By Kimberly Castelo, LMFTA, CIIP
Certified Integrated Intimacy Professional
Men who struggle with Erectile Dysfunction (ED) often ask me, “What is wrong with my penis?” My answer to them, which is often a surprise to my male clients, is: “NOTHING! Nothing is wrong with your penis!”
I am not a man and do not know what it means to have grown up with this organ, but many men tell me what a loss they feel when it does not “perform” the way they think it should. Since birth, men play with their penis, which does not mean that they just masturbate all the time but that they touch it regularly. For instance, every time they urinate they look directly at and touch their penis! Therefore, many men say it is just an extension of themselves. Men sometimes shift their penis or randomly scratch it. For them, touching their penis is not weird – it is just a natural way of life!
Men have a relationship with their penis that women unfortunately do not have with their vulvas (and that is a topic for another blog). In fact, society puts a lot of pressure on men surrounding their penis. That too is another conversation for another time, but I will say here: Why do we allow society to dictate so much how we should feel about our bodies, genitals, and sexual expression? If we allow society to have the loudest voice on these topics, it really steals the joy of being a sexual, beautiful human being.
The problem with ED is that men feel insecure when a part of their body – in this instance, their penis – is not doing what they want it to do. Sex therapy can really help here because it can facilitate the dissection of thoughts, feelings, and messages men get around sexual performance and their penis in general. Also, talking with a sex therapist who does couples counseling (the two areas are such a rich combination) can help couples dialogue around sexual concerns so as to avoid shame, pain, and disappointment.
Men who have ED should always talk to their doctors to rule out any health issues, but I would not run to get Viagra at the first sign of ED. That does not get to the root of the issue. Oftentimes, men have a time when they just could not get an erection at all or only partially, and as a result every other sexual encounter is filled with anxiety wondering if it would happen again. That pattern is really hard to break; however, helping men learn to be in their bodies and not in their minds (where the anxiety comes from) can facilitate men to feel relaxed and sexually fulfilled.
Also, focusing less on penetration and more on the intimate level of connection helps men and women enjoy sex a lot more! Oftentimes, that kind of approach to sexual expression has to be taught, challenged, and thought through; however, when an individual and couple can see sex as more than just a means to an end, intimacy can be transcendent!