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The Blessings of Erectile Dysfunction (ED)

Sexual Satisfaction in the Second Half of Life

When we were young men, getting a hard penis seemed like an important part of what defined us as a man. Or at least it was central to the definition of masculine eroticism. We understood successful sex as foreplay leading up to some form of penetration and ending in ejaculation—all involving a hard penis. That was the view of sex that was most familiar to us and what we pursued.

Such beliefs cause big problems for us in the sex department. And ultimately cause problems in our romantic relationships.

In the real world of living organisms, nothing stays the same. We can learn to live in the present and adjust our understanding to the changing realities, or suffer the consequences of clinging to the past.

Mid-life brings many changes to our bodies and to our experiences of sex. As we age, many men experience lower levels of sexual desire and difficulty in getting an erection and staying hard. Some medical illnesses and medications can make these problems worse. Men who have had prostate surgery or other prostate treatments may experience loss of feeling and/or pleasure as well as impotence (erectile dysfunction or ED, which is the loss of the ability to get and sustain a hard erection).

However, the context of these problems is that we live in a consumer culture where businesses profit from myths and misinformation about sex. Sexually unhappy American men are excellent customers—spending billions of dollars annually on pills, herbs, and implants to improve their erections, as well as billions more on porn and prostitution in efforts to find some pleasure. Some of these treatments and alternatives may be helpful and bring relief, but even if they do, they fail to address the deeper issues of human sexuality and healthy intimate relationships.

The label or diagnosis of erectile dysfunction comes with a whole set of myths and misinformation. Many men (gay and straight) and women have believed some or all of these myths about a flaccid (soft) penis during sexual encounters:

  • A soft penis means low desire or no interest in sex
  • A soft penis means you are not aroused or not interested
  • A soft penis means you feel little or no erotic pleasure
  • A soft penis means your partner has failed to turn you on (or you are not attracted)
  • A soft penis means you cannot please a sexual partner
  • A soft penis is something to be ashamed of
  • A soft penis may mean no orgasm
  • Real men get hard—if your penis stays soft you are a failure as a man
  • Ultimately, a soft penis means the end of sex

I believed many of these myths. In my late fifties my marriage was failing and I felt like a failure in sex. My penis did not cooperate with my desires. And I was ashamed—too ashamed to talk to anyone about this, even with my wife and my physician.

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During one of my physical exams, my doctor asked me directly about my sexual functioning. She offered treatment with medications for low testosterone and erectile dysfunction, which I tried. Over months of treatment with the testosterone supplement, I became convinced that it was causing shrinkage of my testicles, and it was not improving my desire, pleasure, or performance. I read that testosterone supplements increase the risk of cancer and other serious problems, so I decided it was not worth the risks for me.

I also tried a sample of medication to treat erectile dysfunction. The medication did produce strong, long-lasting erections for me, but my erect penis seemed to have less feeling. My sexual performance "looked" great, but I felt less connected to my penis and experienced less actual pleasure. And the medication did not improve my emotional/spiritual connection with my partner.

I was disappointed and frustrated for years. I looked for alternative treatments for erectile dysfunction (ED). I got curious and started exploring male sexuality.

Some of the alternative views I read on male sexuality challenged my thinking:

  • What if a soft penis is not abnormal or a sexual dysfunction?
  • What if a soft penis is not a failure of desire?
  • What if a soft penis is a symptom of entering a new stage of life where the primary tasks are spiritual—connection to heart and soul?
  • What if my soft penis is calling me to find new ways to connect to myself, to my heart, to my lover?
  • What if my soft penis is not what limits my sexual pleasure?
  • What if some or all of the dysfunction is in my thinking and behavior, and not in my penis?

To be able to ask myself these questions, I had to suspend my beliefs in the medical and cultural definitions of sexual limitations and brokenness. And I had to consider that the tasks in the second half of life are distinctly different from those in the first half.

Maybe my uncooperative, uninspired soft penis was not just an inevitable effect of aging. Maybe it was not dysfunctional at all. Maybe it was trying to tell me something I desperately needed to know!

I started listening to my body, including my penis. Maybe it was telling me that I was doing sex wrong. That I had been a bully trying to push it to perform according to the expectations of my ego. Maybe my penis was uninvolved and unresponsive because I was so out of touch with my own body. And my soul. I had lost the necessary connections.

Of course women have been trying to tell men forever that sex is more than an erection and ejaculation. Women want passionate sex, too, but they also want the sweet intimacy that grows out of heart-to-heart connection. Whether we are gay, straight, or bisexual men, we make the same basic mistake—we keep worrying about how big and hard our dick is so we can perform and please our partner. But our obsession with genitals and lack of attention to heart connection fail to please long-term. Without heart connection, sex quickly becomes empty and lifeless. Our partners feel objectified by us and distanced from us. Eventually they give up. You could say that our dicks give up, too. It’s all too sad.

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When I turned sixty, I started seeking out people who would talk openly about their sexual experiences. And people who had experienced sexual ecstasy. I found teachers of Tantra and sacred sexuality who believed that sexual pleasure and spirituality were part of the same whole. They taught me that desire and sex are divine, life-affirming gifts deserving of deep respect.

They taught me alternatives to uninspired, unfulfilling sex—different ways of thinking and behaving. I took classes with them where I learned how to reconnect with my body and respect its raw, organic wisdom. In the classes I learned to breathe and relax and feel. I surrendered to my body and to its hidden pleasures. I forgot about trying to get hard and was often surprised to get long-lasting erections.

So I started experimenting with myself and with my partners. I practiced letting go of shame and judgments and agendas. I practiced being mindful and present. I discovered that genitals are highly over-rated. Sexual satisfaction and erotic bliss have less to do with genitals—or with a hard-on—and more to do with connecting with heart and soul and moving the excitement/energy throughout the whole body. I discovered that sex is not a performance. The best sex grows out of intimacy, out of heart-to-heart connection. Sex is not a toy. Sex is being. Sex is Life.

I am learning to connect with my own body and soul and with my partner. I am learning to be vulnerable and open-hearted and to surrender to spirit. I started having beautiful and healing experiences. I have experienced the erotic ecstasy generated by an electrifying kiss with my lover, lips barely touching, fully clothed, with no genitals involved. After I learned to open myself to exquisite waves of pleasure through simple breathing techniques, I often had body orgasms without erection and without ejaculation, some lasting ten minutes or more. It was ecstatic pleasure with no let-down afterward, just a deeply warm, satisfying peace and wholeness that lasted for days.

Of course there is nothing at all wrong with having and enjoying erections. Or wanting them. Erections are wonderful—I love my erections! The funny thing is that the more I surrender into intimacy and open up to the pleasure of my whole body, the more often I am surprised with a perfectly fine erection, at the right time. The main point here is that now I am enjoying sex fully—it just doesn’t matter whether I get hard or not. I let my breathing and my heart lead the way to rich erotic, pleasure. I am confident that my lover and I will enjoy each other no matter where we end up with our lovemaking. Hard or soft—either way, we win.

I hope you will consider that erectile dysfunction (ED) can be a blessing instead of a curse. It calls us to re-examine our sexuality and gives us an opportunity to grow into a mature sexuality that does not objectify sex, or bodies, or persons.

Call me—I can help you expand your ability to enjoy erotic pleasure and deeper connections.

It’s all good.

Help for Erectile Dysfunction and Premature Ejaculation

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