Most men, at some point in their lives, will experience erectile dysfunction. That is, they will have difficulty in getting or maintaining an erection, coming too soon or not at all. And for some men, that will point to a genuine health problem. For instance, it’s a reasonable predictor of a heart attack. And about 3-8% of older men will experience De Peyronie’s Disease, where the erect penis is bent, sometimes very bent, and intercourse is impossible, or painful.
But almost all of the time, the problem isn’t physical, it’s psychological. But just saying that doesn’t get us very far. We need to unpack the idea further.
Some basics first: There are 2 parts to our nervous system, the sympathetic and the parasympathetic. The sympathetic is to get things done, and protect us from danger. It’s the ‘fight or flight’ response. The emotion which is often associated with it is anxiety. The parasympathetic governs sleep, digestion and sex. It’s primarily associated with relaxation. It tends to be either/or. So, if you’re having great sex and the house catches fire, or a dinosaur appears, you’re unlikely to be able to continue. Alongside it’s fiercer friends, Guilt and Anger, Anxiety is one of the 3 great anti-aphrodisiacs.
Culturally, men have the idea that they should be able to get an erection whenever they want, should be able to maintain it as long as they want, and that if they can’t do that, they’re inadequate. And worse, the women they’re with won’t just be dissatisfied, but will tell all their friends too, and will probably arrange for a news crew to be calling round shortly. Disaster.
Now, given that hardly any men can do this reliably, what’s the dominant emotion for many men likely to be when it comes to sex? Anxiety! And what’s that likely to promote? Well, certainly not your erection.
The odd thing is, women are unlikely to blame you for your perceived failure. They’re more likely to blame themselves, for not being attractive enough, loving enough, skilled enough, etc etc.
Even the name ‘erectile dysfunction’ suggests either that your body is a machine which isn’t working properly, or is an unreliable slave who often won’t do what he’s told.
But your body isn’t a machine. Your body is you. And your cock isn’t a machine either. It’s you too. It’s no different from your heart, or your brain. You wouldn’t call sadness ‘happiness dysfunction’, would you?
So the key isn’t getting the cock ‘working’ again. The key is giving him absolute value, just like the rest of you. He doesn’t have value only when he ‘performs’.
On both a literal and metaphorical level, one of the key requirements to learn, is how to follow through in life and in the bedroom, and to understand there’s no shame in whatever arises or falls. So if you have an issue with ED, don’t give up on yourself.
Find a way to give yourself the chance to feel relaxed, extended arousal in your life.
Explore other things that will calm your mind and reduce stress in your life, help soothe anxiety. Learn to talk about this with a partner so you feel loved and accepted whatever happens. And learn about the way your body works, how using breath and staying present is key.
As bodyworkers, we work from the starting place that what cures us is love. And new insight. Specifically, through kindness, acceptance and loving touch, we restore dignity, confidence and beauty to the whole body, which is to say, to you.
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