Dr. Lee Kinsey
Sex Therapy & Relationship Counseling

Blog

Dear Human

The Penis Pivot Problem

They lie next to each other on the bed. His heart and mind are racing, “What are they thinking? Are they angry? Why isn’t this working?” He sighs deeply and rolls over, sits up, and swings his feet to put them on the ground. 

“It’s ok. It happens,” they say. “Do you want to talk about it?”

“No.” He stands up and heads to the bathroom. As he enters and starts to close the door, he looks at his partner, still in the bed. They’ve rolled over and curled up to sleep, but he can tell they’re disappointed. His own disappointment washes over him, and he sighs again.  

I’ve heard it a million times, if I’ve heard it once. “Erectile dysfunction is ruining our sex life.” My response is always, “No, it isn’t.”

Erectile dysfunction, commonly known as ED, is a major issue around the world. Viagra, the drug most prescribed to deal with it, is a huge, commercial success as one of the top selling drugs year after year. Commercials for Viagra and others like it herald the miracle power of the drugs to restore confidence, boost libido, please and pleasure your partner, mow your lawn, and make you a million dollar business man. For the vast majority of my male clients, these drugs work only marginally, if at all. They certainly don’t fix their sex lives.

The men and couples who seek me out to help them deal with ED, often don’t actually have ED. ED is a medical condition caused by some sort of medical illness, usually a heart or prostate issue of some kind. The vast majority of men I see who are having trouble getting or maintaining an erection do not have ED; they have a penis pivot problem (the PPP). 

The PPP is simple: sex hinges, rises and falls, begins and ends, on an erect penis. And that’s a problem. Sex should not pivot on the penis. I’ll say it again for those in back. SEX SHOULD NOT PIVOT ON THE PENIS. 

For many, if someone loses an erection, sex ends. The discussion unfolds in several ways. Usually both feel terrible. The partner often thinks they’re not sexy enough. They start to doubt if the man is even interested in them at all. The man whose penis didn’t get erect feels terrible. He starts to spin into a cycle of anxiety that then takes on a life of its own, making getting an erection even harder. He takes viagra in a desperate attempt to interrupt the anxiety and boost his confidence even though it doesn’t actually help either of those. 

If the cycle of pressured performance continues, if he MUST get an erection to have any kind of pleasurable encounter, then the cycle of anxiety that causes this kind of ED will only get worse. He will go from losing erections to not getting any erections at all. He may even start to dread sex, find himself constantly thinking about this problem all day, and this more general anxiety will bleed into the PPP even more. 

This kind of ED is psychological, and it is caused by the PPP. Men often place an enormous amount of pressure on themselves to perform in sex, to make something happen with their penis that will send their partners into the stratosphere of pleasure and ecstasy. The truth is, stratospheric sex has very little to do with the penis and everything to do with approaching sex as a whole body, whole mind, whole soul experience. But many men, and their partners, place so much importance on the erection that when he loses it or doesn’t get one in the first place, sex isn’t just sub-optimal, it’s completely ruined. This kind of pressure creates psychological ED. 

If this kind of ED, the psychological kind, is caused by the PPP, then the solution to this kind of ED is simple. Stop asking erections to make sex the most pleasurable it can be. Don’t make sex about an erection. If he loses it, do something else. If he gets one, don’t jump to penetration. Take your time. Slow down. Make sex about your whole body, their whole body, and don’t worry so much about if erections are going to happen or not. Good sex is about connection, being able to truly see your partner, respond to their desires and their body. It’s about feeling free and clear of life’s daily pressures. It’s about respite. It’s about a celebration of love and desire. 

To have this kind of sex you must be able to see yourself and accept yourself as you are, even if the penis is having a bad day. Because, at the end of the day, an erection really doesn’t matter. What matters is that you can experience pleasure with someone you truly care about. Pivoting from sex as performance to sex as experience fixes the PPP and makes sex so much better. Eventually, it will also fix the psychological ED.