Getting It Up

Dear Dr. Melanie,

My girlfriend and I are in our mid-sixties. I have problems getting an erection sometimes, and she can’t understand why. The last time it happened she said, “Guys who are 80 are having sex like rabbits, so why can’t you?” Is she right? What can I do? – Not a Rabbit


Dear Not a Rabbit,

Your partner sure has a way to go in the sensitivity department. The last thing a man wants to hear, after he’s lost or failed to attain an erection, is a snide remark about his performance. Comments like that will only make you self-conscious and anxious, which may make the problem happen more often. Has she ever been less than 100% aroused or unable to orgasm during a sexual encounter? I’ll bet so, and I hope you had the decency not to make fun of her.

She also needs to get a grip on reality. Sure, there are 80-year-old men having sex, but they’re not at it like rabbits. Alcohol, drug use, medications, stress, lack of desire – lots of things can interfere with erections when you’re young, and the effects can worsen with age. Lifestyle choices, genetics and circulatory health will, over time, affect the tiny blood vessels that are an essential part of the flow of blood into the penis. If these vessels aren’t functioning at 100% capacity, there may not be enough blood getting into and staying in the penis’ spongy tissues to create or maintain an erection. Nerve damage is another risk factor. Anxiety and other emotional issues can also affect erections. And, if you’re worried about not being able to perform up to your expectations or your partner’s, your anxiety may be reflected in the state of your penis.

I recommend that you talk to your physician or urologist to get an objective opinion about whether what you’re experiencing is routine or indicates a medical concern. I’m also going to recommend that you visit a sex therapist with your girlfriend so you two can learn to communicate sensitively and lovingly, and so you can explore a more satisfying sexual relationship. Once things are back to normal, treat yourself to some toys that will, as needed, give you a boost and her a buzz.