One would hope that living in the Information Age with virtual access to high level expertise on sexual topics would ultimately clarify fact from fiction. Unfortunately, when it comes to penis sexuality, facts often find themselves drowned out by half-truths, moral agendas, and snake oil salesmen playing on our deepest insecurities. Ah, the wild, wild, web! Hopefully, this article will help to clarify some of the long held penis myths posing as fact. Let’s start it off by taking this quick quiz to assess your knowledge of alternative penis fact.

True or False?

  1. Erection difficulties are rare.

  2. At some point in their lives, usually around mid-60’s, penises can expect their erectile capability to disappear.

  3. Once erect, a healthy penis will stay erect until orgasm.

  4. Penises don’t need foreplay.

  5. Penises are unaffected by stress.

  6. Erection struggles usually indicate a lack of desire or attraction for a partner.

  7. Porn causes Erectile Dysfunction.

If you answered “true” to any of the above, I recommend you read through the explanations below to improve your PQ (kinda like an “IQ” but about penises). On the other hand, if you answered “false” to all of the questions, congratulations, you’re a real penis aficionado and you’ll probably read the rest anyway, just to ensure you plunder every potential piece of penis pleasuring wisdom. So, join me now as we take a deeper look into each of these frequent phallic myths.

MYTH – Erection difficulties are rare. When things go awry in life, often it can feel like we’re the only one with a problem. Yet, when it comes to penises, the majority will exhibit unwanted behavior at some point in their lifetime. By some estimates, about 50% of penises will struggle with erections by the time they reach fifty (Metz & McCarthy, 2004). Believing that erection difficulties are rare is a foundational perspective that facilitates penis difficulties. The more a penis believes in it’s invulnerability, the more confused and upset it becomes when things don’t go as planned. Penises are not machines but flesh and blood appendages susceptible to the same life conditions that trouble the rest of your body-mind. If you’re having difficulties with erections, welcome, you’re now an official member of the penis club.

TRUTH – Educate yourself on penis anatomy and physiology so your expectations align with reality. Psychotherapists lovingly call this “bibliotherapy.” Read and be healed! If you’re feeling really motivated, when you’ve finished reading this article, I recommend continuing your bibliotherapy with one or more of the following: The Guide to Getting It On The Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein and Felice Picano.

MYTH – At some point in their lives, usually around mid-60’s, penises can expect their erectile capability to disappear. A widely held myth about penises is that eventually they just cannot become erect anymore. While it is true that age brings changes to neurological, hormonal, and cardiovascular systems that can impact erections, a total loss of erections is not inevitable. Typically, when an aging penis grows weary with time, it has more to do with temporary or ongoing medical issues than purely aging.

TRUTH – One of the best predictors of penis health in older penises is overall physical health. Keep your penis in shape by keeping your body healthy; ensure sufficient sleep, exercise regularly, and fuel your body with healthy food. Also, you can even strengthen the muscles involved in erections and increase blood flow to the penis by doing Kegel exercises. Take it a step further and check out the Private Gym if you’re really serious about exercising your penis. Cigarette smoker? Cut’em back or cut’em out.

MYTH – A healthy penis will stay erect until orgasm. Like most myths about the penis, this one relies on an underlying belief system that I’ll refer to as the Adolescent Model of Penis Sexuality. The Adolescent Model of Penis Sexuality gradually infects our thinking throughout the early years of childhood and adolescence. Years and years of conditioned expectations about penis function become solidified into false truths and alternative facts. The underlying belief of the Adolescent Model of Penis Sexuality is that it takes little or no effort to obtain and maintain an erection. Given that for most penises early life erections happen spontaneously and frequently, often without a single arousing thought, it’s easy to assume erections will always be a simple mechanical reflex. For their first two decades, penises grow up taking for granted that erections come quickly, if not automatically, and typically require very little manual stimulation. When you add hundreds or thousands of masturbation sessions that reinforce this belief, then it’s easy to see how the unexpected loss of an erection could elicit fear and anxiety in even the chillest of penises. The Adolescent Model of Penis Sexuality does not prepare us to expect even the occasional limp moment. Yet, even with healthy penises, the right combination of circumstances can readily impact erectile capacity. It’s not uncommon to need more than a really hot naked partner to reach the arousal threshold for achieving an erection. Depending on the time, place and a host of other factors, many of which are described in this article, that arousal threshold can vary considerably, even for the same penis. So, no, you don’t have erectile dysfunction because you lost your erection while going down on your partner. Your penis is working just the way it’s supposed to.

TRUTH – Check the rigidity of your expectations and allow for variability in how erections come and go. Prepare to utilize additional manual or oral stimulation once, twice, or several times during the course of your sexual escapades. Take it a step further and practice the erection wax and wane method (thank you Masters and Johnson) by intentionally allowing your erections to fade. This provides controlled experience with what it feels like to have variable erections. When you eventually meet up with a partner, you will have anticipated and practiced working through dreaded moment, thereby increasing confidence instead of simply feeling helpless and confused. In other words, if you’re worried about what will happen when you lose your erection, then practice repeatedly losing your erection.

MYTH – Penises don’t need foreplay. Many penises believe that all erections are created equal. A good example is the morning erection. Although penises often wake up thinking they’re ready to take on the world, these physiologically based erections differ from the psychologically and sexual desire based erections generated during sexy time. Many penises make the mistake of trying to plunge right into action soon after awakening, believing that arousal has sufficiently peaked. Unfortunately, erections do not operate with an on and off switch, more like a dimmer switch. Your penis needs to move from a state of physical readiness to a state of physical AND sexual readiness, which usually means involving your brain. This holds true for all erections, not just the early morning variety. If you’ve been experiencing erection struggles, being too hasty to call upon your physical arousal without being sexually aroused can be a setup for disappointment. Erections are not either on or off, they vary in rigidity. Sometimes getting to sufficient firmness means extra oral or manual attention. For better or for worse, all erections are not created equal.

TRUTH – For many people and for many situations the penis DOES need some foreplay. Slow. Down. Take. Your. Time. Nurture that erection by practicing relaxation and focusing your attention on sensations. If you’re anxious about erections, you’re probably not focused on sensations. If you’re not focused on sensations, you’re probably not experiencing full pleasure. Slow. Down. Seek pleasure through sensation, not through performance and conquest. Relax your body, slow your mind. Focus. On. Sensations. Practice refocusing your attention by developing a mindfulness practice. Download and explore the award winning “Stop, Breathe, and Think” app. Did I mention slowing down?

MYTH – Penises are unaffected by stress. Another belief inherent to the Adolescent Model of Penis Sexuality holds that penises are unaffected by the normal stressors of life. If you’re overworked, fatigued, anxious about finances, feeling concerned about finding a new job, exercising intensely everyday or basically doing anything that increases your energy demands or your level of worry, your penis will likely be affected. Even positive events like starting a new dream job or getting married can be stressful. The highs in life can be just as mentally consuming and burn up just as much energy as the lows. Penises make good barometers for emotional and physical well being. If you’re not taking care of yourself physically by getting sufficient sleep, exercise, and nutrition, the impact of life stress will be that much greater. Likewise, be mindful how you use drugs and alcohol prior to sexy time. Sex is about feeling pleasure and sensations, not numbing out or making an uncomfortable situation more tolerable by altering consciousness.  

TRUTH – Having a penis does not mean having on demand erections regardless of life circumstances. Penises are often conditioned to “be strong”, to not admit weakness, and push through life’s struggles without seeking rest or an emotional outlet. This is unhelpful. Know and admit your limits, take care of your body physically, make an inventory of the sources of stress in your life and seek appropriate support when needed.  You can’t eliminate all sources of stress from your life anymore than you can flap your arms and fly to work. However, you can certainly take steps to significantly reduce the impact that stress has on you and the little one.

MYTH – Erection difficulties usually indicate a lack of desire or attraction for a partner. When neither the partner nor the penis truly understands the full range of naturally occurring penis behavior, both penis and partner may become confused when difficulties arise in the bedroom. If a partner lacks confidence in how their penis owner feels about them physically or emotionally, the situation may become rife with hurt, blame, or relationship implosion. For example:

Penis – [Riddled with confusion and uncertainty] “I’m not sure what’s going on, this has never

happened before.”

Partner – [Feeling insecure about self] “I guess I don’t turn you on enough?”

Penis – [Riddled with confusion and uncertainty]  “Huh? Uh. Um. I don’t. This has never. I…it…”

Partner – “So you’re not denying it then.”

Penis – “Denying what?”

Partner – “That you’re not really into me.”

Penis – “No, I…”

Partner – “Great. So you’re not into me.”

Penis – “No. I mean, Yes. I…, No. I mean, I’m into you. I just…”

Partner – “You sound confused. Maybe you need time to figure out how you feel about me.”

Penis – [Sighs heavily. Feeling emotionally overwhelmed]

Partner – “Where are you going?”

Penis – [Leaves room completely confused, frustrated and humiliated]

Ironically, in many situations it’s not the lack of desire and attraction that’s problematic but the exact opposite; the attraction can be VERY strong, TOO strong in fact. Needing to impress or please our partner or to prove our desire can become a psychological burden, inducing performance anxiety that can debilitate erections before they’ve even gotten to the party. If both partners use the Adolescent Model of Penis Sexuality, and one of them is uncertain or insecure about themselves or the relationship, then it’s easy to understand why a lack of desire and attraction gets blamed.

TRUTH – In addition to the earlier tip about educating yourself on penis physiology, educate your partner as well. Furthermore, authentically communicate your desire and attraction for your partner throughout the relationship so they have no reason to doubt your feelings towards them. It may be that it really is just about your partner’s insecurities. If so, don’t aim your frustration back at them. Assure them of your attraction 24/7, not just in the bedroom. Be curious about the self-perceptions that fuel their insecurities and persistently counter their negative self-perceptions with authentic positive ones.

MYTH – Porn causes ED. The long and the short of it is that watching internet porn cannot possibly CAUSE erectile dysfunction in and of itself. This grossly oversimplifies what I hope you’ve learned by now is a complicated and multifaceted life of a penis. If you think about it dispassionately and focus on the facts, the assertion that porn alone causes erectile dysfunction becomes rather silly.

TRUTH – Unfortunately, because it is a complicated and multifaceted issue, there’s too much to adequately address here. However,  you’re welcome to tune in to my next blog and learn more about what sex therapists have to say about this latest internet based sexual mythology: Porn Induced Erectile Dysfunction. Did I mention oversimplification?

References

Joannides, Paul. (2015). The Guide to Getting It On. (8th ed.). Oregon: Goofy Foot Press.

Metz, Michael E and McCarthy, Barry W. (2004). Coping with erectile dysfunction: How to regain confidences and enjoy great sex. Oakland: New Harbinger.

One Long House. (2017). Stop, Breathe and Think (v2.5). [Mobile application software]. Retrieved from https://app.stopbreathethink.o…

Silverstein, C. and Picano, F. (2003). The Joy of Gay Sex. New York: Harper Collins.

Zilbergeld, B. (1999). The new male sexuality. New York: Bantam Books.

Keywords: erectile dysfunction, erection difficulty, penis problems, porn addiction, porn induced, sexual dysfunction