This is my life: I go to have brunch with some folks and end up in a conversation about dealing with a partner’s erectile dysfunction…. And then I wrote a blog post about it.
What do you do when your partner routinely loses his erection?
Well, the first thing to remember is that sexual responsiveness is a combination of hitting the gas (i.e., giving good stimulation through all sensory modalities, including emotion and imagination) and taking your foot (or whatever) off the brakes (i.e., removing threats of all kinds), right? Right. So almost always erectile dysfunction is NOT about a failure of stimulation but about an overabundance of threats, often in the form of stress, anxiety, depression, or, in this case, a recent history of trauma.
Therefore the solution to ED, assuming it’s psychogenic and not straight-up physiological, is NOT about changing the stimulation. There is no extra-special blowjob trick you can use to get an erection back – at least not in the straightforward sense. It’s not about you as a source of stimulation.
Instead, confronting ED is about removing threats of all kinds. Now, in this dude’s case, it was most likely a temporary condition brought on by recent acute stress related to his lifestyle. So the simple passage of time, accompanied by lots of unconditional positive regard, would set things to rights fairly soon.
This combination of realities – that it’s not about stimulation and it IS about threats – tells us that the WORST thing you can do is to take it personally or judge or blame or worry or sweat it in any way at all. If it’s problematic from your point of view, it becomes a source of anxiety, which is the OPPOSITE of arousal. I know you might feel like a failure or you might be inclined to take it personally. Don’t. Your attitude should be one of bright, optimistic curiosity about the things you can do sans erection.
Penises are like puppies. They respond poorly to commands. They don’t understand. And the more aggressive you get with your commands, the more they’ll just cower and duck and wait for you to calm down. But boy are they glad to see you, as long as nothing in telling them NOT to be glad to see you.
So: imagine you were in the middle of intercourse or fellatio, and things went south. Here is the puppy penis before you, flaccid, attached to a boy who now feels like a failure, ashamed, guilty, self-recriminating. What does the puppy need most?
A balanced combination of affection and being ignored. Stop paying attention to the penis. He goes down on you or uses a vibrator or his hands on you, you masturbate while he watches, you flip him onto his belly and ravish his well-lubricated anus. The possibilities are many and varied.
Alternatively, you can adopt this opportunity to do all the pleasurable things you can do only when a penis is soft. You can put the WHOLE THING in your mouth, draw it out with a long, solid suck, and let it flop down with a pop. You can bury your face in the soft warmth of scrotum and penis. You can tug gently upward with your hands, squeezing surprisingly firmly on the soft shaft. You can rub your genitals against his, noticing and reveling in the unique sensation provided by flaccidity. Soft penises are fun! If your partner starts to get an erection, scold him lightly but firmly: “No, honey! No erection right now!” If he refuses to comply, punish him accordingly.
Either way, keep it really sexy.
In conclusion, erections come and go. People tend to put a lot of cultural weight on them, as if all of masculinity hangs on the flow of blood into and out of the phallus. But that’s all just cultural noise and has nothing to do with you and your lustbunny in bed together. Leave that behind and enjoy the body and the personhood there with you. Relax about erections. If one goes away, another will come along soon enough, I promise. The more you worry about it, the longer you’ll have to wait.
The brunch, by the way, involved some truly excellent banana bread, of which I had three slices with butter. Yum.