Erectile dysfunction (ED) isn’t just one thing. ED describes a group of erectile experiences, such as difficulty getting an erection and difficulty maintaining an erection. Sometimes, ED can also occur alongside premature ejaculation — ejaculating before you want to. However you experience it, you might find that having sex with ED can present some challenges.
Erectile dysfunction can be incredibly stressful both for the person experiencing it and for their partner(s). Many people associate positive sexual experiences with having an erection and believe that you can only have sex if you’re hard. But it’s important to note that erectile dysfunction isn’t the same thing as someone not being sexually aroused.
Just like someone with a vagina can get wet even if they aren’t horny, a person with a penis can get hard if they’re not aroused — and vice versa. Someone might psychologically be aroused, but their body just isn’t responding. That’s called arousal non-concordance, and it’s much more common than you might expect.
Erectile dysfunction causes
While ED isn’t a symptom of not being aroused, it can be a symptom of a number of other health issues. ED is linked to high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, alcohol misuse, prostate problems, and nerve damage. Its causes can be psychological, too — ED is linked to depression and anxiety. It also can affect people of all ages. Although the chances of someone experiencing ED increases with age, people of any age can struggle with erectile issues. A 2013 study found that one in four patients seeking help for new ED symptoms were under the age of 40.
You can still have sex with erectile dysfunction
All that said, erectile dysfunction doesn’t mean your sex life is over. Here are some of our tips for getting started.
Disclaimer: If you experience difficulties with erection on an ongoing basis, make an appointment with a urologist to rule out other possible health conditions.
First thing’s first: Redefine sex
Many people with penises feel a high amount of pressure to get and maintain an erection. But, if you experience erectile difficulties, the stress and anxiety from this can actually increase your erectile issues.
Performance anxiety is a sexual hindrance. To rid yourself of it, reframe your personal definition of sex. It isn’t just about penises going into vaginas or anuses. Sex can include sensual touch, oral sex, mutual masturbation, using sex toys, and so much more.
Take the emphasis off of penetration and suddenly, your sexual menu just got a whole lot more interesting.
Try out anal
Anybody can try anal sex, regardless of your gender or sexual orientation. Everybody has a butt, and it’s a pretty versatile body part. You can perform oral sex on an anus (analingus), finger the outside of the butthole, finger the inside of the butthole, use a buttplug or anal beads, or penetrate it with a cock that is either attached to a body or one that you buy at a sex toy shop. If you’re someone who is used to doing the penetration, tuning into your bottom can be a thrilling new experience. Just make sure to use lube and start slowly.
Strap it on
Strap-ons aren’t just for people with vaginas. Thanks to ingenious harness design, people with penises can use them, too. The Spareparts Deuce harness has two holes in it; one for your penis, and one for a store-bought cock. If you still want to include penetration in your sex routine, strapping on allows you to do so with or without an erection. Plus, if you and your partner are similar hip sizes, you can share the harness so that they can strap on for you.
Give your cock a break and let your hands do some of the work. Whether your partner is stroking your soft cock, you’re fingering their vagina or anus, or you’re jacking them off, your hands are a great tool. Orgasms are literally in the palm of your hand.
Use a penis sleeve
Penis sleeves and extenders are two unique tools that you can wear over your penis if you’re still looking to penetrate your partner. A word to the wise, though: Both tools can be clunky to wear and you won’t experience intense physical sensation with either. But, if you want the psychological stimulation of watching your cock go in and out of your partner, they’re a great option.
You can give oral all you (and your partners) want, even if your cock is soft. Plus, you can still perform oral on a soft penis. That’s right — you don’t need an erection to receive oral and have it be satisfying. Ask your partner to focus more on licking and soft stimulation with their mouth, rather than something like deepthroating. (This is also a great opportunity to actually try out 69ing, since your cock being soft can make it easier for your partner to give you head from a modified position).
Try some toys
You might associate sex toys with vaginas, but there are plenty of toys out there for people with penises. Cock rings — both vibrating and non-vibrating — can actually help your penis become erect and stay that way for longer. Masturbation toys like Tenga Eggs can give you new sensations during a handjob. The Hot Octopuss Pulse line can help you orgasm, even if you never become hard. And those are just the products that are designed for penises. You can use wand- and bullet-style vibrators on a cock, too, or use them as tools for sensation play on other parts of your body. Just run them up and down the frenulum (the ridge on the underside of your penis), use them on your nipples, or even tease your balls with them.
Use your dirty words
Whether you opt for sexting throughout the day (we’ve got some sexting ideas for you right here), handwritten erotica by the nightstand, or dirty talk during sexy time, communicating your fantasies and desires can be incredibly arousing. If you take longer to get hard than you would like to, maybe you and your partners can plan for a slow build-up throughout the day: Send each other sexy texts to help get your brain and body in the mood. In the moment, try actively communicating about what feels good. By talking about what you’re enjoying rather than focusing on what is or isn’t getting hard, you refocus the experience onto your pleasure in the moment, rather than seeking erection as the end goal.
Sex with erectile dysfunction might feel like a whole new world of sexual experiences, but that isn’t a bad thing. Try out new types of play, reconnect verbally with your partners, and of course, talk with your doctor or therapist to make sure that something else isn’t going on, too.
Who knows — you might even discover your new favorite thing to do during sex while you’re at it.