I’m writing this anonymously, for reasons that will become clear, but for the purpose of this blog post all you need to know about me is that I’ve slept with a lot of men who have been worried about their erections. And it’s not always full-blown erectile dysfunction, but situational ED (basically: temporary erection problems) caused by drink or drugs.
I’m talking about cis men in this article because that’s as far as my experience extends. But this info is not exclusive to cis men: if you have a dick, situational ED may affect you too.
We live in a world which has a lot of expectations of dicks. As a feminist I recognise instantly how the world sets women up to fail. The world demands we are simultaneously outgoing yet silent, willing but virginal, capable yet modest… it’s an impossible task. But just as we set women up to fail, so our society also sets dicks up to fail. They must be hard at just the right moment, but never during inappropriate ones. An erection is the most important thing during sex – the bedrock on which all other shagging rests – and yet you absolutely shouldn’t worry too much about it, because then it’ll go limp and you’ll fail. Repeat until the dick-owner has a huge complex about it.
We need to talk about situational ED
I’m calling it ‘erection problems’ or ‘situational ED’ here rather than erectile dysfunction. Long-term, sustained erection problems may well fall into the ‘erectile dysfunction’ category, and thus I’d advise a trip to the doctor to check on your overall health. But when I talk about ‘erection problems’ I mean issues which are occasional, and also situational.
When you’ve drunk so much that you can’t get your dick hard. When you’ve taken quite a lot of cocaine. When the molly’s kicked in and you’re ready for touching but… oh. Not that kind of touching. Your dick won’t work.
We don’t talk enough about situational ED. And we also don’t really talk about drugs. Drugs are bad, after all, and so if you take them you’re naughty. Those of us who do better stay quiet.
Except silence is the breeding ground of stigma and ignorance. Whether it’s that awkward silence when you’ve drunk five pints and you’re beating away at your flaccid cock thinking ‘why won’t you just WORK’ or the silence partway into a threesome when both the be-dicked members are struggling to … ahem… join in. If we want to solve problems, first we need to talk about them.
Erection problems: drink, drugs and dick
We’ve all heard of ‘brewers droop’, right? You might know it by one of its other names: whisky dick, for instance. It’s fairly common knowledge that alcohol intake can play havoc with your body’s functions, including (but not limited to) your ability to get an erection. But did you know that common party drugs also cause this problem?
Cocaine use can give someone intense desire to have sex, and yet at the same time make it much harder for them to get an erection. Unless you have a PULSE on standby to bring you to orgasm, you may struggle to get any sexual satisfaction while you’re using the drug. Not to mention that long-term use has been linked to erectile dysfunction, as cocaine messes with the blood vessels and can lead to them delivering less of the important stuff to your cock.
MDMA (ecstasy, mandy, molly, whatever you want to call it) might seem like a loving drug that’s perfect for an all-night orgy, but for many people with dicks they find the loved-up sensation comes hand-in-hand with situational ED. Some researchers have noted that MDMA increases sensations which most of us associate with a post-orgasmic state, which is why it can be tricky for some people to self-lubricate or get hard.
Cannabis, despite often being used as a sexual enhancement drug (“Let’s get high and cuddle and touch each other all over!”) can also cause similar issues. The way you respond to it will depend on the strain of weed, the atmosphere, your mental health at the time, and a whole variety of other factors. The fact that weed can increase your drowsiness and tank your libido means it may also be the cause of situational ED.
I could do this for almost any drug: if you take it, then do not be surprised if your body responds in ways you don’t always expect. I have lost count of the number of times I have had to reassure a guy who was high and horny that it wasn’t the end of the world if his dick wouldn’t actually play ball.
Think about it: you’re expecting not just to have to get an erection, with all the pressure and stress that society has put on you by insisting that penetrative sex is the Only Acceptable Version, you’re also battling a cocktail of chemicals which represent an extra obstacle for your poor dick to haul itself over. While most drug users know that their class-A habit might get in the way of their X-rated one, it’s one thing to understand something on a rational level and quite another to feel it on an emotional one. In short: people with penises often still beat themselves up for erection problems that are out of their control.
Erection problems: what’s the solution?
It would be easy for me to just say ‘don’t do drugs’ here, and of course that’s always going to be helpful advice. If you think you have a problem with narcotics, check out this NHS guide on getting help for addiction.
But preaching abstinence doesn’t work in the sex world, and I doubt it’ll work in the drugs world either. So in the short term if you’re concerned about situational ED in your sex life, whether the problem is alcohol, drugs, mental health or anything else, there are two things I’d advise you to do.
First: read an absolute tonne of material on sex without penetration. Seriously. As someone who sleeps mostly with people who have dicks, I can assure you wholeheartedly that your dick is not the only hot thing about you, and there is loads more fun you can have. Sex toys like PULSE or JETT can be used flaccid or erect, and your hands and mouth are still working fine, right? Explore with them! You don’t have to give up on sex because of erection problems.
The second thing I’d advise is much more difficult, but if you think you can do it, you’re a true hero to me: talk. Name the problem. Say to your partners ‘I’m struggling to get hard because I’m far too high, shall we do something else?’ Silence is the breeding ground of shame and stigma, and talking about things helps chase that shame away. It is perfectly normal to experience situational ED, for a whole variety of reasons, and if you can tell this to your partners (and your friends!) then they may feel more confident discussing their own erection problems in future.
Don’t blame yourself: name the problem.