erectile dysfunction

When it doesn’t get up.

A funny title for an article about a not so funny experience for many men who have difficulties with keeping their erection during sex. I am a man myself and a Sex counselor in Amsterdam and I know how much this topic is sensitive and can cause painful feelings.

Not getting it up is still a sort of taboo between men. It is packed with shame, guilt and a sense of failure and usually, we don’t like to talk about it at all. But it is a very common experience, more than we might expect. So, why not expose it? Why not take this topic out of the cage of shame, guilt, and sense of failure and make it lighter, approachable and therefore conquerable?

Men of the world, Unite!

The first thing is to start to talk about it between men. The taboo is in fact much more dangerous than the problem itself. Therefore I say, Men of the world, Unite! Find the courage to talk about it with a friend or friends that you trust and you will see that you are not alone in this. It is so common! Let’s take down the wall of fear of judgment and rejection and be light and open about it.

Let’s learn from women

Let’s look at how our girlfriends, wives, mothers, and sisters relate with each other. They talk much more freely than us men about personal issues (even too much, as we know!). They are generally not ashamed to share about sexual topics and find comfort, understanding, and support. Let’s learn from them and deepen male friendships. Let’s value our friends and have the courage to allow each other to be ourselves not only when we feel good, smart and invincible but when we feel low and not good enough as well.

Real man and media man

The common image of how a man is supposed to perform the sexual ritual in our modern societies is the one of the macho; a rough and super cool man, mainly created by media (advertising) and porn movies. Let’s disengage from the comparison with porn-actors with a big, large penis which can stay stiff for hours making the women crazy. It is a fake, exaggerated image and creates many taboos and negative feelings. Let’s throw it out of our minds immediately!

Erection is not a performance

The first important thing to know about an erection is that we can get one when we are attracted to someone and relaxed about ourselves. If we are only attracted but not relaxed, it doesn’t happen. Having an erection is often conceived in a man’s mind as a performance, as something we have to do. Well, it is not true, an erection belongs to the category of activities like falling asleep, crying, laughing etc. We don’t do it, it happens all by itself.

So, the first thing to take out of our minds is the idea that we are a failure if we don’t have an erection because it is like feeling guilty if we cannot fall asleep.

How women see the lack of erection and sex without erection

If you have a partner, don’t hesitate to share about how this situation makes you feel. Feelings need to be expressed and not repressed. The majority of women don’t give so much importance to the erection. They have a completely different approach to sexuality than us men. They are much more looking for a feeling of connection and trust. Plus, all their body is erogenous, while we as men have our minds fixed on our penises as if sexuality is only about penetration and coming. Get out of that frame, and explore sexuality also without having an erection. A new world of sensations, feelings, and pleasures will be revealed to you.

When women reject you

In case a woman rejects and judges you, it means that she is not a good partner for you. Many women get their sense of value from being wanted sexually by a man. They use sex to get attention and self-value. If you cannot have an erection, it might trigger a sense of failure or a lack of self-esteem in them and, if they are not aware of that, they might reject you. Forget about it and keep looking for partners who are open to you as you are. Isn’t that what we all really want in the end? Just being accepted as we are and not as we are expected to be?

How to approach sex if you have repetitive erectile dysfunction

This is about being true to yourself. When you usually can’t get it up the first thing to do is to breathe and to give time to yourself to feel if you want to/can have sex or not. In fact, it is very important to understand your feelings in the moment and to take a step in the right direction that you feel comfortable with. If the level of insecurity is too high, I would suggest you not to push yourself, or to go ahead without an erection and see if it gets up during foreplay. On the other hand, avoiding sex is also not a solution, and a bit of courage in approaching it is required.

How to deal with the memory of the past episodes

Don’t let the memory of what happened before (even if it happened many times) to predict the outcome of your meeting. Each woman is unique, each moment is unique, you are unique in each moment. Approaching it afresh all the time will make it special. And be honest, if you feel too insecure, it means that there is too much pressure on yourself and sex is no more something fun and enjoyable but an arena in which you have to demonstrate your value. Just give a break to yourself, your value as a man and as sex partner is much more than having an erection!

Underlying causes of erectile dysfunction

From my experience as a therapist, the main causes of erectile dysfunction amongst men seem to be: stress-related problems coming from a difficult period in life;  the end of a feeling of attraction for a partner or a lack of self-esteem. During a therapy process, you are going to discover that this symptom is just the tip of the iceberg: A superficial sign of a deeper experience you are having. It affects sexuality because it is a field that attracts your attention immediately. You will not ignore it, and this is the beginning of a self-exploration that goes much deeper than just getting the erection back. In fact, when you will forget about your erection for a while, it will start happening again.

The “arena” of sex and a new invitation

Sex is a reproductive activity linked with pleasure because pleasure brings us to do it in order to reproduce the species. As human beings, we’ve learned to isolate the pleasurable experience from the reproductive function. The result of this division is that it became an “arena” in which a lot of our self-worth is built up or destroyed. Plus, living in a goal-oriented and competitive society makes us see almost all our activities as performances.

We use sex to be liked, to get attention and to check if we are ok as we are. This creates an extra weight on this simple, animalistic and joyful experience and it can put our erection down. I suggest you approach this uncomfortable situation as an invitation to stop using sex for a purpose of self-esteem. And use it, instead, to know yourself better as a man, to explore sex and its different possibilities and to become natural and innocent again also in this field of your life.


Somesh Valentino Curti
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