He thinks he can’t please her without an erection, so why bother?

An important question was posted as a comment to my blog interview with Michael Castleman who answered my questions about erectile dysfunction. Here’s what a reader asked:

I’ve been in a loving relationship for over two years, its been great. Until now, its taken a complete turnaround. His thinking is because he can’t get an erection he’s a failure in pleasing me. No matter what I say, his comment is “why bother”. I have been completely satisfied with our love making up until now, I am completely confused. Our love and intimacy made our relationship what it was, now what? What do I do?

This question moved me and I asked Michael Castleman if he would answer this reader He promptly replied:

I feel for you. When men develop erection difficulties and withdraw from lovemaking, they often seem completely shut down and unreachable, and no amount of reassurance seems to help.

Of course, such reactions are not unique to men. Imagine that you suddenly gained 100 pounds and no matter how hard you dieted and exercised, you could not lose an ounce. Now imagine that your lover said: “It’s all right. It doesn’t matter. I still love you, and want to make love with you.” Would you believe him? Would you want to have sex?

To most men, sex means erection, and the notion of sex without erection makes a much sense as baseball without bats. But men CAN enjoy sex–and have great sex–without erections. Erection is NOT NECESSARY for male orgasm. Vigorous fondling of the penis by hand, mouth, or sex toy can produce orgasms every bit as intense and satisfying as the ones he used to have with erections. And erection is not necessary for female pleasure or orgasm either. In fact, only 25% of women are reliably orgasmic during vaginal intercourse because the old in-out doesn’t provide much clitoral stimulation. Many women prefer a man with a talented tongue and fingers to a guy who just sticks it in.

Of course, it’s a major adjustment for men to decouple sex from erection. Given how adamantly your man has been saying “why bother?” I think your best bet would be to try to coax him into joining you in consulting a sex therapist. To find one near you, visit the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists or the Society for Sex Therapy and Research.

If he refuses to go, then I urge you to go by yourself. The therapist can help you cope, and make suggestions you might try at home with him. And the fact that you’re going may show him how important the sensual side of your relationship is to you, and eventually he may relent and join you. Good luck!

Michael Castleman, M.A., is “one of the nation’s top health writers” (Library Journal). He has specialized in health, medicine, and sexuality for 36 years. He is the author of Great Sex: A Man’s Guide to the Secrets of Whole-Body Sensuality. From 1991-95, he answered the sex questions submitted to the Playboy Advisor. Visit his Web site about sex after midlife, GreatSexAfter40.com.


  1. Ron on December 22, 2010 at 11:59 pm

    An enhancement technique that works well is for the couple to lay in an X position with their genitals touching. They apply lubricant and she pleasures herself while he masturbates in a manner so that the meat of the top of his hand strikes her vulva as if they were having intercourse – like he's gently slamming into her. While he's doing that he can also rub the head of his penis on her well oiled girl parts and when he's hardest, enter her vagina for a few strokes. Both are combining the sensations of masturbation and making love to each other. With good timing, and a little luck, he can ejaculate on her clitoris as she has her orgasm. Or, the sex pay of masturbating and rubbing her with the head of his penis may get and keep him hard enough to finish with regular intercourse. Reccomend she continue self pleasure during intercourse since its usually erotic for the man, and if she can get her free hand to him loving massage of his testicles will help keep him hard.

  2. Joan Price on August 13, 2009 at 7:25 pm

    Doug, your comment was so helpful and savvy that I've given it its own post — http://betterthanieverexpected.blogspot.com/2009/08/doug-80-8-penises-on-his-hands.html.

    Thank you! — Joan

  3. Doug. on August 13, 2009 at 9:54 am

    I am 80,years young and have had ED,"Erectile Dysfunction" all of My life And It has taken me a whole life time to come to the point of seeing sex but the tip of the relational iceberg. and love has very little to do with togetherness in the long-haul Yes, I also know that us men are our penises and our penises are the man. This is a mental hang-up that we need to change,and till your Husband can change the way that he sees his masculinity,he'll never really feel good about himself. He has eight penises on his hands and the best penis in his mouth. And that up close and personal penis can and does give my wife wonderful,body-shaking,orgasms one right after the other most penile intercourse cannot come close. And best of all my ego isn't laying on the ground of mental failure. Please do let him read this, Okay. At my age I wouldn't even mind if may wife had another significant lover as a back-up within our sexual arena, However I am not recommending this for either of you,as jealousy can destroy a wonderful relationship Do hope that this is a blessing to the both of you, it works for me and it can work for your Hubby.
    Love from the Philippines.

  4. Anonymous on June 18, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    Well all I can say is that I have ED thanks to prostate cancer Treatements and I thought I was through after that. But I found out that their are ways to achieve an erection if that is what matters the most in love making with your paatiner. My first step would be to get her input on the subject, then resurch out the alternitives that both of you will accept.
    Their are a coupel pills out their that work ok. I personely do not like them even though they work. Then their are injections that work I use them a few times a month. Then their are vacume system's they also work if you follow their direction and the ones you buy should have erection holding rings. But keep in mind that enjoying sex dose not always have to be done with an erection. Stimulating (masterbating)your partiner has great affects on her outcome as a lover. Once you have ED it is a whole new learning curve and I would recomend that any man keep trying even if it only pleases her. Over time you will become more responsieve, and enjoy sex once again. It took me almost 3 years after all the radiation treatements to get some life back into the old worm. Now at age 66 I am enjoying a full asortment of sex styles and adventure with my partiner.

    Never give up pratice makes perfect.

    BB in FL.


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  5. Diana Daffner on May 23, 2009 at 2:48 am

    Not only men, but women too are sometimes attached to the notion that if he isn’t hard, he doesn’t love me. As Michael has written, an erection is not required for either his or her pleasure. Nor is it a symbol of love.

    My husband and I have a fabulous lovemaking activity that we enjoy EVERY DAY and it is actually easier WITHOUT an erection! We call it Peaceful Passion. Based on ancient teachings of Tantra, and modern understandings of love and intimacy, Peaceful Passion honors our sexual energy and opens our hearts, filling us both with profound and soul-satisfying love.

    Diana Daffner
    Author, Tantric Sex for Busy Couples: How to Deepen Your Passion in Just Ten Minutes a Day

  6. Anonymous on May 19, 2009 at 1:20 am

    Thank you Michael. This man means everything in the world to me. I love him. I don’t think he realizes the true happiness our loving relationship has brought to me. To me, it has been truly sexually fulfilling. I don’t want that to be just a memory.

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