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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

I Can’t Maintain an Erection During Vaginal Sex

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My wife and I were not into vaginal sex for almost a year now and were enjoying oral sex and masturbating for each other. We both felt satisfied with this routine, but recently thought of starting a family. We tried to have intercourse for the last four days but have failed. I either don’t get an erection, or if I do, I lose it in the middle of penetration. We desperately want to have sex and a baby. But due to my erectile problem, we both go to sleep dissatisfied, as we then don’t masturbate for each other. 

I also have a fetish for a few things and sometimes masturbate alone while thinking of my fetish weak points. I’ve not disclosed the fetish part with my wife, as I sometimes feel that she would think I’m being cheap and horny. 

Please suggest a solution. Is it an erectile dysfunction problem? Should I really see a urologist, and should I try pills like Viagra?

As I wrote a few weeks ago, I encourage people to “think outside the box” when it comes to sex and experiment with sexual activities outside of vaginal penetration, which is how our society usually defines “having sex.” It sounds like you and your wife were very successful at finding sexual activities that you both enjoy, which is great. However, as you point out, if pregnancy is something that you both want, vaginal penetration takes on a whole lot of meaning and significance.

It sounds like you are able to achieve and maintain an erection during other types of sexual activity, like oral sex and masturbation. If that is the case, this issue may stem from psychological rather than physical causes. That doesn’t mean it’s any less real or important; our mental wellbeing has a huge impact on our physical wellbeing. It does mean that seeing a urologist or taking pills might not be the best way to find a solution to the situation, at least not by themselves.

You say that you’ve been trying to have vaginal sex for four days without success. That’s a relatively short amount of time, so don’t despair yet. Our bodies become accustomed to experiencing arousal and orgasm in particular ways, and introducing a new way might require some adjustment, especially if you are putting a lot of pressure on yourself to quickly adapt to this new way. The stress of feeling like you absolutely must have vaginal sex can, ironically, make it more difficult. If sex becomes all about baby-making and less about mutual pleasure, that too can cause stress. You might want to give yourself permission to be less goal-oriented, continue to focus on activities that give you both pleasure, and gradually start to incorporate vaginal penetration into your normal sexual repertoire, rather than making a sudden switch.

You certainly can see a urologist to rule out any physical causes for your loss of erection during vaginal penetration, but you may also want to see a sex therapist or counselor to address any psychological factors. The American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) maintains a database of counselors and therapists. Remember that medications like Viagra can have serious side effects, and that even though it’s common in the US to want a quick fix to our health problems through pills, exploring the more complicated reasons behind our sexual functioning can ultimately be a better and safer solution.

Finally, you mention that you have a few fetishes that you find arousing, but which you haven’t disclosed to your wife. Only you can decide whether you feel safe sharing your sexual fantasies and fetishes with another person, but fetishes are not automatically “bad” or “weak.” I believe that all consensual sexual activities that do not cause harm can be part of a healthy sex life (and by “harm,” I do not mean things like consensual spankings, floggings, humiliation, etc.). If shame or fear about your fetishes might be affecting your sexual relationship with your wife, that might be worth exploring with a therapist too.

Laura Anne Stuart owns the Tool Shed, an erotic boutique on Milwaukee’s East Side. She has a master’s degree in public health and has worked as a sexuality educator for more than 15 years. Want Laura to answer your questions in SEXPress? Send them to laura@shepex.com. Not all questions received will be answered in the column, and Laura cannot provide personal answers to questions that do not appear here. Questions sent to this address may be reproduced in this column, both in print and online, and may be edited for clarity and content.