Loss of erection? OMG! What’s happening? Is it ED?

Have you ever lost an erection during foreplay or at some point after penetration? Be assured that it is not uncommon. That it can happen to anybody

erection problems in men

Have you ever lost an erection during foreplay or at some point after penetration? Be assured that it is not uncommon. That it can happen to anybody. And, it usually happens to most people at some point or the other. 


Now that you know there may be no reason to panic if and when this happens, read on to find out what goes on in most people’s minds when they lose an erection, what their partners think, how to handle the situation and most importantly: what not to do!

Also read: Sex column: Does alcohol help lubricate your sex life because of lowered inhibitions?

When Seema (41) was hooking up with her boyfriend of three years, she didn’t know what to do when he abruptly withdrew and said that he knew it wouldn’t work. Seema felt it was abrupt. “We were making out and he wore a condom and I was poised on top when I realised that he wasn’t hard anymore. So he just stopped all activity. I wish we could have continued making out. When I told him we could fool around for a bit and then try again, he said that there was no point. And that was that.” 

She couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t want to continue till she found out that he had never just made out without having sex. Not even as a teenager. If ejaculation through penetrative sex is the end game, then there is going back to foreplay and trying again, but does it really need to be that way?

According to Dr Vijayasarathi Ramanathan, Consultant in Sexual Medicine, Bloom Chennai, erection is not a mandate to enjoy sexual activity. In fact, an erection is not even necessary to ejaculate. And ejaculation is not necessary to orgasm. Though both usually occur at the same time, they are separate processes.

If you think of an erection as a symbol of masculinity or attach too much importance to it, then you may be missing out on other sexual activities that are pleasurable to you and your partner. 

Dr Ashwin (34) knows that he usually doesn’t get a proper erection when he has over indulged. “When I have had copious amounts of alcohol, I get a mid-erection but not enough to penetrate. When that happens, I try once or twice but if it doesn’t happen I give up and there are other ways of pleasing a woman. So I ensure my partner has great time and then we sleep it off and then have some really nice morning sex.”

Also read: Sex column: 5 myths about sexual hygiene and pleasure busted

There have been times he has lost an erection mid-way even without being intoxicated and most of his partners have been understanding. “Sometimes the woman pleasures me to regain the erection and then we continue. If it doesn’t happen, then we call it quits. An orgasm is not the end point. It is the entire act.” He feels that it is okay if you lose your erection mid-way because at least you had that sexual activity for however long you did before it happened.

Things are different when you have a casual partner because you may be worried that you might not get another chance. According to Amit (43), time and place is a big challenge when you are dating. He recalls the first time it happened. He was in his 20s and had to keep it all hush hush because they didn’t exactly have much privacy.

 “We were in an environment where I was not very comfortable. We were at a friend's house and he was sleeping in the bedroom and we were out in the hall. We had gone there after partying. I was not able to sustain my erection. I was defensive about it and was trying to be scientific and she was teasing me saying I got ED.”  So that day nothing happened because he also had to drop her home and they had a very short window. 

Things have changed over the years but some issues remain the same. “If you are married or living together, you are around each other so you can try multiple times. But, if you are booking a hotel room, there are chances you may not be in the zone completely. I mean you may be aroused but to sustain it you need to be completely settled. So what works for me is to skip it for a while, go on a drive and do some masti and then get back and try again.”

Though people throw around the term ED loosely, Dr Vijayasarathi explains that Erectile Dysfunction (ED) is a diagnostic label, which means that certain criteria have to be met for it to be clinically diagnosed. A temporary loss of erection can happen to any distraction. The doorbell, phone beeping, body odour or like in Amit’s case the environment.

There may be many possible reasons or explanations for loss of erection without any underlying medical condition. It may happen when you are unwell or stressed about something or preoccupied with work. Or, if you are under pressure to perform because your partner is ovulating and you are trying to conceive.

Also read: Sex column: 5 stupid beliefs about women and sex that have got to go

If it happens occasionally, then it is most likely not ED. But, if you are going to ruminate and wonder what went wrong, well don’t. That kind of preoccupation might lead to psychological ED. Dr Vijayasarathi shared a case where the man thought he was suffering from ED. However, a detailed history from his partner helped unravel the real issue. She used to hold her breath and contract her muscles to control the urge to urinate every time he tried to penetrate. As a result, he would lose his erection because he was worried about hurting her. This situation could have been remedied with a simple solution. All she needed to do was empty her bladder and both partners could have been counselled not to worry even if there was a little trickle. 

Arundhati (35) was on a romantic getaway with her husband when he suddenly stopped and withdrew. She thought she had done something wrong and was worried. He blamed his loss of erection on his new medication. He was worried that it would ruin their vacation. But, she suspected that he didn’t find her attractive any more. Their lack of open communication took a toll on their marriage.

If you are concerned that your loss of erection might be due to any new medication that you are taking, don’t stop or change the medicine without consulting your doctor. Discuss the issue with your doctor first.

If you have a tendency to panic or Google a bunch of issues, here are some helpful tips from Dr Vijayasarathi on what you could do instead of assuming the worst:

* Focus on encounters where everything went well. Out of 100 sexual encounters, if 90 have been fine, remember those moments.

* Eliminate distractions like mobile phones.

* Communicate with your partner about turnoffs and turn ons.

* Laugh it off.

* Wash your penis after urinating and keep it clean overall. Sometimes secretions accumulate under the foreskin and it may not roll back easily, which could be painful during penetration.

* Try to get a good night’s rest. Sleep is very important.

* If you feel guilty about something like watching porn in secret, or any other issue, address the guilt first.

* Respect your partner and don’t blame them for it.

Also read: Sex column: Tips to last longer and stay stronger

Remember, things don’t always go as planned and if you are not reassured by now, here are couple of other indicators that all is well:

* You are able to masturbate.

* You have an erection first thing in the morning. Whether it is rock hard or like a sausage, it doesn’t matter. This depends on your sleep routine. A healthy man with a good sleep pattern gets 4-5 erections without his knowledge. Even one or two early morning erections per week is fine.

All of this is possible without going to a counsellor or sexologist. Still worried? If you feel the need to consult a doctor, then do so immediately. Some people may feel it is ok to wait and watch. Others might want to know immediately. Depending on your personality if you are seeking to be reassured or to find out if there is anything you need to worry about, then talk to an expert about it.

Common reasons for occasional loss of erection

* Turnoffs like body odour

* Distractions like phone beeping

* Lack of privacy 

* Stress

* Preoccupation with thoughts about work

* Worry or guilt 

* Being sick or tired


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