Erectile difficulties can cause great angst for both members of a couple, making what should be an enjoyable sexual experience feel like walking through a minefield, just waiting for something to blow up. This high stress, high pressure situation makes it easy for imaginations to run wild with negative possibilities. This can lead to mistaken beliefs about erections that only make things worse. Fortunately, erectile difficulties can usually be addressed successfully if you have the right information and mindset. So let’s tackle those myths and get your sex life back on track.
Myth #1: A solid erection is a requirement for good sex
It may be true that a hard enough erection is a requirement for intercourse, but that doesn’t mean that an erection is necessary for both members of the couple to have an enjoyable sexual experience. There are lots of other things that couples can do to have a good time. Considering that most women don’t orgasm from just intercourse without some other stimulation, putting too much emphasis on intercourse as the ultimate sexual act can make your sex life less satisfying, even if the erection works just as expected. Intercourse can be great, but many couples find that some variety is the key to keeping things interesting, especially over the long haul.
Ironically, men (or couples) who have the narrow belief that sex is all about intercourse are more likely to have erectile problems because intercourse requires a solid erection—and thereby puts a lot more pressure on the man to get and maintain one. Any temporary softening can cause him to worry about getting it back up which actually takes away from the sexual enjoyment in the moment and makes him more likely to get even softer, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. By contrast, if you recognize that erections can wax and wane over the course of a sexual experience, but you can still enjoy yourself or feel like you can please your partner either way, then it doesn’t matter as much what your erection is doing. Of course, by taking the pressure off, the erection is more likely to stick around.
Myth #2: Your erection has a mind of its own
After some bouts of erectile difficulty, many men (and their partners, too) can fall into the belief that they have no control over what their erection does. Sometimes it shows up, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it sticks around, sometimes it goes missing. Sometimes it returns, sometimes it’s gone. What in the world is going on here?
Most likely, these kinds of variable erections are the result of what is going on in the guy’s head, rather than what’s going on in his pants. However, it can hard to see that connection, until you know how to look for it. So, what is going through your head right before your erection started to slip away? And where does your head go once you notice that your erection is dipping? Plus, after a few bouts of erectile difficulty, his partner may also be worried about another “failure”, meaning that she then isn’t focused on enjoying the experience, but rather on monitoring the status of his erection. If the guy picks up on her tenseness, that may crank up his worry, making his erection even more elusive. So, where is her head going? If both members of the couple can see the connection between their thoughts and the erection, they can then focus on more productive thoughts.
Myth #3: Erectile difficulties require medication
While there are times when a small prescription of erection-promoting meds can help a couple get back on their feet sexually and thereby increase their confidence, they are not always required. And if you do decide to continue to use these mediations, you may still benefit from working on whatever else in the relationship is contributing to any sexual difficulties. This may be matters that contributed to the erectile difficulties in the first place or dealing with the fallout and negative expectations that can be caused by erectile difficulties.
Myth #4: It’s all in your head
While there are psychological and relational factors that can create or contribute to erectile difficulties, there are also medical reasons that can negatively impact a guy’s erectile capacity, such as diabetes, hypertension, Peyronie’s disease (bent erections), endocrine problems, prostate surgery/radiotherapy, and neurological problems. In addition, medications such as antihypertensives, anti-androgens, major tranquilizers, and SSRI antidepressants can all play a role. Therefore, if any of these apply to you, you may want to talk to your treatment providers to see if anything can be done.
Myth #5: Erectile difficulties mean he is no longer attracted to you
Even if they know better, it’s easy for some women to take the quality of their male partner’s erection as some sort of a referendum on her attractiveness. While there is obviously a connection between a guy’s level of attraction to his partner and how hard he is, there are lots and lots of other things that affect what is happening with his erection. If you are worried about how attractive he finds you, then ask him. If there are some things to be worked on, either by improving your attractiveness or by him changing his expectations, then work on it. Otherwise, don’t make this about you because it will only make you feel bad. This could lead to making you more self-conscious in bed & make him more awkward in bed. It benefits no one.
Myth #6: Porn causes erectile difficulties.
Anti-porn advocates make many claims, including that watching porn causes erectile difficulties with a real partner – a statement that is not supported by the research. To the extent that guys who watch more porn tend to have more erectile problems. It is because they have come to use porn (or, really, masturbation) as a substitute for partnered sex because of their erectile difficulties. Porn and masturbation tend to be easy and reliable with little performance pressure, so it becomes the path of least resistance. His female partner may not be happy about it, but may tacitly go along with it because she also feels bad when they are together and things don’t work out.
If porn or masturbation are being used as a safer alternative to partnered activities, then work with your partner to address this head on so you can return to a satisfying joint sex life. It is probably also worth talking about how porn and masturbation fit into each of your sex lives, so that it can be a positive addition rather than a substitute.