Do you know the difference between anxiety and panic? I’ve heard that anxiety is the first time a guy can’t get it up twice, and panic is the second time he can’t get it up once.
Of course, most men (and the women they have sex with) like erections, and they enjoy taking them for granted — if they do. An amazing number of men who have never had an erection disappointment worry that they will.
And indeed, for virtually every man — and every woman who has sex with men — there comes the day when their penis disappoints them. Either they have trouble getting erect when they want to, or they get erect and then lose their erection before they’re finished having sex.
In itself, this is not a problem. Unfortunately, men and women can be quite creative in making the biggest mess out of a small thing like an erection disappointment.
By the way, many erection difficulties are predictable. A man attempting sex when he’s tired, has been drinking, is troubled by performance anxiety, is worried about unwanted pregnancy, or is angry at his partner, is asking for trouble. Erection trouble.
Here are some tips on handling this challenge when it comes your way:
1. Don’t pretend you don’t notice.
I suggest “Oh, we seem to have an erection situation. What’s going on, honey?”
2. Don’t take it personally.
If you want to ask “Is it me?” go ahead and ask. When he says no, believe him and move on. If he says yes, you can have a moment of genuine communication. If you’re both willing.
3. Don’t let him make things worse with an endless apology or withdrawal into agony.
Look him in the eye, interrupt, and say “Dear, please don’t disappear on me now. Let’s stay close and make the most of our situation. Now come here and kiss me, please.”
4. Give it a rest and try again in a few minutes—if you both want to.
Maybe one or both of you is already tired, or you’ve had enough sex. If so, there’s no need to continue. If you want to resume, remember that sex doesn’t have to involve intercourse.
Do the things that get you both excited, like kissing or biting. Touch each other’s genitalia, but don’t flog the poor penis for hours if it’s unresponsive. Sometimes the penis knows it’s done before its owner or playmate does.
5. Remember, his hand is an option — perhaps the best one.
If you like, encourage your guy to stroke his own penis to possibly get erect again. This isn’t “masturbation” — it’s sharing sex with a partner. And it isn’t humiliating — it’s sharing sex with a partner.
And again, let’s not spend hours trying to revive the thing. If a couple of minutes doesn’t do it, more minutes probably won’t.
Losing or not getting an erection when you want one is never fun. But it’s only a lost erection, not a disaster. Both of you should remember why you originally got into bed and got undressed together — presumably for pleasure and closeness.
So go ahead and continue to enjoy yourselves. Touch, kiss, caress, smell, nibble, whisper, lick, stroke, laugh, sigh and touch some more.
Intercourse is the only kind of sex that requires an erection. In the absence of one, the rest of the extensive menu of sexual activities remains available.
You wouldn’t leave a restaurant and declare the evening ruined if they didn’t have the entrée you were hoping for, right? So don’t do that with sex, either — don’t leave the sexual scene just because the intercourse entrée is unexpectedly unavailable.
Although I’ve heard patients describe it over and over for years, I never understand people starting out wanting to be intimate and ending up turning away from each other just because they can’t have exactly what they want.
So don’t toss away sex (or closeness or warmth) just because of a missing erection.
Reviewed February 2, 2016
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith