list.
This is where communication is paramount. Sit on the couch, take a walk, dip in the pool, or soak in the tub together and talk it out. Sharing our thoughts and feelings is an emotional ejaculation, a release of tension, and when that tension is released, there’s room for other things like romance.
When a man feels like he can lean on you, he will lean into you, too.
- He’s not ready for a baby or an STD.
This is a completely legitimate and rational fear that disrupts a man’s ability to become aroused. If a man is not ready for a child and you are not on birth control, there is always a chance you could conceive. If you are new to one another, he doesn’t know for certain if you are a carrier of a disease. This is where the physiological and the psychological partner up and shut it down, to protect their dude.
There are remedies for this: find a form of birth control that works for both of you. Go get tested and screened for STDs together. Talk about the options, together. There is no rush to hop into bed—take your time and it will be worth the wait to be carefree.
- He’s had one too many.
This is a very common issue I’ve encountered. Without getting all scientific I’ll state it simply: alcohol depresses the brain and the penis, causing many men to go to sleep down there.
If this does happen, I beg of you, do not make fun of him, do not tease him, do not shame him or get mad at him—kiss him instead. Get him a glass of water. Go to sleep and maybe you’ll have the best middle of the night sex you’ve ever had once he sobers up.
- He’s watched too much porn.
I’ve read many studies about the link of overexposure to pornography and the inability to initiate and sustain genital arousal. This is something I will leave to the experts to explain in depth, as there is another issue here—addiction.
It is my personal opinion that a person can enjoy pornography without becoming addicted and remain engaged in a healthy sexual relationship. However, if your partner has been single for a prolonged period of time and has relied solely on the use of pornography for pleasure, it may take him a while to adjust to your warm and real body.
Several studies show that abstinence from pornography can reverse this issue and reintegrate men into normal sexual functioning over a period of a month or two.
What can you do to support your partner? Be patient. If he is committed to you, he will take the steps necessary to ensure you have a healthy sex life.
- He’s just not that into you. Nope, he’s way too into you.
It’s rare that a man has sex with a woman he is not mildly attracted to, if not completely attracted to, so I wouldn’t worry that he’s not into you.
I think it’s the opposite—you are the sexiest woman he’s ever been with in real life and he feels like he’s living a dream.When a man is genuinely head over heels for you, he will be nervous and scared shitless of disappointing you and not being able to perform to what he perceives as your expectations.
What’s flooding through his mind?
All the things that could go wrong—and unfortunately this is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The bottom line is that he most likely cares so much and wants to be the best lover you’ve ever had, that of course he’s going to have trouble getting it up. He’s up in his head.
He has a mental and emotional hard on, but until some blood drains south, you need to be patient.
Take it slow, really slow. Tell him to close his eyes. Spend time cuddling, kissing and touching. Show him through your gestures just how much you want to be with him. He will slowly wake from his dream, join the moment, and rise to the occasion.
The best thing we can do for the men we love is love them no matter what. Let’s help them feel special, appreciated, needed, safe, important and heard. When your man feels this way, you’ll have a hard time keeping him off of you. ~ Rebecca
Bancroft, J., Carnes, L., Janssen, E., Goodrich, D., & Long, J. S. (2005). Erectile and ejaculatory problems in gay and heterosexual men. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 34(3), 285-97. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10508-005-3117-7
Benson, E. (2003, April 1). Sex: The science of sexual arousal.
Kühn S, Gallinat J. (2014, July). Brain Structure and Functional Connectivity Associated With Pornography Consumption: The Brain on Porn. JAMA Psychiatry. 2014;71(7):827-834. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.93
Latham, T. (2012, May 3). Does Porn Contribute to ED?
Author: Rebecca Lammersen
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: Tina Franklin at Flickr