Erectile disfunction: it can feel like our bodies don’t work

Banana on a red background, encouraging you to think of an erect dick. Photo.
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I can’t put things in my vagina. I take anti-depressants, which means I don’t always get wet when I’m turned on. While theoretically I know that this doesn’t make me “broken”, I still feel like my body isn’t working properly. However, the pressure on me to have PIV sex or to get wet when I’m aroused is equalled – or possibly surpassed – by the pressure on folks with penises to get hard. So today I’m talking erectile disfunction, and what it feels like when our bodies won’t cooperate.

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Someone reassuring you that it doesn’t matter if you can’t get hard probably won’t be enough to overcome the societally ingrained shame around your dick not “performing”. Someone offering to grab some lube if you can’t get wet probably won’t make you feel less embarrassed that your vagina isn’t on your side. Even if the person reassuring you is your partner; even if you love them and trust them.

Why? Because we’ve been taught that our bodies should react in this way when we’re having sex.

When it feels like your body doesn’t work, reassurances or short-term sex solutions don’t always make you feel any better. There are lots of those: lube, dildos, fingering, cunnilingus, sex toys that you can use when your dick is flaccid… but you’re still left with the internalised idea that your body should be doing something that it’s not.

And it sucks. I’ve frequently dreaded the moment my partners have pulled down my knickers to see how wet I am, knowing that I’m super into whatever we’re doing together but knowing that my body isn’t showing that. I can be super aroused and not wet, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not having fun. Talking about that is hard; talking about erectile disfunction can be even harder.

The expectation we put on penises is frankly ridiculous, so it’s not surprising that be-dicked folks struggle with that pressure. I want to be clear here that you’re not broken if your body doesn’t seem to be on board when you want to fuck. Whether it’s vaginismus or erectile disfunction, and as hard as it can be to accept it, your body is not broken. Honestly.

We’re fed these Hollywood ideals of what sex should be like, and so feel bad when reality doesn’t measure up. Folks with vaginas don’t often orgasm from penis-in-vagina sex, first times are usually more messy than magical, anal play often means dealing with poop, and people with penises don’t often get hard. There’s no simple way of breaking free from that narrative: for me, the first step has been to stop calling myself broken. It can feel like my body isn’t working, but there’s no one way for your body to work any more than there’s one way to fuck.

You don’t need to have an erection to have sex. You’re no less of a person if you can’t get hard. Your value – in life, and in bed – is more than your dick. If anyone tells you differently, they’re probably not someone you want to fuck.

Note: I am writing this as someone who doesn’t have a factory-installed dick (though I am trans, and do sometimes describe my junk as a dick) so I want to shout out some blog posts by folks with erectile disfunction: specifically these posts over at Hot Octopuss

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