Ask Gigi: I'm Having Trouble Staying Hard
Welcome to Ask Gigi, an advice column where sex and relationships writer Gigi Engle answers your most intimate questions. Nothing is off-limits! From threesomes to anal, unrequited love to cheating: we want to hear it all.
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I’ve been dealing with erectile dysfunction and have no idea why or what to do about it. As much as I feel like my partner is sexy, fun in bed, and I’m turned on by her, I can’t keep a strong erection.
It seems like it might be lifestyle related. Between alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, and diet, it seems like I’m a perfect candidate for ED. I don’t know for sure if it’s any of those or if it’s mental (it gets to my head real quick and stays there).
Is it possible that it has anything to do with masturbation and/or porn consumption? I’m in the normal range. Maybe a little above normal. I’m curious if this could be messing with my actual sex life.
Is there any advice you’d be able to share that may help me with this problem? Anything you know of that helps guys overcome ED, or any reasonable switches in behavior that would help?
Thanks for reaching out. ED is about as common a concern as any when it comes to sexual performance. Erections, erections, erections. So much pressure on erections. You’re not alone here — I’m sure you know that. It is the guys who come out and ask the questions that help those who are embarrassed. You’re a hero!
First of all, stop Googling. You’re going to freak yourself out. I feel like 90% of people come to me, only after they’ve tried to find solutions themselves. Of course, they don’t really implement whatever advice they find online. No offense, but ya know I’m right.
Erectile Dysfunction can be caused by many factors, and combinations of many factors. If you’re smoking, drinking, doing drugs, and have a poor diet – you can bet that these things are going to play a role.
If this has been your lifestyle for a long time, it will start to affect you more and more. When you’re a wee young thing, you can party pretty hard and the constant rush of testosterone coursing through your veins will pretty much make you feel invincible. As you get older, go through hormone changes, your body begins to be affected by the rager lifestyle, and that’s when ED can rear its ugly head.
That’s where you should start. You’re not going to see an improvement when you’re shooting your serotonin levels to shit and filling your body with chemicals. Obviously, I’m sure you’ve thought about this and it’s easier said than done. Partying is fun as fuck. That’s why you do it, right?
You’ve got to set boundaries. I personally have a reminder in my Gcal that says “NO DRUGS” during the weekdays to remind me to stay sober. You know, we all have our things. Drugs are fun. Booze is fun. But it fucks your sex drive UP.
Stick to partying on weekends. If you can, pick either Friday or Saturday. Stay away from day drinking. Staying hard after drinking during the day, when you’ve entered your late twenties and thirties, is like asking a wet noodle to stay hard. Pick one: Booze or sex. Not forever – but for that day. Seriously.
Next, the mental stuff. It for sure is the mental stuff too. Once we get into a negative spiral, it’s super hard (lol) to pull yourself out. You’ve gotten really self-conscious about staying hard and are worried you won’t be able to when you get started. When you don’t get as hard as you want to, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Your hard ons are getting softer the more you engage in self-shame.
Why does this happen, though? We have a weird way of looking at sex in this society: Everything is based around performance. If you’re not “performing,” you’re a failure. If you’re not hard enough, you’re not pleasing your woman. She’ll want to leave you. You’re not a man.Blah, blah, blah. Not true at all.
But, this is the way we measure a successful sex life. And this is total bullshit. It takes all the fun out of sex. How can you enjoy yourself when you’re focusing on whether or not you’re hard enough the entire time? Sounds miz.
Instead, you’ve got to shift your mental focus away from that kind of thinking to a pleasure-based model. Whether or not you have good sex isn’t about how hard you’re getting, it’s about how much pleasure you’re feeling and your partner is feeling.
Step two: Take “sex” off the table for a while. Focus entirely on other forms of pleasure: oral sex, tantric massage, sensate focus. No penetration. Just remove it from the menu for a few weeks to redirect your mental state.
To that end, the tongue is mightier than the sword. It always has been and always will be. Recommended reading for you: She Comes First. Ian Kerner became obsessed with oral sex when he was experiencing ED too. This should be your bible.
I know, I know — sometimes your partner just wants to get fucked. And that is FINE. But it can’t be the end-all-be-all. Let’s face it, women don’t even have that many orgasms through penetration. The clitoris will always reign. Also, get a dildo — as an addition, not a replacement. They rock.
Lastly, porn habits. Porn is completely fine when used ~responsibly.~ This is a grayscale and will differ from person to person. If you’re masturbating every single day, or multiple times per day, you can lose sensation in the penis. You hand is a lot stronger and more “efficient” than a vagina or mouth – which can slow down the ability to come and to get erections. I’ve had plenty of clients who have never successfully ejaculated inside of a partner due to overexposure to porn.
Porn also gets problematic in a mental sense. When you’re exposing yourself to super hardcore imagery, regular sex can seem less intense. Not in a bad way, necessarily, but when you’ve seen these super aggressive scenes, it can jumble your reality. Real sex isn’t porn. Even if you can logically make that distinction, your body can’t always do that.
Strep three: The porn has got to go (for a bit). Since you’re struggling with erections and it’s bothering you, skip the porn for a while – or at least cut down consumption to once or twice a week. You have to recalibrate your brain chemicals here.
I hope this helps! It should be a good working place to start.
This column originally appeared on Your Sexual PSA, where Gigi is the resident sexuality educator.