Problems with Hard-ons may Need a Softer Approach

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“The penis is the most intelligent organ,” quips sex coach Christiane Pelmas. While being tongue in cheek, playing with the old stereotype that men think with their crotches, she is also bringing attention to the hidden wisdom of the sex organ, even when it’s not performing as it should.

Erectile dysfunction (ED), the inability to get or maintain an erection long enough for satisfying intercourse, is a common issue. Understandably, it can cause a lot of tension in a relationship and can lead to stress, low self esteem and less desire for sex.

Although often thought of as only an issue effecting older men, a study published in 2013 in the Journal of Sexual Medicine demonstrated that one in four patients seeing their doctor for ED was under 40. These younger patients often had more severe cases. This illustrates that anyone at any age can experience short or long term issues with erections.

Image courtesy of Tuomas_Lehtinen at

Hard-ons require the input and collaboration of many different entities. When one of those pieces doesn’t work, the whole operation can fall flat. The brain, hormones, blood flow, chemicals, and internal and external signals all have to be in perfect coordination. While for some a hard-on can happen automatically — even when it’s not welcome — an erection is by no means a simple achievement.

While many of us are probably already familiar with the little blue pill, the supposed magic elixir to combat ED, treatment with medication isn’t always necessary or even helpful. Viagra can help men physiologically by pumping blood into the penis, but it doesn’t do anything for the psychological, emotional or spiritual issues that may lead to ED.

Which leads us back to the intelligence of the penis. The penis may not get hard if it’s owner doesn’t feel safe, doesn’t feel connected, needs more attention and affection, feels pressure to perform, doesn’t feel worthy, doesn’t feel sexy, is experiencing depression or anxiety, or feels sadness, anger, grief or boredom. Even if the brain isn’t aware of what’s going on, or doesn’t want to admit it, the penis is a truth teller.

As a sex and relationship coach, many approach me with erection struggles. The temptation may be to focus exclusively on the penis and what it is or isn’t doing, but we need to expand our view to explore the whole person and, even broader, the whole person in context of their life, beliefs and relationships.

I can assure you that there are many approaches to dealing with ED and it can be overcome. Part of my approach is to examine what’s going on for the person emotionally and spiritually. Do they have fun and play in life? Are they overloaded with responsibility? Do they believe they are worthy of pleasure? Do they feel like they can ask for what they want? Is there a history of trauma that has yet to be addressed?

As well, what’s going on in the relationship? Is this a relationship they want to be in? Is there enough nurturing and affection? Do they feel resentful? Is the sex in a context of connection?

And then, of course, what is happening sexually? Do they need more time for touch and exploration? Is sex going too fast? Do they need to slow down and really feel? Do they know what feels good and what doesn’t? Can they and their partner take the focus away from penetrative sex that leads to an orgasm?

While some of the approaches to addressing ED include looking at the difficult and painful parts of life — including trauma and so-called negative emotion — a lot of it is about introducing or re-introducing play. Play that doesn’t necessarily lead to penetrative sex. Play that doesn’t necessarily lead to orgasm. Play that explores and touches and responds with no expectations, no goals and no indicators of success.

When we put it that way, how many of us have that in our lives? Sex or otherwise? We are so play starved. We think of play as something that is just for children, but we all need it. Adult play, especially in the realm of sensuality and sexuality, is a balm for all the stresses of adulting. It’s the only way to remind ourselves that our bodies were made for pleasure and there is so much more to life than production.

So, indeed, let us thank the intelligence of the penis because anything that puts up a fuss if it doesn’t get enough play is reminding us of what it means to be human.

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I’d love to hear from you. Contact me at with comments, questions, or if you’d like to learn how working with me can help you have a new relationship with erectile dysfunction.

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Adina Lakser is a Winnipeg-based sex coach, writer and mother. Visit her at or her Aquarian column Pillow Talk


One Response

  1. Bettie M.

    July 23, 2017 7:20 pm

    Amazing that anyone could write an article about the male sex organ without mentioning that for a goodsized portion of the N. American male population, that body part was subjected to a serious, painful denaturing process euphemistically called infant circumcision. I am not going to go on & on, you folks know this. Including the fact that the conscious mind forgets the experience, but the body never does.

    “A 2007 British Journal of Urology study* found that the five most sensitive parts of the penis are removed by circumcision. Foreskin is not “extra skin”—it is functional erogenous tissue containing almost half the skin and well over half the nerves of the penis.”

    – from an article entitled “Four reasons why Canada’s baby boys should keep their foreskin” at


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