30 Oct 2018

He can’t perform in bed -- does it matter?

A woman will never convince a man that poor peformance is not a problem and that there are other fun things they can do instead, but it's true -- says a sexologist.

Wysokie Obcasy
Alicja Długołęcka Wysokie Obcasy, Global
He can’t perform in bed -- does it matter? - NewsMavens
Pencil broken, PixaBay

The following fragments from Paulina Reiter's interview with sexologist Alicja Długołęcka first appeared in the Polish weekly "Wysokie Obcasy" in September 2011.

Paulina Reiter: Apparently sexologists have observed that more and more men in their 30s have started to lose their sexual drive. They have a successful career, they work too much, they’re constantly stressed and they can’t be bothered with intimacy. 

Alicja Długołęcka: It’s natural that a person permanently functioning under a lot of stress will be exhausted -- physically and physiologically. Very often a stress overload leads to depression and a depressed person has no desire for sex. If a man works 16 hours a day and is permanently tense and focused on winning, he may find it hard to switch to the role of a romantic and gentle lover. Sexual intercourse will most likely seem like another task that he needs to complete. His version of sex will resemble a workout, not lovemaking.

PR: No wonder he can’t be bothered.

He might be -- in the beginning, then he’ll probably realize that being successful and attractive makes it easy to get women into bed. And then what? What else can he accomplish in bed? Erotic experiments are not inexhaustible either. And then comes the existential emptiness. If we add physical fatigue, problems with erection might appear pretty soon.

And it’s not only a matter of lack of inclination or energy but also the fact that maintaining his erection is beyond his control. As a consequence, he might try avoiding sex and eventually eliminate it from his life.

PR: I’d like to talk about men’s problems but from a female perspective. What do women usually worry about when it comes to their partners?

The most frequent sexual problem brought up by women visiting my practice and attending the group workshops, is men’s lack of focus on the emotional aspects of lovemaking. Calling it lack of foreplay would be insufficient as the women are talking about something more profound -- it’s more about an appreciation of the primeval and spiritual dimension of sex. And these women are right, that’s the way our men are being raised -- they are not born this way.

When I talk to mature men who are undergoing a midlife crisis, they often mention that they are, in a sense, disappointed that they feel they are lacking something in their sexual relationships and want something more.

They can sense the artificiality of situations that they put themselves in, and they want to have better sexual contact with a woman, but they don't know how to go about it.

PR: Are they adopting a woman's perspective?

Yes, in a way. And women are also becoming more aligned with a man's perspective, because with age they gain more awareness of their body and their pure sexual needs. If both sides are open to such changes, then those in mature relationships can have a sex life that is both exciting and emotionally fulfilling, with or without an erection.

PR: There’s a common opinion that women are shy. But I’ve heard many of them complain that men are even more prudish. They’re too ashamed to talk about what they’d like to do in bedroom.

It’s true! Who reads books about sex? Who searches for guides and handbooks? Who attends sex workshops and seminars? Women.

From my own experience, women are more open and permissive than men. It’s true that guys tend to suggest more spicy forms of sex, but when it comes to expanding the art of love, they still have a lot to learn from their female partners. The permissive approach means that we get into a close relationship with another person, listen to them, look at what they’re trying to show us, and communicate -- not only verbally, but also through eye contact, gestures and body language.

When we open up to another person’s needs, we leave ourselves open, too, and that’s what men seem to fear most -- the transition from “task completion” mode to a genuine connection with another human being.

PR: And what about erectile dysfunction?

From the female perspective, transient or incidental erection problems should not be a serious problem, unless the woman is seeking to become pregnant. If this dysfunction is related to reproduction, then this is a completely different topic.

Of course, I do not rule out situations in which a woman would like the man's penis to take a more active role, but this is not the only determinant of successful sex! Sometimes, the biggest problem is not the man's erectile dysfunction but rather his mental state and the changes in behavior associated with it.

PR: Could this dysfunction also create a difficult situation for a woman? She might blame herself, right? 

This is one of the most common mistakes we make as women. We think about sex almost exclusively in terms of our relationship.

Sexuality is a very individual and personal part of human nature. We can share it, support it or damage it, but the sexuality of our partner does not belong solely to us and it does not depend on us.

This is a very egocentric way of thinking and from this egocentrism it follows that if our partner has a sexual problem, we interpret as being our fault. But blaming does not help anything.

We should instead support our partner by keeping calm and encouraging them to seek professional assistance. A woman should not be an amateur sexologist

PR: Do the women you meet with ever mention these kinds of problems in relation to their partners?

At work I often encounter men with severe disorders of the nervous system that have resulted in permanent erectile dysfunction. Their partners -- even though they often have to reach for alternative techniques of lovemaking -- do not complain about the quality of their sex life. What they do complain about is these men’s excessive concentration on their performance. 

But, as it turns out, men with erectile problems who stay sexually active and don’t focus exclusively on the intercourse aspect of lovemaking do not become frustrated and wind up suppressing their desire.

Rather these men learn to open up to different forms of expression and discover that their sex life can become even more intense and more satisfying than before the illness.

Healthy men, those experiencing only minor and infrequent erectile issues, might find this hard to believe and accept, simply because they’re not forced or limited to only these alternatives. For that very same reason, no woman will ever convince her man that his erectile dysfunction is not a problem and there are other fun things they can do instead. And just to clarify, when it comes to problems with erection, women are pretty unanimous in saying "it really doesn’t matter".

PR: The gentlemen should be glad to hear all this.

They will not believe it for the most part. But as I said, I have seen many examples of what lies at the end of this path. It's something that personally fascinates me as a woman -- that men who let go of this sense frustration over their lack of control can open themselves up to women in spite of this type of disorder. Those who can do this say that they discover something new and beautiful in sex. It's a rewarding feeling when I see a man discovering himself in this way and enjoying the results.


Alicja Długołęcka is a Polish sexologist, and author of numerous books including: Seks na Wysokich Obcasach (Sex on High Heels) and a lecturer at the Department of Psychotherapy and Sexual Rehabilitation at Jósef Piłsudski University of Physical Education in Warsaw.

Translated from Polish by Martyna Kardach


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