It's not one of those topics they cover in most How To Score books or Player weekend workshops. If you've been diagnosed with erectile dysfunction (ED) and you're single, the pressures of dating and the intense sexual performance anxiety that comes with being identified as male can feel like way too much to deal with. When sex becomes a source of so much worry and shame, lots of people decide it's not worth it, and give up on making sexual connections with others, and even themselves.
It may not be easy, but dating, falling in love, casual sex, and random hook ups are all possible even with erectile dysfunction. And if you can get there, you'll never think about sex the same way again.
No One Is Interested in a Guy with ED
It's easy to feel this way. It's what we're told every day of our lives. The prototype attractive or desirable person is so carefully described to us in every book we read, TV show we watch, advertisement we gloss over, and lesson we learn, that it becomes a "norm" without us ever questioning it. But consider the fact that as many as one in five men experience ED and many of them are partnered in both loving and sexually satisfying relationships, and know that as an essential truth, this one doesn't hold up.
Still, if you're single, it's hard to imagine that anyone would choose you. Over someone who can get an erection whenever they want? Why? Well, hold on a second. Let's think about it. Are there people who can get erections whenever they want? No. There aren't. Some people can get them more than others, but anyone with a penis has had, or will have trouble getting an erection.
It's easier to think that there are only two kinds of people in the world, desirable people (not you) and undesirable people (you). The truth is a bit more complicated. The things that make us attractive to one another are complicated, confusing, often not logical at all. It may be true that you feel undesirable, and if you look at the way people with erectile dysfunction are presented in the world (save Viagra ads, which we all know are fairy tales) you can hopefully understand that you're being set up to feel bad. It's easy to think that the problem is with you. But if we were surrounded by messages that told us that what was sexy was more than an erection, we'd all think and feel differently. So you have a choice. You can take it, or you can try to fight against it.
Thinking of yourself as simultaneously not able to get an erection AND super hot is a challenge, but it's not just a personal one, it's a political one. It's a radical act to turn your back on all the rules of the game. To decide that you have a right to feel pleasure and an ability and desire to give pleasure, even if you don't fit the pre-fab image of who is sexy and desirable. The system calls you impotent. But the system is wrong.
Do I Have to Tell?
A common question people have is when, or if, they should bring up the issue of erectile dysfunction in a dating situation. Some people, who are able to use oral medications for ED avoid this at first by hiding the fact that they have ED. Some people wonder if it's fair to hide it. For others, if there isn't a treatment that works for you, if the treatment you use isn't easily hidden, or if you just don't want to hide your ED, there is no choice. So the question remains; at what point do you tell someone you want to have sex with, that you experience erectile dysfunction?
The question of hiding or not hiding is an ethical one, and there isn't a single or simple answer. Ask yourself what it means to hide your ED. If it feels insignificant, and you don't think that the omission is going to get in the way of a developing relationship, or sexual hook up, or whatever the goal is, then you may not have to talk about it. But if ED is a big part of your life, and hiding it feels more like keeping a big secret, then you may want to consider which is more detrimental to your goals, telling or not telling.
In terms of timing, you should disclose when you're ready. Again, there are no right or wrong answers here, you need to do what fits for you. Talking about erectile dysfunction on a first date may not be a great idea. Not because it's something you should feel shame about, but because it may simply be more information than your date wants to know about you. Would you talk about your high blood pressure or crohn's disease on a first date? If the answer is yes, then maybe talking about ED does make sense. But consider the fact that even though crohn's and high blood-pressure do have an impact on your sex life, ED has a more explicit connection to sex. It's hard to imagine that you bringing it up wouldn't be seen as a subtle way of talking about sex. And you may want to ask yourself if ED is the first thing you want to talk about when you talk about sex.
Is Casual Sex Possible with Erectile Dysfunction?
Once you get diagnosed with erectile dysfunction it can become the way you define your sex life. You're someone with ED, and all sex has changed. Both of these statements may be true, but the idea that ED ruins a sex life is a lie based on another lie; that a hot sex life is only possible with an erection. This is one of the great lies were told about sex. The truth is that millions of people have profound, kinky, simple, boring, hot, and outrageous sex without erections. They do it every day.
If you think that sex equals intercourse, you should know that some surveys of casual sexual encounters show that most people don't have intercourse when they are having a one night stand. The first question to ask yourself is not "can I have casual sex with erectile dysfunction" it should be "how can I have good sex, period." Moving beyond the myth of intercourse as the be all and end all of sex, and discovering just a few of the limitless ways you can give and receive pleasure without an erection, is going to be necessary to have any kind of good sex life. Once you've got that, it can happen in a romantic long term committed relationship or in a bathroom stall at a club. So while the answer to most of the other questions about ED may be complicated, this one is simple. The answer is yes, you can have casual sex, meaningful sex, and any sex in between, even with erectile dysfunction.
We need to end where we started, by acknowledging that what you're trying to do isn't easy. You're bucking the system, you're breaking the rules, you're denying what everyone else says must be true. The good news is that if you can get there, you'll discover that the system is rotten. It's not set up for us to have particularly good sex, because it's not set up for us to be ourselves. If you want to change your sex life you have to start with yourself. Ask yourself how you define sex in the first place. Learn about the ways to have sex that go beyond intercourse. If you want to know where your ideas about sex came from, consider writing your own sexual history. One free online article isn't going to help you make this happen, because the way to do it is going to be uniquely yours. But there is help out there so if you're not sure where to start, start by reaching out for help in a way that still feels safe.
The Bottom Line
Many people decide that if they can't get erections anymore they aren't going to be sexual. This is your choice to make, and no one should make you feel bad for making it (although if you're in a relationship your partner does have the right to talk about how your decisions are impacting them). What seems most important is not what your final decision is but that you're making it with all the available information about your sexual rights and options, which includes knowing that you have the right and capacity to be sexual, to give and receive limitless pleasure, regardless of your experience of erectile dysfunction.