Ask the Doctors: My Partner’s ED

I have a partner who has begun to have issues with erections. It’s stressing him out. His doctor told him he didn’t need to see a specialist, because the intermittent nature of his soft-ons means that it’s not physical. I’ve encouraged him to write back, and ask again to see a specialist (because, as I said, it’s stressing him out).

Meanwhile, I would really appreciate it if you could recommend some books to read. I wouldn’t be surprised if it is mental/emotional as much as anything. With a touch of age and overly-high expectations thrown in. But, I think he needs to explore the information on his own, to a certain degree. Any suggestions would be helpful. There are a million books, and some are simply better than others, eh?

Well, my first thought is that despite what the doctor said, erection difficulties can be a sign of certain health issues so I do think it’s worth getting checked out. Plus, not all medical conditions are either/or where they would always cause erection difficulties. There are actually a lot of different factors that can affect erections, so it’s worth making sure that there isn’t something else going on.

Having said that, it is also true that many men find that their erections don’t work the same ways as they get older. They may need more direct or longer stimulation, they might not get erect as quickly, and they might find that their erections get soft more quickly. That’s especially true if someone is stressing about it since anxiety causes the adrenal glands to produce adrenaline, which makes the penis get soft. As far as the body is concerned, it doesn’t matter whether the stress is work-related or because he’s worried about his erections. That’s why performance anxiety can cause erecti0n difficulties.

That’s also why I don’t call it erectile dysfunction. If it’s happening because of stress, it’s actually what the body is supposed to do and therefore it isn’t a dysfunction, even if it is inconvenient or not what we want. It’s a minor point, but I’ve found that it helps some men feel less upset- their bodies aren’t broken.

Although it’s a few years old, I think Zilbergeld’s The New Male Sexuality is one of the best books on this topic. It covers both the medical side of this question (although since it isn’t recent, there’s some info that’s out of date) as well as the mental/emotional side of things. It’s very supportive without pulling punches.


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Dr. Charlie Glickman

Charlie Glickman is the Education Program Manager at Good Vibrations. He also writes, blogs, teaches workshops and university courses, presents at conferences, and trains sexuality educators. He’s certified by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists, and loves geeking out about sex, relationships, sex-positivity, love and shame, communities of erotic affiliation, and sexual practices and techniques of all varieties. Follow him online, on Twitter at @charlieglickman, or on Facebook.

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