Erection

 

  Paul Nauman

 

 

A male's first experience with his erection is in the womb. During infancy and early childhood boys touch their penis frequently and learn that this produces an erection and pleasurable sensations. The arrival of puberty brings fresh focus to the penis for boys; they have spontaneous erections (erection without touch) more frequent erections, increased intensity/pleasure with erection and learn to masturbate to produce ejaculate and orgasm. Erection becomes both a sign of sexual arousal and a feedback loop to facilitate further sexual arousal. 


Erection during adolescence and young adulthood 

Erection as an older adult

Age related changes to sexual function

Sex is more than an erection

A note to women: Men are not machines 

Mechanisms of erection

Erectile dysfunction

Common physical causes of erectile dysfunction

Psychological causes of erectile dysfunction

Porn effects on Erectile Function


Erection during adolescence and young adulthood

 

Early erection experiences in adolescents and young adulthood are different to those experienced by older men. In youth, erections are usually spontaneous, frequent and are often present before the commencement of sexual activity. Young men who do not have spontaneous erections may worry that there is something wrong with them because their erections do not come as easily as their peers, however lack of spontaneous erection in youth is completely normal and just a variation of male sexual response. Equally, women who have experience with men’s spontaneous erections may come to see a man’s erection as a sign that e is attracted to her. Lack of an immediate erection can then be interpreted as a sign that he is not really into her.  Lack of spontaneous erection is not an accurate sign of a man’s arousal. Some men take time to become erect they respond to a slower pace, others may be distracted by the environment,  nervous and trying to please or perhaps have consumed too much alcohol or drugs.

 

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Erection as an older adult 

Men's sexuality changes with maturation. As men age their sexual arousal broadens from a focus on erection and intercourse to eroticism specific to a man's personal tastes. Men increasingly desire a personal, intellectual & erotic connection with their sexual partner(s).

As men age they experience changes to their sexual function. For example, men are less likely to get spontaneous erections or erections by fantasy alone. This does not mean that men are not aroused. They may be quite aroused however to need more direct and firmer physical stimulation of their penis than previously. Whilst other men require erotic engagement or meaning to their sexual experience. As men age the rigidity of their erection is more likely to fluctuate during sexual activity. Some men are shocked at this change and become frustrated that it now takes longer to get an erection and they become fearful of losing their erection when giving oral sex believing that they cannot get it back. Equally, older women who are used to their partners erection always being present may see this age related change as a sign that she no longer arouses her partner or that he no longer finds her attractive.  It is normal for a man’s erection to go up and down during sexual activity at any age, but it is more common in older men.

 

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Age related changes to sexual function

 

Sexual arousal, desire and response vary across the decades. Our sexual tastes differ across the decades. Around 50 onwards the natural aging process can impact on physical sexual response. For example, half of men aged over 50 will have inconsistent erections; they may find it difficult to get an erection or take much longer to get an erection and maintain it. Our culture does not accept aging well. However aging is inevitable and requires us to accommodate to our changing bodies and sexuality. Aging provides us with the opportunity to adapt to different sexual styles, positions and renegotiate our sexual relationship(s). Rather than struggling with age related changes, take the time to think about what is sexually meaningful to you now and consider how your tastes, desires or needs have changed over the years. If you have a partner find out how their desires may have changed. You may be surprised at what you discover. See  age_related_changes_to_sexual_function_final.pdf for further details into physical changes.

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Sex is more than erection

Sex gets better as we age because good sex is more than an erection. Good sex is about feeling desire for your partner, mutual arousal, pleasuring your partner and enjoying their arousal. It is about asking your partner to pleasure you and being lost in the moment of that pleasure. It is about connecting with your fantasies and exploring your desires. It can be about love or lust. It can be about sharing yourself and taking time for each other. It can be fun, frivolous, quick, routine or anything you like it to be. Most importantly it is enjoyable. Sex is about feelings. The more enjoyable the feelings the better the sex.

Being a good lover requires you to learn from your partner and to know what you want and how to ask for it. Fantastic sex requires respect, trust, openness and non-judgemental acceptance of individual wants. During adolescences men have a lot of erections but little of these qualities.

When men worry about losing their erection it changes their focus from pleasure to sexual performance. Ironically thinking about how to maintain one’s erection can make it difficult to get or maintain an erection and reduces sexual satisfaction. This is equally true for partners. Working on a penis to make it erect is not the same as lovingly or seductively stroking it. Worrying about performance interrupts feelings and diminishes enjoyment.

 

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A note to women: Men are not machines

As men mature their sexual arousal is enhanced or inhibited by relationship dynamics and can be diminished by fatigue, manual labour, illness and emotional distress. Men's sexual arousal and erection response reflect their physical, mental, and relationship health. By contrast, libido during adolescence and early adulthood may drive the continuation of sex and desire despite an unhealthy mind or relationship.

Women can be guilty of expecting a man to always have an erection for sexual activity. In some cases women can judge a man harshly for not responding in a manner to which they expect. I think there is a bit of double standard going on with some women expecting a man to have an erection on cue. There is no such equivalent expectation where a woman is expected to lubricate immediately. It is unfortunate that our culture permits greater flexibility in sexual response for women than men.

Women may benefit from broadening their conception of male sexuality and adjust to the physiological changes that occur with age. age_related_changes_to_sexual_function_final.pdf

Many women jump to the following conclusions when their man starts having erection problems:

  • I’ve put on weight and he is no longer attracted to me
  • He doesn't love me any more
  • He’s having an affair
  • He’s sexually bored with me
  • He’s gay.

If you are thinking any of the above, your reaction during sex is likely to be anger, disappointment, defensiveness, distress or rejection. It is important at this point to ask yourself “Do your reactions to his loss of erection make things worse?” or “How might my reactions contribute to the problem”?

Also instead of personalising the problem ask yourself if it is possible that your man may be fatigued, stressed, worried about his performance, worried about your reaction, depressed, over worked or suffering from the fight you had last night?

The reality is that men are not machines and their sexual response is variable, just like women’s. Our society’s view of male sexuality is mostly focused on the experience of adolescence and young adulthood. The lack of open discussion about age related changes to male sexual function can create unrealistic expectations for both men and women.

 

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Mechanisms of erection

To have an erection you need blood flowing into the arteries of the penis and storage of blood in the erectile compartments inside the penis. If the body is functioning properly during an erection the blood enters the penis faster than it drains out. Thus there is a build up of pressure, as in a hydraulic system, and the penis becomes erect.

Normally the process of erection begins when the brain receives stimulation, either physical (direct touching of the genitals) or mental (sight, smell, taste, fantasy). The brain receives signals to relax smooth muscle in the penis to allow the erectile compartments to fill with blood. As the penis swells with blood, veins that would normally drain blood from the penis are compressed. Hence the erectile compartments continue to fill and the penis becomes erect.

 

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Erectile dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is generally described as persistent trouble achieving or maintaining an erection sufficient for intercourse, causing marked personal or relationship distress.  There are physical, psychological and relationship factors that can cause ED. All men with ED should consult their G.P. for a general health check as physical causes are the most common cause of ED. That said, ED due to physical cause often produces psychological and relationship distress, which can maintain or exacerbate ED.

Physical causes of erectile dysfunction include anything that interferes with: blood flow (into or out of the penis), penile cell health or nerves & chemical transmitters that signal to the brain to commence erection. Smoking does all of these.

 

 Common physical causes of ED


 

 

Psychological causes of erectile dysfunction include anything that mentally distracts or stops the brain processing erotic stimulation (either physical or mental). You don't have to feel anxious to have sexual performance anxiety. Being distracted with worries about performance is sufficient to interfere with arousal.


 Common psychological causes of ED