The Doctor Is In: Dealing With Dysfunction

Got a health question? Don’t trust those “Doctors” at the University Health Center? Are you scared of Web M.D. because it always tells you you’re gonna die? Ask a real doctor, like our friend Dr. Lissa Rankin. She’s here every Thursday to answer whatever you throw at her – like why you can’t get any sleep – so ask away. Leave your question in the comments or send it over to us. Don’t be shy; she’s waiting for ya!

Q: I’m not really sure if you’re the right person to ask but I’m really not sure who else to go to with this. Basically, I’ve been with my boyfriend for 4 months now. We just started to have sex but he can never seem to…keep it up. I don’t know if it’s something I’m doing (or not doing…), and I don’t know if this is something we can fix? Is there something I should do? And how do I even talk to him about this? He gets really upset after it happens (or doesn’t happen) and I just don’t know what to do here. This has never happened to me before…

A: Thank you for trusting us with what is, undeniably, a delicate issue. It’s funny.  If women have issues with decreased libido or sexual performance, we tend to discuss these things with our girlfriends, ask questions openly, and put our cards on the table. But men- forget it! You don’t hear men sitting around the coffee shop discussing their erectile dysfunction. But I wish they would. Making it a taboo subject shrouded with embarrassment serves no one.

I don’t know how old your boyfriend is, but the incidence of erectile dysfunction increases with age. If your boyfriend is young, chances are good that his issue may be caused by a medication side effect (anti-depressants are classic erection killers) or alcohol or drug use (alcohol increases the desire but decreases the performance). If he’s older, health conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes could play a role.  Often, the problem is psychological. Perhaps he’s worried that he’s not pleasuring you, and the more he worries, the more he droops.

Try talking to your boyfriend, but make sure not to do it in bed. He’s already feeling fragile and vulnerable when he loses his woodie, so there’s no point adding salt to his wound. Bring up the conversation when you’re both fully dressed. Let him know you care about him and genuinely wish to find solutions so you can both enjoy each other’s bodies. Ask him how he feels and share how you feel in a gentle, nonjudgmental way. Suggest that he see his doctor, who might be able to help him investigate the issue. If drugs or alcohol regularly play a role in your sex life, try skipping it or play around with morning sex, when men tend to be a bit more randy.

Do what you can to make him feel safe. The more he feels pressured to perform, the more likely he is to lose his erection. You may find that it helps to break the cycle by avoiding intercourse for a while. Snuggle.  Kiss.  Fool around. Try oral sex or manual sex if you wish.  But stay around from sexual acts that have an expected outcome.

Keep in mind that your relationship is relatively new, and some things work themselves out in time. Perhaps, he’s just so into you that he gets freaked out. If none of this helps and you’re committed to making this relationship work, consider seeing a sex therapist.  His doctor may even recommend Viagra, if he’s a good candidate for it.  If you really care for each other, you’ll find a way…

Wishing you bliss,
Dr. Lissa

– Dr. Lissa Rankin’s book, What’s Up Down There? Questions You’d Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend, will be published by St. Martin’s Press in Fall 2010. She invites you to join her Pink online community ( or read more of her writing at Owning Pink (

Sexy Time: Don’t Worry, Your G-spot Still Exists
Sexy Time: Don’t Worry, Your G-spot Still Exists
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