Does it make me shallow if I'm about to break up with someone I love because he's got a major case of erectile dysfunction? At one point I thought we might get married, but I can't see spending my life with someone who can't get it up. Some of my friends say I'm horrible, and others tell me to run. I've made up my mind but am curious about what you think.
How shallow you are, or might be, is a judgement, and it's based in part on context. The deep end of a swimming pool is shallow compared to depths in a lake, which are shallow compared to the depths of an ocean. But there's more to it than that. Consider these two scenarios:
One person cares about their physical appearance more than other aspects of how they present. They define physical beauty based on what they see around them in the media (magazines, TV, film) and when asked, the reason they care about how they look is because they want people to be attracted to them and desire them.
Another person also cares about how they look, and prioritizes their appearance over other aspects of their presentation and personality. Their idea of beauty comes from what they've always learned at home, from family and community, and when asked they care about how they look because it makes them feel good and strong, more who they are.
So is one of these people shallow and the other not? Is there such a thing as an objective list of priorities that we should all adhere to? I would say there isn't really a list, an easily ranked hierarchy. But there is a guide. And the guide is ethics.
So let's get back to your question. Does leaving a relationship because your partner has erectile dysfunction make you a horrible person? Does it make you shallow or unfeeling? Is it the wrong decision? Since you've already made up your mind, and you aren't asking me for advice on how to deal with the situation, I'm just going to answer the question you asked, first by offering an ethical consideration of the situation, and then I'll give you my personal answer, since you asked.
One way to answer this question is to think about what your ethical obligations are in the context of a romantic and sexual relationships. One obligation you have is to yourself, to be true to yourself. You have to weigh that obligation against another, which is to minimize pain and suffering to others and to yourself. This guy may very well be devastated by the break-up. And if you tell him why you're breaking up with him (which is another ethical question and a different article) it could make it worse. But he'll very likely survive. Most of us do.
And what's the alternative? Stay in a relationship that you believe will never make you happy, a relationship you can’t even imagine in the future? That level of deception seems to be far greater than the pain caused by a break up (especially since you don't have children together and your families are not yet that enmeshed). So ethically, there is an argument to be made that given your belief that you can't sustain a relationship with someone who can't sustain an erection, you have an obligation to end the relationship.
Of course people will think you're terrible. Particularly anyone who cares about him. But that judgment has more to do with the fact that you are causing this person they care about pain, with the actions you are taking, and less to do with why you acted that way. Ethics is, or in my opinion should be, about both.
There's another ethical argument that could be made. And that is that you entered into this relationship and you have an obligation to try and make it work. If you haven't explored options for treating erectile dysfunction, if you haven’t considered all the ways that people have hot sex without erections, if you haven't tried to talk about it or possibly seek couples sex therapy; then some people might say that you aren't acting ethically in the relationship. But this depends on how much you value the relationship, how long you've been in the relationship, and what kinds of commitments you made to each other over the course of the relationship. This is only one of dozens of other ways to consider the ethical implications of dumping someone because they have ED.
And now, my personal answer. From my perspective I think you're doing your partner a favor. The truth is that there are far more ways to have sexual pleasure without an erection than there are with an erection. And maintaining hot sex and intimacy over a lifetime requires more creativity and imagination than believing that one body part is required for either.
If you can't imagine living with someone who can't get an erection on demand (or however often you believe they should) then you're not a very good match for someone who lives with ED. I need to point out that your dating pool is going to get narrower and narrower, if you aren't able to expand your understanding of sexuality (and possibly gender), but that's your cross to bear. For now, even though it will likely cause him a lot of pain in the moment, I think he'll be better off finding someone who is open to participating in the search for hot sex and long lasting intimacy, and not just expecting it to happen.
If this sounds harsh it's only because I am challenging some of the assumptions that underlie decisions like the one you're making. But you still need to make your decisions and I'm not foolish (or egotistical) enough to believe I know what's best for you. It sounds like a tough situation that is causing everyone involved some pain and I hope you move through it with as little pain, and as quickly, as possible.