Yes, It is Possible to Have a Hot Sex Life and Experience Erectile Dysfunction

In my previous article, Rewriting Intimacy, Rewriting Intimacy I shared a story about an encounter that was made more intimate and poignant because of erectile issues. It's something we're going to face as we age so let's talk about it. Note the use of the word "we" because in a good relationship problems aren't isolated, they affect both parties and should be addressed, when possible, as the couple.

Many men will experience issues with erections—it can happen to men of almost any age but we tend to associate ED, erectile dysfunction, with aging. ED may be caused by stress, insecurity, medications, lack of desire, illnesses, and the aging process.  Both women and men experience an increase in blood flow with arousal. The clitoris and labia swell just as the penis does. The difference is that without sufficient blood flow to the penis an erection may not be firm enough for intercourse.

Television ads would have us believe that an unpredictable erection is the end of sex. But, in reality there are several satisfying options for intercourse that can include, but don't necessarily have to, orgasms for men and women. We have to shift our thinking around sex and be willing to talk about the issue if or when it arises.

Medication is one option for men who suffer from erectile dysfunction, though they don't work for every man (often if ED is brought about by a specific illness) nor do they work every time. So don't think that popping a pill is a magic solution.

The main ED drugs, Viagra, Cialis and Levitra, act to increase blood flow to the penis. They vary in terms of effectiveness so you'll need to experiment to find the best one for you and your partner. Viagra is a short-term drug that works for up to 4 hours. Cialis and Levitra are designed to last longer, giving you time to anticipate and plan for sexual activity. Cialis actually stays in your system for up to 36 hours and is now available in a daily use dosage. Each of the drugs has side effects that you need to be aware of, like headaches, facial flushing, and jittery feelings. You should never take one of the drugs without talking to your physician first as erectile dysfunction can be a warning sign of a serious medical problem.

ED medication is not a sure fix for relationship problems. It requires arousal for the drugs to work—they do not spontaneously bring on an erection, they simply increase blood flow. Men may think that the 'little blue pill' will fix everything that ails them but it can cause problems as well, particularly if you just spring it on your partner. 

You may even find that your partner welcomes the chance to explore other avenues to pleasure. Remember that the majority of women need clitoral stimulation to achieve orgasm—something that rarely happens through penetration alone. This is the time to be creative. Ian Kerner, the author of She Comes First, admits to writing his book as a result of coping with his sexual dysfunction, "My initial forays into oral sex were a crutch, a way of compensating for my sexual inadequacies…I took it for granted that intercourse was the "right way" for couples to experience orgasm. But, to my surprise, I discovered that the "ways of the tongue" was by no means inferior to intercourse…" (Introduction, She Comes First)

[You might suggest your female partner read Ian Kerner's other book, Passionista, The Empowered Woman's Guide to Pleasuring a Man. It offers a wealth of information about male anatomy.]

Taking a proactive approach to accepting sexual dysfunction and working with your partner to find other avenues to pleasure can be fun and satisfying. Oral sex, manual stimulation and the use of sex toys are all excellent for creating mutually satisfying experiences. What you may find, through communication and an increased focus on other body parts, is that your sexual activities become more intimate and diverse. Sex can last longer and add a little extra pep to your relationship. Consider it thinking outside of the box.

We have traditionally defined sex as intercourse. And that is a very limited sexual activity in my opinion. It is more male-focused than female and much less likely to provide a female partner with the stimulation necessary to orgasm. So, whether you're experiencing erectile issues or not, why not take some time tonight to start exploring other ways to light up your sex life?

Walker Thornton is a writer, sex educator and public speaker, with a Masters in Educational Psychology and over 10 years experience in the field of sexual violence against women. She is a strong advocate for midlife women’s sexuality, encouraging women to ‘step into their desire’. ranked her blog,, #17 in their top 100 Sex Blogging Superheroes of 2013. Walker is the Sexual Health columnist for Midlife Boulevard and writes about sex and the older adult for You can connect with her on her website ( ), Facebook ( )  Twitter  (  and Google+ ( ).