Let’s Talk About Impotence

My friends and I talk a lot about sex. We talk about the sex we’re having, how to make sex better, and occasionally about awkward interactions we’ve had in the bedroom (or sofa, or shower). But there was something we’d never spoken about until recently: impotence. I always thought of impotence as something that older men experienced, that it wasn’t something that any of my friends or I would be encountering (we’re in our mid 20s). 

But then I did. And then, as I usually did when I needed a post-mortem about an experience, I called my best friend. I sheepishly told her what had happened, and she listened and we talked about it. A week later, I got a call from her and she recounted to me a similar story. A month later I read an article in about “Erectile Dysfunction in Young Men.” At this point it seemed like the stars were aligning and impotence was something I was going to have to start talking to my friends about.

I broached the topic with some of my friends, and every single one of them had slept with someone who had experienced impotence. Whether it was a casual hookup, the first time when dating someone new, or a long-term relationship, all of the friends I spoke to admitted to me that they had had a partner who hadn’t been able to get an erection. They whispered this to me, as though embarrassed or ashamed. Because, for the most part, no one is talking about this and people think they’re alone in this experience. So I’m going to talk about it to let people know they’re not the only ones, and talk about ways to approach and deal with impotence.

There are a few things you should know, mainly: this is not your fault. A lot of my friends felt ashamed when hooking up with someone who couldn’t get hard, as though they weren’t attractive or sexy enough. This is not the case, impotence can be caused by a lot of things: consuming too much alcohol, stress, nerves, lack of sleep–never think it is because of something you are, or are not. And in the moment, don’t think that the night (or morning or afternoon) is ruined, there are plenty of ways to have satisfying sex that don’t include intercourse. Be kind (they’re probably a lot more embarrassed than you are) and flexible, impotence doesn’t need to get in the way of a good time. 

So, let’s talk more about this, and let everyone know that it is not something to be ashamed or embarrassed about, after all, it seems to happen to all of us.

If your partner has persistent trouble getting an erection, they might want to reach out to , who can help with a diagnosis and treatment.