Get Real! Why Couldn’t I Get It Up?

Heather Corinna

In order to have a healthy relationship with our sexual bodies, we need to have realistic expectations of our bodies and accept that there will be times our bodies won't do what we want them to.

Anonymous asks:

couldn’t get it up and I’m 19! It was going to be the first time for me
and my girlfriend, but the man downstairs didn’t respond! I didn’t feel
nervous, I felt confident that I would be fine. But when the mood
struck I couldn’t deliver. Now not only do I feel like crud, I’m hoping
that the next time it happens that the little soldier downstairs
decides to take some action… It felt like the most disappointing
thing in my life. I was tired. If that is a factor, then maybe I just
need a good nights sleep and another go at it? Any advice would be

Heather replies:

This happens.

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I know that probably sounds cliché, but you need to understand that
no matter how old you are, how much sleep you have had, how much you
want to have sex, how turned on you are your penis is neither a machine
nor an obedient soldier. It’s a part of your body, like any other, and
just like any other part, you only have so much control over it.

I feel that it is very important, in order to have a healthy
relationship with your sexual body, that any one of us has realistic
expectations of our bodies and accepts — and honors as okay — that
there will be times our bodies won’t do what we want them to. It’s
highly likely that there are going to be plenty of times in your life
when you don’t get it up when you want to, not just this one time.

Women also will have times when our clitorises won’t get erect, our
vaginas won’t loosen or lubricate: it’s really the same deal (even
though some women will have genital sex anyway, despite it being
uncomfortable, unpleasant or even painful). For all you know —
especially if sex is new to you and you’re still becoming familiar with
female genitals — your partner might have been in that same spot
herself. I have a hand disability, so sometimes, despite the use of my
hands being critical to the work I want so much to do, I have to honor
my hand deciding that we both have to call it a day. That doesn’t have
to be a disaster: in fact, my body making that choice can help me to go
find other things I enjoy doing but might not otherwise make time for.
I’m getting older, so I have to accept that my hair is starting to go
gray, I’m getting some wrinkles, and my bottom doesn’t quite seem to be
exactly where I left it 20 years ago. You may have experienced times
when you want to stay awake so badly, but your body just plain needs
some sleep, or times when there’s a great plate of food in front of
you, but you are just not hungry. Everything like this is simply part
of being human, and there’s nothing the matter with any of it.

Sex with a partner — at any given time, no matter what kind of sex
we’re talking about — is about sexually connecting with another person
in the moment, in exactly the space our hearts, minds and bodies are in
at a given time. It’s really kind of a good thing all of that isn’t
static or completely predictable, because if it was, sex would get
really boring really fast. When sex tends to be best is when we and our
partners are able to go with the flow of our minds and bodies, without
being fixated on what we want them to do or feel we should be doing.
Going with the flow in that way, and having the expectation that we
just don’t really know what’s going to happen exactly, or what’s going
to feel best at a given time, is a sound recipe for the good stuff.
Getting stuck in the idea that any one thing must or should happen can
be a recipe for missing out on other things we might explore or

I also want to mention that first-times can be seriously
nervewracking, especially when it’s something a couple has tried to
schedule, or gets their minds set being sure will happen at a given
time. You say you didn’t feel nervous, but if there was an expectation
this would happen right then and there, on that night, there is going
to be some kind of anxiousness involved. With that pressure and more,
it’s often more surprising that one or both partners CAN become fully
aroused and have their bodies respond than when they can’t. Being able
to have some level of relaxation is a pretty big deal when it comes to
human sexual response for most people, and I’d say that to have that
real relaxation, everyone involved needs to feel that there is a good
deal of flexibility when it comes to what you do together and how your
bodies may or may not respond at any given time. In fact, the way your
body responded may well have been a reflection of a nervousness,
pressure or anxiety you were feeling, but just didn’t intellectually or emotionally recognize or acknowledge.

So, what can you do when this happens? You have a handful of options.

If you’re with a partner and still want to have sex, you can
remember that not only do you have many ways of engaging in sex which
don’t require an erect penis, but that those other kinds of sex are not
only often enjoyable for many partners, but for many women, are more
enjoyable than intercourse or other activities where your penis is
involved. With plenty of partners, it’s hardly going to be a bummer for
you to say, "Hey, this just isn’t happening for me when it comes to
intercourse right now: would you like it if I gave you some oral sex
(a question often nearly guaranteed to result in a positive response) or "Nope,
no intercourse right now, but howsabout we give each other full-body
massages, or each talk and share a sexual fantasy with the other?"

You can also just wait it out a bit: sometimes, if erection doesn’t
happen at a given time, it can happen fifteen minutes, a half hour, an
hour down the road, particularly if you don’t get all hung up about it
and do other things together that turn you both on. Or, you can just
take a raincheck on sex of any kind with a partner altogether if both
of you really only wanted intercourse at the time: there are other ways
to express physical affection or desire without sex, after all.

No matter how you choose to handle it, I’d encourage you not to get
so down in the dumps about it, or to get all hung up on this. I think
it’s relatively safe to say that someone in a snit about not getting an
erection, or who makes it into some kind of huge tragedy is far more
likely to make a night a big-time bummer than the mere fact of there
not being an erection or the kind of sex someone wanted. Next time this
happens, no matter what you do, just let it go. Shrug it off, have a
laugh at how rebellious our bodies can be, and let it be no big whoop,
because it really is NOT a big deal unless you or someone else makes it

If your partner was really bummed, too (and not just because you
were), it’s a good idea to talk about this with her as well. An extra
bonus of having that conversation is that it also opens the door for
you to mention that when there are times she finds her body isn’t
responding in a way that’d make a given kind of sex work or feel good,
that you don’t expect her to try and force something that just isn’t
happening, either, and that your investment is in both of you feeling
good in whatever way works for the two of you at a given time, not in
having the sex you have stick to some kind of a script. It’s probably
obvious to you why that would be a great thing to hear your partner
say, especially since this may not be the only time something doesn’t
"work" when either of you want it to. She may very well not reach
orgasm from intercourse when you do. It might not feel so hot to her,
especially at first: she may even discover (or you might) that
intercourse isn’t an activity she even likes. You both may get
everything working physically, but then find that intercourse leaves
you feeling a little underwhelmed. Having a conversation about
realistic expectations, honoring your bodies as they are, and
flexibility when it comes to what sexual discoveries you make is a
great talk to have, and one likely to benefit your sex life a ton.

Lastly, do yourself a favor: don’t think of your penis as a little soldier, seriously.

I know it might seem like nothing but semantics, but how we think
about our bodies does often tend to have a pretty big impact on our
body image, our sexuality and the kind of sex we have. Most folks don’t
want sex with a partner to resemble the Invasion of Normandy, so it’s
pretty safe to say that thinking about genitals as soldiers probably
isn’t going to be conducive to two people physically and emotionally
connecting, and to honoring bodies as the humane, organic and sometimes
wily, mind-of-their-own things they are.

Your penis isn’t something separate from you: it’s one part of the
whole of you, and you’re better off trying to think of it that way than
you are dehumanizing or anthropomorphizing it. Thinking about your
genitals more holistically may also help you glean a more acute
awareness of them and your whole body so that when, for instance,
you’re just plain tired, you can honor that and have a sleep or a
cuddle instead of sex, or figure that an erection is a bonus from your
body, not a requirement or a pre-requisite for many kinds of sex. I’ve
talked about a couple things that make for great sex already, but
another biggie is not getting locked into the idea that sex is merely
genital, or only about your penis. Sex is whole-body, and when you can
really start to see it that way, you open the door to a sex life that’s
much more likely to be really enjoyable than when sex is limited to a
mere six inches of a body and sexuality far larger than that.

Okay? Next time the two of you get together and want to be sexual,
figure that you’re just going to see where things go, based on what’s
feeling good for both of you and what your bodies are responsive to at
that time. There is no one kind of sex that takes all or which all
people, at all times, feel is best. It’s a matter of what works for any
set of partners on that day, in that moment, and what you’re bringing
to the collective table with your head and heart, which includes a
positive, patient attitude about your body and theirs, and expectations
which are realistic and leave room for the unpredictable nature of our
bodies and our sexuality.

Here are some extra links for you to look at:

News Politics

Clinton Campaign Announces Tim Kaine as Pick for Vice President

Ally Boguhn

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

The Clinton campaign announced Friday that Sen. Tim Kaine (R-VA) has been selected to join Hillary Clinton’s ticket as her vice presidential candidate.

“I’m thrilled to announce my running mate, @TimKaine, a man who’s devoted his life to fighting for others,” said Clinton in a tweet.

“.@TimKaine is a relentless optimist who believes no problem is unsolvable if you put in the work to solve it,” she added.

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

Kaine signed two letters this week calling for the regulations on banks to be eased, according to a Wednesday report published by the Huffington Post, thereby ”setting himself up as a figure willing to do battle with the progressive wing of the party.”

Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the progressive political action committee Democracy for America, told the New York Times that Kaine’s selection “could be disastrous for our efforts to defeat Donald Trump in the fall” given the senator’s apparent support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Just before Clinton’s campaign made the official announcement that Kaine had been selected, the senator praised the TPP during an interview with the Intercept, though he signaled he had ultimately not decided how he would vote on the matter.

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Kaine’s record on reproductive rights has also generated controversy as news began to circulate that he was being considered to join Clinton’s ticket. Though Kaine recently argued in favor of providing Planned Parenthood with access to funding to fight the Zika virus and signed on as a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act—which would prohibit states and the federal government from enacting restrictions on abortion that aren’t applied to comparable medical services—he has also been vocal about his personal opposition to abortion.

In a June interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Kaine told host Chuck Todd he was “personally” opposed to abortion. He went on, however, to affirm that he still believed “not just as a matter of politics, but even as a matter of morality, that matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm. They’re moral decisions for individuals to make for themselves. And the last thing we need is government intruding into those personal decisions.”

As Rewire has previously reported, though Kaine may have a 100 percent rating for his time in the Senate from Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the campaign website for his 2005 run for governor of Virginia promised he would “work in good faith to reduce abortions” by enforcing Virginia’s “restrictions on abortion and passing an enforceable ban on partial birth abortion that protects the life and health of the mother.”

As governor, Kaine did support some existing restrictions on abortion, including Virginia’s parental consent law and a so-called informed consent law. He also signed a 2009 measure that created “Choose Life” license plates in the state, and gave a percentage of the proceeds to a crisis pregnancy network.

Regardless of Clinton’s vice president pick, the “center of gravity in the Democratic Party has shifted in a bold, populist, progressive direction,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in an emailed statement. “It’s now more important than ever that Hillary Clinton run an aggressive campaign on core economic ideas like expanding Social Security, debt-free college, Wall Street reform, and yes, stopping the TPP. It’s the best way to unite the Democratic Party, and stop Republicans from winning over swing voters on bread-and-butter issues.”

Roundups Sexual Health

This Week in Sex: The Sexually Transmitted Infections Edition

Martha Kempner

A new Zika case suggests the virus can be transmitted from an infected woman to a male partner. And, in other news, HPV-related cancers are on the rise, and an experimental chlamydia vaccine shows signs of promise.

This Week in Sex is a weekly summary of news and research related to sexual behavior, sexuality education, contraception, STIs, and more.

Zika May Have Been Sexually Transmitted From a Woman to Her Male Partner

A new case suggests that males may be infected with the Zika virus through unprotected sex with female partners. Researchers have known for a while that men can infect their partners through penetrative sexual intercourse, but this is the first suspected case of sexual transmission from a woman.

The case involves a New York City woman who is in her early 20s and traveled to a country with high rates of the mosquito-borne virus (her name and the specific country where she traveled have not been released). The woman, who experienced stomach cramps and a headache while waiting for her flight back to New York, reported one act of sexual intercourse without a condom the day she returned from her trip. The following day, her symptoms became worse and included fever, fatigue, a rash, and tingling in her hands and feet. Two days later, she visited her primary-care provider and tests confirmed she had the Zika virus.

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A few days after that (seven days after intercourse), her male partner, also in his 20s, began feeling similar symptoms. He had a rash, a fever, and also conjunctivitis (pink eye). He, too, was diagnosed with Zika. After meeting with him, public health officials in the New York City confirmed that he had not traveled out of the country nor had he been recently bit by a mosquito. This leaves sexual transmission from his partner as the most likely cause of his infection, though further tests are being done.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s recommendations for preventing Zika have been based on the assumption that virus was spread from a male to a receptive partner. Therefore the recommendations had been that pregnant women whose male partners had traveled or lived in a place where Zika virus is spreading use condoms or abstain from sex during the pregnancy. For those couples for whom pregnancy is not an issue, the CDC recommended that men who had traveled to countries with Zika outbreaks and had symptoms of the virus, use condoms or abstain from sex for six months after their trip. It also suggested that men who traveled but don’t have symptoms use condoms for at least eight weeks.

Based on this case—the first to suggest female-to-male transmission—the CDC may extend these recommendations to couples in which a female traveled to a country with an outbreak.

More Signs of Gonorrhea’s Growing Antibiotic Resistance

Last week, the CDC released new data on gonorrhea and warned once again that the bacteria that causes this common sexually transmitted infection (STI) is becoming resistant to the antibiotics used to treat it.

There are about 350,000 cases of gonorrhea reported each year, but it is estimated that 800,000 cases really occur with many going undiagnosed and untreated. Once easily treatable with antibiotics, the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae has steadily gained resistance to whole classes of antibiotics over the decades. By the 1980s, penicillin no longer worked to treat it, and in 2007 the CDC stopped recommending the use of fluoroquinolones. Now, cephalosporins are the only class of drugs that work. The recommended treatment involves a combination of ceftriaxone (an injectable cephalosporin) and azithromycin (an oral antibiotic).

Unfortunately, the data released last week—which comes from analysis of more than 5,000 samples of gonorrhea (called isolates) collected from STI clinics across the country—shows that the bacteria is developing resistance to these drugs as well. In fact, the percentage of gonorrhea isolates with decreased susceptibility to azithromycin increased more than 300 percent between 2013 and 2014 (from 0.6 percent to 2.5 percent).

Though no cases of treatment failure has been reported in the United States, this is a troubling sign of what may be coming. Dr. Gail Bolan, director of CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, said in a press release: “It is unclear how long the combination therapy of azithromycin and ceftriaxone will be effective if the increases in resistance persists. We need to push forward on multiple fronts to ensure we can continue offering successful treatment to those who need it.”

HPV-Related Cancers Up Despite Vaccine 

The CDC also released new data this month showing an increase in HPV-associated cancers between 2008 and 2012 compared with the previous five-year period. HPV or human papillomavirus is an extremely common sexually transmitted infection. In fact, HPV is so common that the CDC believes most sexually active adults will get it at some point in their lives. Many cases of HPV clear spontaneously with no medical intervention, but certain types of the virus cause cancer of the cervix, vulva, penis, anus, mouth, and neck.

The CDC’s new data suggests that an average of 38,793 HPV-associated cancers were diagnosed each year between 2008 and 2012. This is a 17 percent increase from about 33,000 each year between 2004 and 2008. This is a particularly unfortunate trend given that the newest available vaccine—Gardasil 9—can prevent the types of HPV most often linked to cancer. In fact, researchers estimated that the majority of cancers found in the recent data (about 28,000 each year) were caused by types of the virus that could be prevented by the vaccine.

Unfortunately, as Rewire has reported, the vaccine is often mired in controversy and far fewer young people have received it than get most other recommended vaccines. In 2014, only 40 percent of girls and 22 percent of boys ages 13 to 17 had received all three recommended doses of the vaccine. In comparison, nearly 80 percent of young people in this age group had received the vaccine that protects against meningitis.

In response to the newest data, Dr. Electra Paskett, co-director of the Cancer Control Research Program at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, told HealthDay:

In order to increase HPV vaccination rates, we must change the perception of the HPV vaccine from something that prevents a sexually transmitted disease to a vaccine that prevents cancer. Every parent should ask the question: If there was a vaccine I could give my child that would prevent them from developing six different cancers, would I give it to them? The answer would be a resounding yes—and we would have a dramatic decrease in HPV-related cancers across the globe.

Making Inroads Toward a Chlamydia Vaccine

An article published in the journal Vaccine shows that researchers have made progress with a new vaccine to prevent chlamydia. According to lead researcher David Bulir of the M. G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research at Canada’s McMaster University, efforts to create a vaccine have been underway for decades, but this is the first formulation to show success.

In 2014, there were 1.4 million reported cases of chlamydia in the United States. While this bacterial infection can be easily treated with antibiotics, it often goes undiagnosed because many people show no symptoms. Untreated chlamydia can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, which can leave scar tissue in the fallopian tubes or uterus and ultimately result in infertility.

The experimental vaccine was created by Canadian researchers who used pieces of the bacteria that causes chlamydia to form an antigen they called BD584. The hope was that the antigen could prompt the body’s immune system to fight the chlamydia bacteria if exposed to it.

Researchers gave BD584 to mice using a nasal spray, and then exposed them to chlamydia. The results were very promising. The mice who received the spray cleared the infection faster than the mice who did not. Moreover, the mice given the nasal spray were less likely to show symptoms of infection, such as bacterial shedding from the vagina or fluid blockages of the fallopian tubes.

There are many steps to go before this vaccine could become available. The researchers need to test it on other strains of the bacteria and in other animals before testing it in humans. And, of course, experience with the HPV vaccine shows that there’s work to be done to make sure people get vaccines that prevent STIs even after they’re invented. Nonetheless, a vaccine to prevent chlamydia would be a great victory in our ongoing fight against STIs and their health consequences, and we here at This Week in Sex are happy to end on a bit of a positive note.