Originally published at Feministing.
My question is: What are some ways to have great male to female sex without penetration/ with a male who suffers from erectile dysfunction (ED)?
My boyfriend was recently diagnosed with ED and its been really tough – that fucking patriarchal pressure for men to be ridiculous ultra-virile sex machines is hitting him very hard and, while there is some info out about ED there, it’s quite limited and we’ve been struggling to find new ideas about how to actually have fun and play without him being erect. I’m so excited to be making our sex less p-in-v centric regardless of the reason as I think its a really important move to make generally!
Oh, the tyranny of the hard cock.
The struggle is real and relevent to so many of us whose sexualities, gender identities, and genitals just don’t line up with the “cis dude jackhammering cis lady with SUPER HARD COCK” thing. I mean, hammering or being hammered with a SUPER HARD COCK can be fun! But it’s not the only fun or necessarily the most fun, and the idea that it is has been ruining sex lives probably since humankind has idealized hard cocks.
Yes, that caveman has a hard-on.
This is a super relevent question not only for cis dudes who can’t get or maintain hard-ons for whatever reason. It’s also relevent for a lot of trans people, queer people, intersex people, and people with a diversity of penises which may or may not get hard. And honestly, as our friends at the Center for Sex and Culture reminded us, the messed-up sexual politics of our obsession with hard penises are already implied in the name “erectile dysfunction,” “dysfunction” implying that the whole point of dicks is hard-ons, and that not getting an erection is a failure. Sexologists, meanwhile, prefer to simply call this “not getting an erection when you want one.”
The paucity of info is real: Most of the articles online about having sex with ED are like, geared toward straight cis people from doctors who all seem to be operating on the assumption that p-in-v penetration is the only real deal. But we’re feminists and we know that just ain’t so.
So honestly, it sounds like you and your boyfriend are about to have a wild wonderful ride of pleasure in ways that maybe patriarchy has not previously allowed you to imagine!
And it sounds like you’ve taken just the right first steps in learning about ED (even though the farts on the ED websites seem to have very limited erotic vision), thinking critically about what sex even means for you guys in the first place, and opening up communication with your partner about what you’re both feeling and experiencing. A great first step for your boyfriend (if he hasn’t done this already) would be to make sure he’s communicating with his doc about what’s going on, since not being able to get an erection when he wants to can be a sign of another underlying medical problem.
Of course, as much as you can tell him that p-in-v is not the be all and end all of satisfying nookie, and as much as he might understand this mentally, the connection between masculinity and virility is a friggin’ scam and it’s probably gonna take some time for him to really internalize that he doesn’t need an erection to please you — or to experience a great sex life for himself.
So according to my research and *extensive personal experience having très fun sex that does not involve being hammered by a cis dude’s SUPER HARD COCK,* here are some myths and facts about society’s favorite topic, erect phalluses.
Myth: If the cock is not hard, the person with the cock is not turned on.
Fact: Nah. Listen, bodies are diverse and complicated, and penises are like Punxutawney Phil. Sometimes they peek their heads up, sometimes they don’t; some just never feel like it. People can have hard-ons when they’re not turned on, and they can be turned on without hard-ons.
Myth: If the cock is not hard, the person with the cock cannot experience pleasure or orgasm.
Fact: Nah. Orgasm is not actually the same thing as ejaculation, and a penis doesn’t actually need to be hard to ejaculate or for the penis-owner to experience orgasm. Just ‘cause someone’s penis is erect doesn’t mean they’ll ejaculate; just cause a penis is spasming and releasing fluid doesn’t mean the penis-owner is experiencing an orgasm. And someone can have an orgasm without being hard, or ejaculating at all. Wow!
Myth: If the cock is not hard, it can’t do fun things that please partners or the person with the cock.
Fact: Nah. A penis is basically a vaguely-cylindrical organ, often but not always with some tubes and some nerve endings. A lot of people with penises use them to have sex, but not everyone! A lot of the pleasure of penises comes from said nerve endings, and a lot comes from whatever mental and emotional associations we have about the penis and what it means to interact with said penis, which plays into identity in a variety of ways. So there’s a lot more to enjoying a penis than being able to make it hard or put it in a vagina.
Myth: If the person with the cock identifies as a dude, and the cock is not erect, the person with said cock is less of a dude
Fact: Nah. C’mon guys, you don’t have to have a penis to be a dude, and you can have a penis/cock/dick/phallus/honestly whatever you call yours and not be a dude. Soft, hard, medium-hard with no back support like my mattress, whatever. Being a dude is about what you feel, not whether you have a penis and what said penis does.
Myth: All people with vaginas are exclusively sexually pleasured and impressed by SUPER HARD COCK.
Alrighty, now that we’ve worked through some myths and facts about penis machinery and identity, let’s take a fun walk through all the magical things we can do with ‘em, whatever their size or firmness!
Take a moment to check in about your contraception and STI scene. A penis that can’t get hard can still ejaculate and any kind of genital-genital or genital-oral contact can transmit STIs. If you use condoms, you get to have a fun time putting and keeping those babies on. Our friends at the Center for Sex and Culture advise using your hands to put the condom on or — fun added bonus — slipping it on during oral (suction helps). Since it’ll probably be loose, you’ll want to keep constant hand contact or perhaps elicit the help of a handy dandy cock ring (either of which, by the way, may be a fun extra for him).
Now let’s talk get into the nitty gritty of getting down, here. All the fuddy duddy doctors talking about Erectile Dysfunction are like, “your partner not being able to have an erection is a great opportunity for you to have lots of sweet intimate snuggle time!” This can certainly be the case, but this idea suffers from the strange misconception — which queer women and folks whose sex lives don’t involve penises deal with all the time — that sex without a SUPER HARD COCK is necessarily a super emotional snuggly spoonfest.
Of course there is nothing tastier than a well-timed spoon sesh, but you should also know that just ‘cause there’s not a SUPER HARD COCK involved doesn’t mean you can’t fuck. If you want to stroke each others’ bods with soft feathers til dawn breaks, do that. If you want to be pounded until you’re screaming the name of a relevent deity, that can also happen. Basically these doctors seems like misinformed bummers to have sex with.
Now lean in close, ‘cause I’m about to whisper the big secret about p-in-v intercourse. And here it is: P-in-v is not one, magical, un-reproducible experience that no other pleasure can equal.
P-in-v intercourse is a combination of different physical and emotional sensations. The mystique around it isn’t because nothing else feels like it (I mean, I can stick a cucumber in my pussy while hugging a teddy bear, you get the point). It’s largely a cultural and interpersonal mystique. So it’s helpful to think about the physical and emotional feelings you like to have with each other and in bed, and then fuck around until you find things that give you those feelings.
What are the feelings that he//his penis enjoy? Pressure? Wetness? The emotional rush of penetrating you? Those feels can all totes be experienced without p-in-v action. Here are some ideas, and I’m literally just getting started…
Oral: So I know some people dig it and power to them, but when someone is like “I’m going to shove my SUPER HARD COCK down your throat,” I generally feel like, well that’s nice but realistically I gag sometimes while brushing my teeth. So. If you and your partner like oral there is a whole universe to explore here. I think blowing smaller dicks/soft dicks is fun, ‘cause suddenly you feel like the deep throat champion. Play with all the magical things your mouths can do.
I, by the way, am a huge proponent of 69 and generally don’t understand why the internet hates it so much, though sometimes it can be logistically overwhelming if you’re doing it with someone who has a bigger/harder penis — so if you weren’t team 69 before, who knows, maybe this is your chance.
Penetration: If you are both like, wow I wish some penetration could happen here, good news: It can! Fingers are beautiful instruments. Dildos are heaven. Did you know that people have been penetrating themselves and others with root vegetables for literally thousands of years? (Wash it first/use a condom.) Anal beads if you and/or him are itching for some anal fun and want to check out Sesali’s fun guide to butt sex. Does your partner like being penetrated? Maybe this is his chance to find out.
Yum, root vegetables.
Do you like riding him? Get on top, he can penetrate you with a dildo and you can simultaneously touch his penis if you’ve got that amount of focus and determination (bless you). Fingers work too but the wrist angle may get tiring.
Do you guys like for him to be on top while he feels pressure on his penis and penetrates you (guess what, this is all that missionary position is)? Cool! Grab a nice dildo or break out those handy dandy fingers and he can get on top of you and penetrate you while you touch his penis.
Frottage: Frottage is both a visual arts technique in making charcoal rubbings and a word early-twentieth-century French people started using to describe people rubbing their genitals all up on each other, which is why I giggled compulsively through a recent art history lecture.
You’ve got a body, he’s got a body. Rub ‘em together. Use your boobs if you feel like it! Does he miss feeling his penis all up in your junk? That’s fun, rub it around; he doesn’t have to go inside to get that signature pussy feeling. (If you use barrier methods, the wise humans from Center for Sex and Culture advise using saran wrap, with a little lube, to keep things safer here. Wow, kitchen tools are so multi-purpose!) Or go straight-up lesbian stereotype and try scissoring. Why not? You have the world to win. Oh, I’m jealous of your journey.
Toys toys toys: Get some stuff and fuck around. Does he like a vibrator on his penis? Only one way to find out!
Sweet Talk: Finally, ya know, words can hurt and they can also heal. Societal definitions of masculinity can squeeze the life out of us with a vice grip. If your boyfriend is a nice person he is probably concerned about your happiness, and if he’s like many of us he’s probably also concerned about his sexual pleasure.
Reassurance is important. Feeling comfortable and respected and appreciated is important. Remind him how hot and sexually talented you think he is and how good he makes you feel. Fantasy can be important — does he get off on imagining his penis is super hard or would he feel more comfortable thinking about the hot hot hot sex you’re having without his penis being super hard?
Well, that’s all for now, folks.
Wow, okay, deep breath, I apparently have a lot to say about penises and their hardness. But I think this is a super important question for everyone, whether we have penises or not, and whatever the firmness of said penises, in helping us question our own hetero, cis-centric idea of sex and of genitals more generally.
Basically my dear reader, it sounds to me that this crisis of society’s definition of masculinity presents you with an exciting opportunity to catapult yourself into the sexual stars. Go forth and frottage!