Standing at the crowded bar, I watched my husband approach me in the mirror. Leaning in close he whispered, “I want you right here, right now,” while slipping his hand down the front of my jeans. I could feel his hard cock pressing against me as he skilfully teased my clit. He nibbled my earlobe and worked his mouth down my neck. I was getting wetter by the second. My breath quickened as he increased the pressure and rhythm, and I was soon on the verge of orgasm. I turned my face to kiss him just in time to muffle the moan as I came. “Just you wait till I get you home,” I panted as he pulled his hand free.
Sex with him produced many memories for the wank bank - our sex life was varied, exciting and eye-opening. We couldn’t keep our hands off each other and enjoyed having sex in public. In restaurant bathrooms, our car, the stairwell of our building (when we just couldn’t wait to get up the stairs)... our relationship was full of filth. But we had a little secret – he couldn’t get hard without help. All of his erections were chemically induced.
On our fourth date he told me he was impotent. I almost choked on my drink with shock. I was also confused. We’d already banged in every room in his flat, and he’d been hard for that. He explained complications from diabetes rendered him flaccid at 17, and drugs like Viagra were the only way he could get an erection. I'd always thought impotence only affected old men. But research published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine suggests one in four people seeking medical help for erectile dysfunction is under the age of 40.
He told me after wanking up a storm in his early teens, he started having problems getting erections with his first girlfriend. When tests showed this was a permanent issue, he was devastated. He didn’t talk to friends or his girlfriend about not being able to get it up because he was ashamed. Psychosexual therapist Kate Moyle says this is common. She believes the stigma around erectile dysfunction can be as damaging to a relationship as the condition itself. “It is often not the sexual dysfunction that causes the biggest problem for and between people, it's how they deal with it when it does happen. When people are struggling sexually, they tend to shut down rather than opening up,” she says.
He said he wanted to be upfront, and to let me know the sex would not always be straightforward or spontaneous. His frankness and vulnerability actually encouraged me to open up about my own issue of not being able to achieve orgasm with previous partners. I also admitted faking orgasms with him, except on occasions when I’d literally taken matters into my own hands. He laughed and said, “I can’t get hard and you can’t come, what a pair of losers!”
"When people are struggling sexually, they tend to shut down rather than opening up"
That evening, we carried on the conversation in the bedroom where he popped a little blue pill and we undressed each other. Viagra doesn’t give you an instant boner – it can take up to an hour to get the juices flowing. So we lay in bed and talked dirty while stroking each other. He guided my hand between my legs saying, “Show me how you make yourself come.” I obliged as he kissed his way up my legs, using his tongue to tease my inner thighs. I came quickly and noisily, and when I pulled him on top of me I could feel his cock stiffening.
From that day forward we spoke openly about our likes and dislikes. Sex had always felt like a taboo subject, and I hadn’t been comfortable talking about what I needed to get me off before. From an early age, we’re conditioned by mainstream media and porn to believe penetrative sex = orgasm for women having sex with men. In reality, this is quite rare. A recent study by the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy showed only 18% of the vagina-having participants reported orgasm through intercourse alone.
I’d thought if penetration didn’t make me climax it was somehow my fault. But I found myself falling for a man who’d been honest about his biggest vulnerability - and in turn I found sharing my turn ons was liberating. I explained penetration was nice but was never going to make me come on its own. We decided to focus on pleasure without penetration, and had so much fun getting to know each other’s pleasure zones.
I discovered wet kisses to my earlobes and the area underneath my belly button made my entire body tingle. He had incredibly sensitive nipples and adored neck kisses. Moyle agrees that refocusing the attention in your sex life can turn impotence from a negative to a positive experience. “If you take the focus away from the one thing that you can't currently do which is intercourse, but enjoy other aspects of each other and make your goal pleasure then that will open up so many doors for both of you.”
For me, sex with past boyfriends had been quick and forgettable and followed a familiar pattern - foreplay, penetration, ejaculation. But now the balance had shifted. I was the one having all the orgasms and the spotlight was firmly on me. I was with a man who knew my body and its rhythms better than anyone I’d ever met. The sex wasn’t just good, it was mind-blowing.
"The sex wasn’t just good, it was mind-blowing"
Of course, no matter how great the sex is there can be some downsides to dating someone with erectile dysfunction. I had a higher sex drive than him, and was sometimes impatient waiting on the medication to kick in. We sexted while he was at work, and I’d often ask him to take a tablet before heading home so I could ravish him as soon as he got in. Sometimes he’d forget, sometimes it wouldn’t work, sometimes he was too tired. And sometimes I took the unwillingness of his cock to respond personally.
Moyle explains this is a natural reaction, “Partners can jump to what they believe is the most logical assumption, which sadly very often is that their partner’s no longer attracted to them. This common narrative has been picked up through the media but is often not the case.” I definitely bought into that narrative. When you’re naked and touching the man you love and he’s not getting an erection, for a brief moment you wonder if you’re a turn-off. Your logical brain knows there’s a medical reason, but it’s tough not to take it to heart.
Ultimately, we learned how to make his diagnosis a good thing for our relationship. We were married for four years before divorcing (for non-ED related reasons, of course), but we’re on good terms and still friends. If the topic of erectile dysfunction hadn’t come up so early on, I might still be faking orgasms out of politeness. I’d still think penetration was the most important aspect of sex, even though it did nothing for me. I wouldn’t have opened myself up to the most sexually and emotionally fulfilling relationship of my life, either.
If you come across someone who suffers from erectile dysfunction don’t panic. Don’t see it as an insult or a sign of failure. See it as an opportunity to explore protracted foreplay. Enjoy getting to know your body and theirs without penetration. Because having an “everything but” sex life might just produce some of the best orgasms of your life.