There were two articles in the news this past week about erectile dysfunction that caught my eye. The first was in the Huffington Post: “Erectile Dysfunction: Why it May Be a Sign that He Really Is Into You.”* Writer Alexandra Katehakis talks about men who have some pretty strong feelings of attraction and wanting to please, connect, and impress their partner, might find themselves in some pretty limp moments. The second article was a study released in Sweden and couples in fertility treatment who are required to have intercourse at specific moments in order to conceive. Months of that performance pressure lead to ED (for 10% of the men, it also lead to affairs). In both of the situations, stress is the culprit.
A quick anatomy lesson: the erectile tissue in the penis is like a sponge. The little holes in the sponge are lined with muscles that stay contracted preventing blood from filling these holes like water balloons – resulting in a flaccid penis. When those muscle cells relax, the balloons fill up with blood and create an erection. What hormone governs these muscles, keeping them contracted and keeping the blood out? Adrenaline.
We all know what adrenaline feels like – it can be the thrill of a roller coaster or the terror of public speaking. Any situation that creates a secretion of adrenaline will result in a limp penis – you can not fight or run with a raging boner! Stress, worry, fear, anxiety, and frustration all cause secretion of adrenaline. The anxiety of trying to please a partner, the anxiety about getting an erection, and the anxiety from life in general can all cause a penis to go, or stay, limp.
I have a friend who describes dealing with ED as having a train wreck in his mind. One small limp moment can lead to a derailed, jumbled up mess that never seems to get back on track. Constantly thinking “Is it gonna work?” just leads to trouble. Every guy has experienced this to some degree. For most guys, a successful episode or two puts the disaster out of their mind.
Katehakis urges partners (in this case, women) to not blame themselves. There is a tendency, it seems, for some women to assume they are not attractive enough, or sexy enough, or (fill-in-the-blank) enough. Interestingly, guys blame themselves for not being studly enough. It occurrs to me that there must be very few instances in life where both parties take the blame for something that is neither one’s fault.
Getting out of this rut, out of this train wreck, out of this pit of personal hell, can be a daunting task. Turning sex back into blissful play, with no performance pressure, has to be one of the hardest jobs in the world for men. Many men begin to dread sex because of the string of failures they feel they have had.
I encourage guys to rethink what “sex” is. That word alone is so loaded with baggage, it is a wonder any of us have great “sex.” Is it Penis-In-Vagina? Is it Penis-In-Orifice? Is it Penis-In-Anything at all? Interestingly, lesbians have been having great sex with their partners with no penis for millions of years…how DO they do that?
I have a friend, Sean Christopher, at www.orgasmicguy.com who likes to avoid the term “making love” due to the mental pressure it puts on all of us, and uses the term “naked relating” a lot. I think that is a great place to start. It’s good advice for everyone – even if you don’t experience ED. Get naked, start relating, start laughing, start having fun. Forget about making love – heck, forget about having sex too. Get naked and just relate. See what happens.