March 17, 2020

How to Stay Hard Longer During Sex

Although there are many ways to have sex that don’t require a hard penis, if getting hard (and staying hard) is the goal, here are some helpful tips that don’t require medication.
Written by
Emily A. Klein
Published on
March 17, 2020
Updated on
May 20, 2021
What's changed?
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Many people with penises want to know how to stay hard longer. They may be eager to please their partner, or they may feel embarrassed if they can’t get or maintain an erection. Cultural messages around the importance of staying hard have many people convinced that a rock-hard cock is the surest way to please your partner. 

Since penetration is often presented as “the main event” in conversations around (particularly straight) sex, many people feel overwhelming pressure to stay hard. But fortunately for people with penises (and their partners) figuring out how to stay hard longer does not need to be a priority. If you or your partner struggle with erectile dysfunction (having trouble getting or staying hard), there are other ways to enjoy sex like mutual masturbation, strap on sex, sensation play, and more. Read on for some ideas on how to stay hard longer like lifestyle changes, medical options, and penetration alternatives.

What is an erection?

An erection (getting hard) happens as a result of becoming aroused (turned on) by direct touch, sensory input (sights, sounds, or even smells), or by sexual thoughts or fantasies. In response to sexual stimulation, nerves in the penis signal for specialized chemicals called neurotransmitters to be released. These chemicals cause the arteries (the tubes that carry oxygen-filled blood from the heart throughout the body) to relax, increasing blood flow to the spongy tissue inside the penis and causing it to swell and increase in size. At the same time, the network of veins (the tubes that carry blood back to the heart) surrounding the penis are squeezed shut, preventing blood from flowing back out. 

For some people, it can be difficult to get or keep an erection, a problem known as erectile dysfunction, or ED. This can be due to a variety of causes, including psychological factors (depression, anxiety, or relationship problems, for example), nerve problems (like spinal cord injuries or illnesses like diabetes or stroke that affect nerve function), hormonal imbalances, problems with blood circulation, or the side effects of certain medications (1).

How to stay hard longer without coming (without using pills)

Although there are ways to have sex besides penetration, many people would still like to know how to stay hard longer. There’s no single trick to maintaining an erection, but there are a few things that can help:

1. Check your medications.

Some medications have been linked to problems with getting or staying hard, including antipsychotics, antidepressants, and some medicines used to treat heart disease and high blood pressure (1). If you are taking any medications, consider talking to your medical provider about your symptoms—they may adjust your dosage or suggest another treatment.

2. Don’t smoke cigarettes.

Research has shown a clear relationship between smoking tobacco and erectile dysfunction. Substances found in cigarettes cause blood vessels to constrict (get smaller); since getting an erection depends on the expansion of the vessels that carry blood into the penis, anything that interferes with that process is bad news for those struggling to get and stay hard. As well as directly interfering with the action of veins and arteries needed to get and maintain an erection, cigarette smoking increases your risk for heart disease, which has also been linked to erectile dysfunction (2). 

3. Take care of your mental health.

Anxiety can create a negative-feedback loop that may cause your dick to stay soft, even when you’re eager for sex. Some people experience erectile dysfunction due to sexual performance anxiety—feeling insecure about their sexual abilities or worrying about pleasing their partner (3). Certain other anxiety disorders, like social anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, and PTSD are also associated with difficulties in getting and maintaining an erection (4). Other mental health factors that contribute to ED can include depression and relationship problems (1). 

Incorporating self-care practices like meditation, yoga, and mindfulness (learning to be “in the moment” without judging your thoughts or experiences) into your daily routine may help to combat stress and improve your mental health (5; 6). Plus, being mindful while having sex—taking the time to slow down, pay attention to all of your senses, and focus on the present moment—is a great way to increase your pleasure and connection with your partner.

If anxiety, stress, or depression are negatively impacting your life—sexually or otherwise—seeking out a therapist or counselor you trust can be helpful (7). Finding a professional who can help you cultivate strategies to minimize stress and improve your mental health can have a positive impact on your sexual relationships and your general wellbeing.

4. Take care of your physical health. 

If you want to be able to stay hard longer, taking care of your body is a must. 

Regular exercise has a host of benefits for your overall physical and mental health. Physical activity (the more the better) is strongly associated with decreased risk for erectile dysfunction (8). Pelvic floor exercises may also help you to stay hard longer by increasing your stamina and strengthening the muscle groups that support the penis (11). 

Eating a balanced diet and practicing healthy eating habits can make you feel better in general; It may also help you to combat the effects of ED (8). 

Sleep has a major role in regulating your mood, physical health, and all-round wellbeing. Sleep problems like insomnia (having trouble falling or staying asleep) have been linked to sexual dysfunction (9). If you’re experiencing sleep problems and ED, consider talking to your therapist or medical provider about strategies to improve your sleep.

5. Get an assist.

Cock rings fit around the base of the penis (some are designed to fit around the shaft, while others encircle the balls, too) and can help you to maintain an erection by restricting blood flow. They can be fancy or plain; many also vibrate to provide added sensation for you and your partner. (Pay attention to how your cock ring feels; it shouldn’t be too difficult to remove, and should be taken off at the first sign of numbing, cold, or discoloration of your penis. A cock ring shouldn’t be worn for more than 30 minutes at a time.)

6. Change it up.

If you’d like to stay hard longer, it can help to vary your play: switch from the missionary position to spooning, change from vaginal penetration to oral, or take a break and watch each other masturbate. Adding variety can keep things interesting; adding different sensations can provide extra stimulation for your penis, which can help you to stay hard.

7. Talk about it.

Sex can be better if you’re able to effectively communicate with your partner about your needs. Opening up about your desire to stay hard longer, and any associated anxiety, can help to ease the pressure, as well as give your partner the opportunity to tell you what they want.

What if you can’t stay hard?

Even if you’ve tried everything to stay hard longer, sometimes your dick just won’t cooperate. Whether you have a medical condition, recurring anxiety, or simply can’t seem to sustain an erection, there are other ways to connect with your partner and experience pleasure. 

For many people, penetration isn’t the most important part of sex. Even for those who want and desire penetration as a regular part of their sex life, a soft dick is definitely not a deal-breaker. Sex therapist Dr. Tom Murphy offers this advice to readers: “If you want a guaranteed erection to continue pleasuring your partner, the best solution is to wear a strap-on dildo.” That’s right: even if you have a penis already, you can absolutely use a strap-on when sustained penetration is the goal. Some strap-ons are designed with penis-havers in mind, allowing you to slide them over your own cock. 

What are the medication options for ED?

For those interested in exploring medical treatments for ED, there are several options. Medications to treat ED include sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), and vardenafil (Levitra). These drugs, known as PDE5 inhibitors, work by blocking the action of an enzyme in the walls of blood vessels that signals them to constrict; by preventing this enzyme from working, they increase blood flow to the penis. For some people, these medications can be helpful in getting and staying hard; they are not effective, however, at increasing sex drive or the desire for sex (10). 

Do you have to get (and stay) hard to have sex?

No! Sex takes many forms, from mutual masturbation and oral, to outercourse (also known as dry humping) and strap-on sex. You can experience pleasure and intimacy even if your dick never gets hard. Changing your mentality around what sex is and isn’t can be liberating and open up new horizons of fun: By shifting the focus away from penetration with a hard cock, you can explore other ways of giving and receiving pleasure. For some people, this might mean experimenting with prostate orgasms and toys; it could also encourage you to focus on refining your techniques for eating pussy or ass, giving a blow job, or using your hands to pleasure your partner.

Although getting and staying rock-hard is often equated with masculinity and sexual prowess, real sexual skill is all about knowing how to give and receive pleasure within an atmosphere of enthusiastic consent and mutual trust. By shifting the focus from penetration to pleasure, you can enjoy great sex—with or without an erection.

Reviewed for Medical Accuracy

Emily A. Klein is a freelance writer with deep interests in science, culture, and health. As a student of cultural anthropology, she researched and wrote about kink, reproductive rights, cross-cultural medicine, and humans’ relationship with technology. She has designed and implemented a sexual health curriculum for adolescent girls, worked with foster youth and people experiencing housing insecurity, and volunteered as an emergency first responder. Her writing has appeared in The Establishment, Edible magazine, The Seattle Lesbian, Slog, and elsewhere.

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