Posts Tagged ‘penis’

Ten Erection Disappointments That Are NOT “ED”

February 27, 2015

Men, women, and couples come to my practice each week talking about “ED”—erectile dysfunction. The term apparently refers to anyone who can’t get an erection when he wants to—once. This, of course, implies that penises should behave like ATMs—ready to do business 24/7, rain or shine.

But that’s not how penises or the human brain are built. Penises actually need a lot of conditions in order to do what their owners, or their owners’ partners, want them to do. Those conditions can involve emotions, environmental issues, or features of the partner. If one of those isn’t quite right, even the healthiest penis will stubbornly stay small and soft and quite calm.

So here are ten common situations in which penis owners—or their partners—often expect or demand an erection, and don’t get one. Such cases are examples of unrealistic expectations, not ED.

* You’ve been drinking a lot
“A lot” might be as little as a couple of drinks. You don’t have to be drunk in order to be compromised by alcohol. You know how drinking slows down your reflexes for driving? It also slows down your erection reflex.

* You’re really tired
Sometimes sex is available exactly when we’re most tired—and worse, we may fear it won’t be available when we’re rested (or a potential partner has had a chance to think things over). Besides, many people leave sex for the last thing at night, when they can no longer do anything productive. When we treat sex so disrespectfully it’s no wonder if our bodies don’t respond.

* You’re afraid sex will lead to pregnancy (or an STI)
Even if you’re telling yourself over and over “it won’t happen,” or you’re repeating to yourself “don’t forget to pull out,” that can be pretty distracting.

* You don’t really want to have sex with this person
Sometimes it’s a long-term partner we’ve lost interest in, but we have sex in order to prevent conflict. Sometimes it’s a casual partner that we’re not that attracted to—but hey, it’s sex, right? Actually, wrong.

* The stuff she’s doing isn’t sexy to you—in fact, it hurts
Long, long fingernails where you don’t want them, too much teeth, thrusting or bouncing on your penis in a way that scares you—these can all chase away an erection. And a look, a phrase, or lingerie that she thinks is sexy but just strikes you wrong can also get in the way. Turns out men are more sensitive than some people give them credit for.

* She’s sloppy drunk
Why you’d want to have sex with a drunk woman is an important question. Among other things, it’s hardly ethical (although I understand that you both might be). But once you’re into it—or trying to be—it usually turns out to be way more trouble than it’s worth. Most penises don’t find it to be a pretty sight.

* She doesn’t want to have sex
Trying to talk someone into it—or roughly pushing them into it—gets some men excited, caveman-style. Most men are simply too human to enjoy it. And no matter how desirable she was before she said “no,” once a woman says “no” it’s hard for most men to keep their self-respect if they keep pushing. And erections usually leave when dignity does.

* You’re in a big hurry
If you’re in a big hurry, you’re either thinking about the thing you need to do next, or you’re worried about being caught (or simply running out of time). Not conducive to erection.

* You’re just not in the mood
Many men have been told that since women control sex, a man doesn’t have the luxury of not being in the mood when sex is available. If you’re not in the mood but proceed anyway, your penis may reveal the truth by refusing to participate.

* You still haven’t gotten over the argument you recently had
That argument hurt, didn’t it? And even if it didn’t, it made you feel separate from your partner, right? Besides, a productive argument actually gives you something to think about afterwards. If you’re thinking about that, that’s good—but it may not leave much of your attention available for sexual interest.
* * *
Why does it matter what we call a situation that may be, variously, aggravating, embarrassing, confusing, or shocking?

For one thing, getting beyond the narrative of ED means the lack of erection may not mean a lack of desire, arousal, or affection. For another, it means that the lack of erection may be quite temporary—as soon as the right conditions are arranged (an hour later, a week later), an erection may be quite available. And finally, it means that erection drugs may not be the right approach to getting the desired erection.

As in so many things sexual, honesty with oneself and communication with one’s partner are frequently the first steps toward improving your sexual experience—in this case, getting more reliable and drama-free erections.

Is There Such A Thing As Gay (or Straight) Porn?

February 23, 2013

We know there’s porn and we know there are gay people. But is there “gay porn?” Or is it simply porn featuring people of the same gender having sex together?

If it’s “gay porn,” then we would be surprised to find straight people looking at it. If it’s porn featuring same-gender sex, however, then we’d be surprised if there weren’t straight people watching it.

It’s the latter, of course. Adults find all sorts of fantasies and images sexy—and they don’t necessarily have anything to do with their real-life desires. That is, enjoying scenes of two men having oral sex doesn’t make a man gay. Similarly, enjoying looking at fictional scenes of sexual coercion (or fantasizing being raped) doesn’t mean a person wants that in real life.

To put it another way, what arouses us is only a small part of our sexual orientation. If you want to know if someone’s gay, straight, or bi, ask them who they have sex with (and who they want to have sex with in real life), not what videos they like to watch.

The question came up in a professional conversation the other day, when an inexperienced therapist asked why some straight men were attracted to websites featuring pre-operative transsexuals (typically advertised as “tranny” or “she-male”)—that is, images of people with women’s breasts and a penis.

Why wouldn’t they? Talk about having your cake and eating it too! Most straight men enjoy women’s breasts, and most straight men are fascinated with penises. This porn allows the viewer to enjoy both at the same time. And the arithmetical possibilities—whether the performer is onscreen with one other person or several—are increased geometrically. Fellatio, anyone? Domination-submission-domination-submission anyone?

That’s why I discourage my straight patients from using the expression “gay fantasy,” and discourage my gay patients from saying “straight fantasy” (unless they’re fantasies ABOUT being gay or straight, which is a different matter). These expressions actually cloud things, because they suggest that the enjoyment of cross-orientation fantasies needs explanation. An investigation can be valuable, of course, especially if people have trouble thinking about or acknowledging their interests or curiosity. Sometimes the content of a favorite fantasy is a metaphor or an indirect expression of interest. A same-gender fantasy may excite a straight person because of, say, power dynamics. A mixed-gender fantasy may excite a gay person because of, say, a sense of belonging.

It turns out that sexuality is more complicated than gay-or-straight. In 1948 Alfred Kinsey presented data showing that “the world is not simply divided “into sheep and goats,” and presented his 7-point Kinsey Scale of sexual orientation. These days, expressions like GLBTQQI remind us that a person’s sexual orientation is a movie, not a photograph—behavior can change over time. Curiosity and experimentation can take us in unexpected (even, sometimes, boring!) directions. In that sense, we’re all “queer,” and potentially or actually “questioning.”

Ultimately, it’s more important to enjoy our fantasies than to understand or decode them. Most of us enjoy mainstream entertainment—such as violent video games, syrupy romance novels, detailed historical documentaries, or utopian science fiction films—without wondering what our preferences for these things “mean.” We all know perfectly gentle people who enjoy the brutal weekly mayhem on CSI or Bones or whatever the latest adrenalin-pumper is. We may criticize their taste, but we don’t need to fear their violent impulses.

Unless, of course, we try to change the channel.

Pity The Virgins: Wedding Night Blues

October 31, 2012

Say there are 50 million weddings a year around the globe. I figure about 85% of those wedding couples contain at least one virgin. At least half of them have two virgins.

I saw one of those couples today in therapy. Mr. A and Ms. B have been married twenty years; when they wed she was a virgin, while he had had intercourse a few brief times with someone else. Their wedding night was an unconsummated mess, resulting in tears and confusion. Several days later, on their honeymoon, they tried again—“and we failed again,” Mr. A recalled. Her vagina didn’t get wet enough, he couldn’t get his penis in, and he soon lost his erection. They each took turns blaming themselves; the next morning they took turns blaming each other.

For years, sex was an infrequent, discouraging hassle. Now they can’t remember the last time they did it.

They revealed a variety of reasons besides the wedding night disaster. Years ago she refused to let his friend’s son stay in their home during semester break; he was distant and cold during her subsequent miscarriage; she was bitter rather than supportive when he lost his job; his new job required travelling to India, and he started to get massages there with “happy endings.” She was crushed when she found out, and brought them to my office.

But no matter what we talked about, it seemed we periodically returned to their unhappy wedding night. “I didn’t know what to do,” Ms. B acknowledged. “I expected him to lead, to guide, to explain. When he couldn’t, I felt abandoned.” “Yes, replied Mr. A, “all the pressure was on me, and when things went wrong, you made it clear it was my problem to figure out. And I couldn’t.” Neither of them has forgiven the other. I don’t think they’ve forgiven themselves, either.

It’s too easy to say they got off to a bad start and never recovered, although it’s true. Their personalities weren’t a very good match, and their sexual visions were mismatched, too. She imagined a gentle, kind, knowledgeable but wholesome man; he imagined a sexy, enthusiastic, curious but wholesome woman. What their bedroom needed was an extra pair of gentle hands—and wise eyes, a confident smile, and an extra heart—but of course none came their way.

I won’t say their marriage was doomed by virginity or sexual inexperience. But it certainly wasn’t helped. Her virginity provided no reassurance for him, no spiritual haven for her. His inexperience made the wedding night nerve-racking rather than “special.”

People do NOT need to be sexually experienced before marriage to enjoy sex after it. But “love” and “commitment” generally aren’t enough to ensure a happily-ever-after. People who don’t have intercourse need sex education as much as those who do. Everyone needs words for their body parts; information to combat common myths (masturbation is dangerous, men don’t like to hug, etc.); good decision-making skills; and a sense of empowerment about their sexuality.

When people have good information, feel comfortable with their bodies, can communicate with a partner, and believe that sex is lovely, their virginity is not an obstacle on the wedding night. But too often virgin-until-marriage also means enforced ignorance, unfamiliarity with the other gender, discomfort with one’s body, and a pile of taboos so high that people can barely see each other in bed.

I feel bad for Mr. A and Ms. B, who didn’t do anything wrong. In fact, they followed all the social rules with which they were raised—and paid the common price.

Here’s what I propose: in all cultures that emphasize pre-marital virginity, redefine the wedding night as the start of a couple’s sexual life together. That means the first night should just be looking; the second, talking; the third, touching; the fourth, kissing; etc.. If it took God a week to create the world out of nothing, couples need at least that much time to create a sexual connection out of nothing.

You’ll also remember that God said “Let there be light.” So to enable couples to see each others’ naked bodies on the wedding night, let’s start a new tradition. How about making it the maternal aunt’s honor to give the new couple a bedroom lamp—turned on during sex?


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