Words by Anonymous
“ED” is something everyone experiences in one way or another, it is something anyone involved in a relationship with at least one penis-bearing-person must deal with. It’s easy to brush off once or twice perhaps, especially when drunk, or with a long-term partner, or maybe with a lot of built up sexual confidence. But if you’re anything like me, your first sexual encounter with a new partner could spring a world of pain.
There are many reasons for experiencing ED. These can include strict parenting, poor sex education, relationship problems, personal pressures from friends or family, trauma, and mental health issues. For me, it can be traced to unrealistic expectations of my own sexual performance, the suppression of my own “vulgar” desires out of respect, as well as an unhealthy masturbation routine. These things didn’t initially affect my sexual life, my journey with ED had a trigger.
Cue the “Golden Age” of Tinder. On one fateful “hook-up” I experienced some impotence. I suppose I wasn’t ready for it, but I don’t think anyone ever is — at least not anyone involved at the time. Naturally, my partner’s reaction was to worry whether I found them attractive, and the words seemed to overflow out their mouth.
“is it me?”
“this has never happened to me before…”.
I don’t necessarily blame them for my issues, because they are exactly my own issues, but I certainly feel as if these kinds of anxieties can be handled better by others. I’ve had consistent issues with erections and sexual performance in general for 3 years, and it’s stemmed from this moment and reached a point where I prefer to avoid sex altogether.
What I’ve learnt from this so far is very personal, and it might not apply to everyone, but this could of course happen to anyone. The point is that we could all stand to reconceptualise ED, even if we’re just having a hook-up. My experience in the past three years has featured no real consistency in partners, I’ve been what I used to describe as “sexually successful” around 7 or 8 times out of many more encounters. I’ve had every reaction out there, ranging from dissatisfaction, to persistency, to compassion. As a point of severe anxiety for myself, I have ended up in tears, and I can honestly say there is nothing as seemingly “low” than to cry after initiating sex. Perhaps at this point you may want some pointers on how exactly to react to it, so let me start a small list of things to avoid being as the partner of someone with ED.
Patronising: This will seem obvious, but saying things like “it isn’t your fault” perhaps highlights that it might be their fault, in their mind. Either way I can assure you an impotent person doesn’t need reminding that it’s a fault. Stick to reassuring them that you are either not worried, and that it’s okay, or even better ask them to do something else instead.
Disappointed: I can probably imagine that you’re going to feel a little disappointed, but try your hardest to avoid showing this in any way because your partner is going to feel this tenfold. If you really are disappointed, think of ways you can substitute a flaccid penis for some other kinds of pleasure.
Self-Conscious: It may be likely for some that they will feel rejected or self-conscious in these moments, once again, try your hardest to hide this. Your partner is feeling self-conscious too, take comfort in that and try to make a sexual experience that is perhaps non-genital focussed. If you both explore each other’s bodies beyond the “private” you appreciate and affirm each other in ways that don’t necessarily bring up insecurity.
Of course, the issue is we tend to think in physiology, not psychology, and to a large extent, its culture that shapes our idea of how penises should work. We get caught up in a heteronormative idea of sex that doesn’t allow us to look beyond the sensation of penetration and genital pleasure. Think of all our common terms for sex; Anal, Oral, Vaginal — these just encompass genital pleasure. Sex is so much more. Sex is an experience of all five senses, if you are physically unable to have penetrative sex, or sex involving a penis, then perhaps have sex by touching other areas, smelling different smells, tasting different tastes, and seeing things from a different perspective. We are innately fascinated by someone else’s body; let’s take away the focus from our genitals and maybe ED will be lost in our revolutionary sex lives.
For those of you reading this and identifying with my story, I have some advice, no matter what your sexual desires may be. Don’t stop masturbating, perhaps find some different porn to watch (I can recommend pornastherapy.com), fantasise and feel, rather than stimulate yourself purely in visuals. You may hear that ED usually affects men over 40 and this could leave you feeling like you’re too young to need Viagra. If it really affects you there are services out there to help — I’m still seeing a sex therapist and it’s beyond useful in uprooting these issues. Don’t think of yourself as broken, and certainly don’t think anyone else will think of you as broken. Sure, Carrie from Sex in the City might dehumanise men when she talks to her girlfriends, but I’ll leave you with a quote from the timeless poet Charle Boudelaire, and you can decide which opinion you give more gravity to.
“Every man should outgrow the vulgar ability to penetrate a woman with his penis, as he gradually learns to penetrate her with his mind”.