Q&A: Why Does My Boyfriend’s Penis Get Soft During Sex?

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QUESTION: When I'm having sex with my boyfriend, I love to reach around and feel his erection. Sometimes when I reach around, though, his erection isn't there - it's soft. Does that mean he's not really into it?

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Man-Chest

Photo: terry6082 Books (flickr.com)

As much as many men would like to be able to control their penis – and specifically, their erections – a man can never have total control over how his penis does or does not work.

The History of the Penis

One of my favorite books about genitals – and believe it or not, I have a few – is called A Mind of Its Own: A Cultural History of the Penis. This particular book chronicles how the penis has been viewed by people of many different historical time periods and cultures. At some points, smaller or at least average was better. At other times in certain places, bigger has been seen as better.

Then there’s the matter of erections and how long they should last or what men should do with them – and at the heart of the book is this ongoing tension between a man and his penis. Essentially: does the penis control the man, or can a man control his penis?

Of course, neither of these extremes is true. As much as many men would like to be able to control their penis – and specifically, their erections – a man can never have total control over how his penis does or does not work.

Ups and Downs During Sex

What does this mean for you and your boyfriend? It means that as much as you may love reaching around and feeling for your boyfriend’s erect penis, if his penis is not erect at your moment of grabbing, that does not mean that he’s not into you or whatever you’re doing to him at the time.

It may mean that he’s distracted by thinking about how to please you or that he’s distracted by less sexy thoughts such as whether he did well on an exam or whether he’ll do well on a presentation the next day. Or he may find that, as aroused as he is by you, that the temperature is a little cold in the room and it makes it difficult to get or keep an erection.

If you’re using condoms, he may find that the condom is a little tight or uncomfortable on his penis. Or he may have masturbated earlier in the day and may find it difficult to get or keep another firm erection for several more hours or even the next day.

Understanding Men’s Bodies

As a man yourself, perhaps you can relate. Have there been times when you’ve gotten an erection, even though there was nothing terribly exciting going on at the time? Or vice versa: have you ever felt excited or aroused but not had the erection you expected? If not, then lucky you: but you probably will have such an experience at some point in your life.

Next time you encounter your boyfriend’s soft penis in the midst of your excitement, try to not focus on it. Continue to do things that you both find mutually pleasurable and try to not work too hard to get his penis erect. Some men find it embarrassing or stressful if their partner tries to hard to make them erect.

Communicating for Better Sex

That said, it is still possible that your boyfriend would be even more aroused by other things that you could do together or that he’s not always terribly into the sexual things you do together. Try to talk to him about what he enjoys most about your sexual intimacy together. Share what you like and find pleasurable or orgasmic and ask him what he likes as well as what he’d like to try.

As you stay together longer, you’ll want to check in with each other from time to time so that you can stay connected and aware of each other’s sexual preferences.

Dr. Debby Herbenick (M.P.H., Ph.D.)

is a sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, Associate Director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University and author of several books including Sex Made Easy and Because It Feels Good: A Woman's Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction.
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