Q: My boyfriend doesn’t always get rock hard and is worried about it. He’s 28 and that’s too young to have erectile difficulties. It’s freaking him out. What’s the deal?
A: Erectile difficulties are common and happen to most men at some point in their lives. In general, the stiffness of a penis is related to blood flow or circulation – essentially more blood flowing into the penis than the amount of blood that leaves the penis.
The penis contains several spongy chambers that fill with blood upon arousal and cause the penis to become hard. Many factors could be attributed to erectile difficulties including condom-associated issues, stress and performance anxiety among other factors. Certain medications including prescription medications and recreational drugs can also cause erectile difficulties.
So Many Variables …
In young healthy men, erectile difficulties are often due to performance anxiety, including focusing so much on how a partner feels during sex that their attention might drift away from what they need to stay aroused and erect. Young, healthy men also sometimes experience erectile difficulties when they use condoms. Of course, for some men condom use increases sexual pleasure and puts their minds at ease because this reduces the risk of sexually transmitted infection and pregnancy. To improve condom fit and sensation, add water or silicone-based lubricant to the outside of the condom and encourage your partner to put the condom on as a form of foreplay so he can stay focused on what arouses him. Condoms are, after all, the only device that protects against both STIs and pregnancy, so they’re an important part of many people’s sex lives.
Recurring erectile difficulties might also be an early sign of diabetes, cardiovascular disease including high blood pressure. If you or your partner is concerned about these possibilities, your partner can consult a health care provider to rule out medical conditions. Finally, you might find it helpful to read The New Male Sexuality, which is a helpful book for many men and their sexual partners.