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.

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