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Keeping It Up

By Cyndi Darnell

Erectile Dysfunction (ED) is a condition in which men of all ages experience problems either getting or maintaining an erection. For a true ED diagnosis, men must experience this issue during both solo and/or partnered sex. This would also include no or few morning erections or soft erections that are never fully hard. In the event such a problem is persistent, medical tests are essential to determine whether there is a true dysfunction or if the issue is something far less sinister.

Since the advent of Viagra, Cialis and its variants in the 1990s, men around the world have found solace in the drug’s abilities to produce erection where there may previously have been none. This is a great short term solution for men looking for a quick fix but in the long term, does not address the root of the problem. As a result, I am increasingly seeing younger men in my practice complaining of ED and fearful of a life dependent upon drugs to get them hard.

One young man, Thomas, wept in my office telling me, he “feels too young to be so reliant upon pills every time I want sex”. Thomas’s despair speaks to the truth of many men’s experiences of unreliable erections, with an increase in young men reporting ED, but no evidence that more men are actually experiencing it than previous generations. While porn is often blamed for such performance issues, there is no data to support its influence on unreliable erections. In fact, more pressing social problems such as poor sex education, poor communication skills, too much booze and a culture that tells men they can only be effective sexual partners if they are hard and ready to fuck for hours, holds greater responsibility than occasionally jerking off to porn.

More often than not, unreliable erections stem from anxiety about hook ups, relationships or pleasure, along with developing unique masturbation styles that mean you get accustomed to a certain kind of stimulation to get hard or get off. While porn may give men unrealistic expectations of how sex should be, the good news is watching porn is not the problem. Rather, it’s how you feel about yourself in relation to what you’re seeing, your willingness and ability to discuss this with your lovers and developing new masturbation habits, including decreasing how often your jerk off, to allow your erections to come and go without panicking about them.

In any given sexual encounter, you will notice that your erections shift in hardness and presence. This is not ED and is perfectly normal. Feeling the pressure to ‘perform’ sex like being a circus act also makes being relaxed during intimate encounters difficult. Learning to discuss what you and your partner likes other than penetration is a great way to help manage the immediate anxiety associated with unreliable erections. That way, if you feel your erection softening, you can use your hands, mouth or toys to buy yourself some time, rebuild erotic tension and focus on turning him, her or them on, while you bring your attention to pleasure rather than performance.