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Sex, Erections and Frustration

Dec. 9, 2010
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My wife and I have been married for three years and have been together for almost 10 years. The problem I have is that I can't hold an erection during sex, though I can during oral. It puts a lot of stress on our marriage because my wife can't get pleased by me unless I give her oral, but then I can't have an orgasm because she is tired after she has one. What do you think I should do?

There are two separate issues that I see here. The first is your inability to maintain an erection during vaginal sex, and the second is finding sexual acts beyond vaginal sex and oral sex that make both you and your partner happy. You could choose to focus on either one of these issues or on both, depending on what you and your wife would most like to happen.

You don't say whether your wife enjoys vaginal penetration or whether this is something that you or she would like more of; you just say that it's something that's not easy for you. Since our society usually defines "real sex" as "penis-vagina intercourse," a couple that has difficulty achieving this particular act may feel ashamed or abnormal. But plenty of women (and men!) would choose oral sex over vaginal sex and would feel fine if the focus of sexual activity moved away from the standard in-and-out and into more creative territory.

If you do want to try to maintain your erections during vaginal sex, it is worth talking to a sex therapist. Since you are able to maintain erections during one type of sex but not another, it's likely that your problem is psychological rather than physical, and talking to a therapist could help you figure out what's going on. You can locate a therapist through the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists.

It could also be that oral sex provides enough stimulation for you to stay hard, but vaginal sex does not. You could try to add some stimulation to vaginal sex by using cock rings or vibrators. Cock rings are helpful to some men who are able to achieve an erection but not maintain it. They prevent blood from flowing out of an already erect penis and can increase sensitivity and enjoyment. The We-Vibe, a couples' vibrator that has both an internal vaginal stimulator and an external clitoral stimulator, might help as well, since the vaginal end of the vibe provides stimulation to your penis when it's inserted into the vagina. Some men report that the We-Vibe is too intense for them or makes them come too quickly, but this could be just the ticket for a man who isn't getting enough stimulation. I recommend trying different positions for vaginal sex as well. If you have trouble maintaining an erection in man-on-top, missionary position, being on the bottom or lying on your side might make a difference.

Beyond the issue of maintaining an erection, it might be helpful to think of creative new ways to have sex that are pleasurable to both you and your wife. It sounds like you both get satisfaction from oral sex, but that who gives or gets first can be a problem, since your wife (and you?) isn't interested in sex after having an orgasm. You could try positions that allow simultaneous, mutual oral sex, aka the famous "69" position, but this doesn't really address the fact that the person who comes first might be unwilling to continue stimulating their partner. Your wife could try using a vibrator on herself while performing oral sex on you, or you could both agree that the person who has an orgasm first can hold their partner and talk dirty while their partner masturbates. Some people also find it incredibly hot to watch their partner pleasure themselves, so you could take turns putting on a show and getting off for each other. In short, breaking out of your routine and trying new things could relieve some of the tension in your relationship.

There are also a number of men's dildo harnesses available, which are designed to accommodate both a penis and a dildo. These can be used by men for either double penetration (simultaneous vaginal and anal) or to continue vaginal or anal penetration when the wearer no longer has an erection, either due to ejaculation or difficulty maintaining one. Men's harnesses have been increasingly popular at our store as men explore ways to have fun with their partners while acknowledging their physical limitations.

Want Laura to answer your questions in SEXpress? Send them to
laura@shepex.com. Not all questions received will be answered in the column, and Laura cannot provide personal answers to questions that do not appear here. Questions sent to this address may be reproduced in this column, both in print and online, and may be edited for clarity and content.

Laura Anne Stuart has a master’s degree in public health and has worked as a sexuality educator for more than a decade. She owns the
Tool Shed, an erotic boutique on Milwaukee’s East Side.


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