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Great question about erectile dysfunction...

Q: My partner has erectile dysfunction. How can I get him to realize there’s more to love making than just "penis in vagina" sex when every mention of the subject just heightens his insecurities?

A: Thank you so much for bringing up such an important topic that I am passionate about.

When most of us think about sex, we think penetration. Our culture has promoted the message of "penis in vagina (PIV)" sex from the beginning of time, likely because sex began as a way to procreate. Due to this, sex was not seen as a vehicle for pleasure. However, most of us have sex for pleasure.

You might notice that the way we talk about sex informally leads us to prioritize penetration (words like banging, pounding etc). The media portrays sex as this as well, which is where most of us get our sex education, informally. What isn’t often shown in movies is that there is SO much more to sex. Sex is portrayed in a linear way, kissing, penetration, orgasm. When this doesn’t happen easily and/or in this order, people blame themselves. There is no emphasis or importance placed on pleasure and many men are taught that "PIV" sex is their role to be performed.

Given how common erectile dysfunction is, I believe we need to expand the definition of “sex” to include many activities where the hardness of one’s penis is irrelevant. It takes the pressure off and allows people to truly enjoy each other.

When we put too much emphasis on penetration, we miss out on so many ways to create connection and pleasure. Non penetrative sex is anything that provides pleasure. This mindset invites great exploration and conversation. It may help your partner to know that only about 5% of women report that penetration if their favorite part of sex. I would encourage you to bring up what sex means to him and have a discussion around this.

Perhaps you could both share some ideas about new things that can bring you both pleasure and throw out the original script! When you focus on more than penetration you discover a wide array of pleasurable activities.

- Laura

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