Erectile Dysfunction: A Blessing In Disguise
Will* answered an advert I put on Feeld (a dating app). I was looking for a Tantric Sex practice partner. I’m doing further training in coaching and facilitating in Tantric Sex, and as part of my certification requirements I need do the practices with a partner. My idea was doing the practices with different men I would get to have different experiences which would prepare me better for coaching clients.
Will was one of the men who answered my advert and after some message exchanges we decided to meet for a coffee for a ‘date’. He was visibly nervous when I got there and not long into the conversation he blurted out that he suffered with erectile dysfunction. I was honoured that for knowing me in such a short space of time he felt comfortable enough to be able to share that. I respected his vulnerability and willingness to be in an uncomfortable situation, and as Tantric Sex is a deep and emotional process, I knew right there with that share that he had the potential to be a great practice partner.
I made it quite clear that I appreciated his sharing but that it was also important for me in our ‘relationship’ that I did not want to be in the role of ‘fixer’ or ‘coach’, that it was important for me to fully experience the Tantric Sex practices without me being in coach mode. I had spent much of my marriage getting into ‘fixing’ roles and had learnt that taking a step back and letting men figure stuff out for themselves and get support outside our relationship was key to making the relationship work. What I offered to Will was the opportunity to hold space for him.
We had a chat about his experience so I could understand him and his sexual experience more - as a lover and not as a coach. What I learnt from Will, as with many men who experience erectile dysfunction, that he had actually started out with erectile disappointment. The odd time his cock did not behave in the way he wanted created a lack of trust - that his cock wouldn’t perform in the way he believed it ‘should’. It isn’t unusual during sex for hardness to wane. Keeping blood pumped in the penis for long periods of time and having a very hard cock is not possible for most men and as many men tend to have porn as an ‘education tool’ what sex looks like in porn and what it is in reality can be two very different things. And so for Will there became a pattern of getting into his head about whether or not he would ‘perform’ and the anxiety of that meant that he would lose his erection. He had got himself into a situation where he wasn’t trusting his body and was using viagra for support.
The only guidance I gave was that when he noticed thoughts popping into his head to let me know immediately. I also suggested that he not use the Viagra when together as his loss of erection really was not an issue for me.
And that’s how our journey began. What we weren’t expecting was how this ‘issue’ actually became an opportunity for emotional intimacy and very pleasurable sexual encounters.
We decided to take the goal of orgasm off the table (because for many people hard cock = orgasm) and also we removed the goal of penis in vagina sex as the main focus of our time together. We chose to get curious about each other’s bodies, get curious about pleasure and really commit to communicate well.
When a thought popped into Will’s head and he would lose his erection he would tell me. I would ask him how he was feeling, with his replies ranging from ‘disappointment’ to ‘annoyed’. Instead of trying to change anything, I would ask where he might be feeling that in his body (our emotions are felt as body sensations). I would encourage him to be with that and just be there as he sat with it. I would then check in with what he felt would be supportive which might range from more talking and me listening and validating his experience or giving him a hug.
With my encouragement and if Will wanted to, we would then move onto different sexual activities that didn’t require an erection such as one of us giving or receiving oral sex, giving and receiving digital sex, caressing and touching each other, saying what we wanted to do to each other, etc. In essence, what we were finding was that we were getting more creative in how we interacted. There would sometimes be sexual pauses and we would move into conversation which would then create arousal and we would be back into touching.
There was a general feeling of ebbing and flowing. That sex had moved away from just the standard penetration. We became relaxed with each other’s bodies very quickly as our ability to talk very openly about our likes, dislikes, our feelings and just listen to each other share. Quite quickly, we were able to have a deeper sexual connection in the space of a few weeks, that most people might expect to get to over a few months or years (or unfortunately in some cases still haven’t reached).
We got good at asking for what we wanted, for giving direction and for not taking requests and direction as a personal attack. We got creative on how we could be touching each other. Sometimes we would get to penetration quite quickly, the erection would go but after time we would learn to process the experience of loss of erection more quickly then flow onto something else instead of it being the end of sex.
Over time the loss of erection became less and less frequent as we became less focussed on his erection. With erectile dysfunction for many men being psychosomatic, meaning ‘in their heads and their body reacts’, taking the focus off and the ‘pressure’ off meant that penetration and having a hard cock was no longer the goal.
Had it not been for Will’s erectile dysfunction it’s very likely that we would be having the standard sex that most people have which is foreplay, woman’s orgasm, penetration, man’s orgasm and possibly another orgasm for the woman. The End.
What we found was that sex became about pleasure and curiosity.
It also meant that we could spend literally hours in bed just playing. We both found our time together fun and delicious.
Sex took on a whole new level emotionally, physically and we both began to fully understand what the word ‘pleasure’ really meant.
What we have learnt in our journey with erectile dysfunction is that it can actually be a blessing. It has given us a thirst to really understand what else is out there. What other experiences can we have? What other ways can we access pleasure? It is very much the start of a new adventure that we’re keen to explore. And I invite any of you reading this also experiencing the same, even if it’s a long term partnership, to take a risk, go deep and see where this opportunity can take you.
Suggestions for him:
Explore your relationship to your cock. How do you feel about it when it’s erect? When it’s soft? What thoughts pop into your head? What are you making the thoughts mean about you as a person or lover? Can you observe your thoughts and not attach yourself to them? Can you move away from using Viagra and accept the waning of your erection?
Can you learn to love your soft cock? Check in with your cock throughout the day when you aren’t aroused and notice it when it’s soft - what thoughts pop into your head? Do you experience shame when your cock is soft? Create a relationship with your heart and your cock.
When you notice thoughts and emotions arise for you, ask your partner to hold space for you. Talk about what you are thinking, notice where the emotions are showing up in your body. Can you accept and be with where you’re at?
Where can you get curious about your body and your partner’s body that doesn’t require an erection? Can you allow yourself to receive oral sex or a handjob and just enjoy the sensation without putting the pressure on yourself to get an erection? Can you just enjoy your soft cock being touched?
When having sexual encounters are you in your body or in your head? Can you breathe into the sensations in your body? If you notice you are getting into your head, can you let your partner know and ask for support? What does support look like? Talking? A hug?
Can you allow yourself to experience pleasure in your soft cock? Where else can you experience pleasure in your body? Balls? Anus, thigh massage? Body massage?
How are you using porn? Are you having an embodied pleasure experience watching porn or are you relying on the visual to get you to orgasm and keep your erection? Do you scroll to the ‘best bits’ or are you watching a full video and being taken on that journey with the actors?
Can you reframe what’s happening - from a dysfunction to a disappointment? That there isn’t really anything actually ‘wrong’ with you, you aren’t broken! You just need to return to your body, pleasure and curiosity.
Suggestions For Her:
We tend to value our technique and sexiness by how hard a man’s penis gets. If it wanes we tend to make it say something about ourselves. Our worthiness and whether or not we are a good lover. I’ll be honest and say initially I observed with Will’s loss of erection thoughts of ‘Am I doing something wrong?’, ‘Does he feel safe with me?’, ‘What can I do differently to keep him hard?’ A lot of these thoughts came from a place of needing to ‘fix’. Of feeling uncomfortable with seeing a man upset or in distress and needing to ‘do’ something. Some of it arose from my own feelings of self-worth and ‘this should not be happening to a sex coach’. But as quickly as I noticed these thoughts pop into my head, I acknowledged the social conditioning around erections and also my own internal stories around my self-worth. After the acknowledgement I chose that I didn’t need to believe these thoughts as they were learnt. So I consciously chose to return to being present with Will.
I appreciate soft cocks. I like how they feel, how they move, I like stroking them with my hands, lips and tongue. I have given myself space to really enjoy the feeling of a cock when it’s soft so I invite you to get curious about how you can bring enjoyment to playing with a soft cock.
Complimenting a man’s cock while it’s soft can be really supportive, finding three things that you love about it.
Holding space is giving him the opportunity to speak without trying to change him, give advice or opinion. Encouraging him to return to what his thoughts are, validate his emotions and guiding him to experience where they are in the body will allow the emotions to be fully processed so that you can then move on.
How can you get creative in returning to pleasure when your partner’s penis is soft?
*name changed to protect Will’s identity.
I’d also like to thank Will for letting me share our journey together. When I asked if I could write about this his response was ‘sure, if it means other men won’t feel alone in their experience’.
Carla Crivaro is a trauma-informed and certified Sex, Love & Relationship Coach, she works with men and women internationally to reach their goals in delicious sex, profound love and authentic relationships. Carla helps men and women understand themselves and each other, sexually and relationally, in and out of the bedroom. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other articles and podcasts which are supportive around this topic are: