At some point in his mid-twenties, a man gives up the illusion that his penis is Seabiscuit incarnate, and warms to the idea that, occasionally, it’s going to get tuckered out. This happened to me for the first time as an early 20-something-year-old when I came back from a bathroom visit to find I couldn’t get it back up. My girlfriend at the time burst into tears, told me about all the guys at different bars who’d love to be fucking her right now, then rolled over and cried herself to sleep. In the morning, I woke to find her standing over my bed holding a bunch of bananas. She said, “I read on Google that potassium helps your dick. Eat up.” She dropped them in my lap and went to get ready for the day. I looked down at those long, firm, tasty-looking bananas and couldn’t help feeling I was being mocked.
This, you might imagine, was a poor way of handling the situation. And, for months, any time we had sex, I could not get an erection to save my life. This led to more crying, more accusations, more of me playing with my penis like some poor child trying to coax a fat worm out of the ground. I fell down a rabbit hole: My testosterone is too low! I drink too much! I need more exercise! The only thing I was sure of was that I had more than enough fucking potassium to top-off a horse cock.
That relationship ended without any solution to the problem. Then, for years, I mostly only ever had sex while drunk and rarely had a problem until I quit drinking and was able to hear my thoughts again in the bedroom. And what assholes they were. Because see, when losing an erection isn’t a consequence of health or old age, there is only one answer: it’s all in your head. And what was in my head was, “Oh, are you about to go soft? You piece of shit.”
"…Any time we had sex, I could not get an erection to save my life. This led to more crying, more accusations, more of me playing with my penis like some poor child trying to coax a fat worm out of the ground."
This thought is like a knife through the heart of an erection. It’s that sinking feeling when your foot slips and you know you’re going down — you can swing your arms any which way you’d like but you’re going to eat the pavement. This happened to me over and over at different points in my life for any number of reasons: stress, anxiety, exhaustion, pushing myself to have sex when I didn’t feel like it. Once that concern hits, holding onto an erection is like trying to catch a goldfish with your bare hands in a raging river. Blink twice, it’s gone.
Some young men who have normal thinking brains maybe never have that thought. Sure, they’re a little tired, a little stressed, but these feelings never synced with their penis. They’re good. But as I’ve gotten older and other men I know have gotten older, the triggers for not having the most aggressive erection become greater. You’re tired more, stressed more, anxious more. When they hit, eventually, you will lose an erection. And when that happens, those wires inevitably get crossed. Ignoring them creates a self-destructive pattern. And worse, not being open with your partner about it creates a self-destructive relationship.
The truth is that losing an erection, at any point in your life, is totally normal and holding your dick to a certain standard is silly. If a man’s arm is too tired to play a little tennis, do we say, “You’re not a man!” or should he feel like he has a responsibility to play tennis, even if his arm isn’t up to it? No, obviously. Then why is it different with a cock? (Hint: it isn’t.) There are dozens of reasons a man might lose an erection, ranging from stress to medical conditions, and erectile dysfunction really is very common. It’s important to be conscious of this, especially when you’re young, so that a one-time event doesn’t snowball into a psychological issue that takes years to dig your way out of.
"The truth is that losing an erection, at any point in your life, is totally normal and holding your dick to a certain standard is silly."
It took until my late twenties before I found someone who understood that the way you treat someone who is losing their erection is pretty much the same way you handle someone having a seizure:
Keep people out of the way. Clear hard or sharp objects away. Don’t try to hold them down or stop the movements. Don’t put anything in their mouth. Wait for it to end before trying to help them stand up.
Basically, if you’re with a patient and understanding partner, and you’re mature enough to be honest about what is happening, things can often recommence soon. Have something to eat, play a quick game of cards, watch cars pass slowly by, and also remember that penis-centered sex is an outdated notion that prevents us from experiencing a world of different types of pleasure. Remind yourself that sex is fun, not a competition, and erections sometimes need their batteries changed too. After all, yelling at a dead flashlight never got anyone anywhere; you just made the flashlight feel like shit.