Q: I feel mis-informed about erections and arousal. There are times when I am aroused about sex but not hard. Is that normal?
A: Men are taught that arousal and erection are a package deal, just like orgasm and ejaculation. To enjoy more sexual pleasure and erotic freedom, it is essential to dismantle this myth and understand these events to be complementary experiences that may come in any combination.
Get a complete guided tour of erotic anatomy with sex therapist Cyndi Darnell’s Atlas of Erotic Anatomy*.
We have a whole book dedicated to how to separate ejaculation from orgasm so you can enjoy prolonged arousal and multiple orgasms, and you can find it as just one of the resources in our most popular online sex course for couples.
Erections and arousal are a bit of a trickier subject.
It is perfectly normal for a man to feel aroused and not be erect. Arousal is a full-body experience and you can be highly aroused without getting an erection. If it is not getting in the way of your sexual experience, and you experience full erections some of the time, it probably is not something you need to worry about. There is so much you can enjoy with your partner without an erection, and broadening your sexual repertoire is always a good idea.
If you are never getting fully erect, or your lack of erection is getting in the way of enjoying a satisfying sexual experience, there are ways to explore how to get a stronger erection.
The first check-in is with your overall health. Obesity, diabetes, heart disease and pharmaceuticals can have a major impact on how erect you get. One of the best motivations for getting in better shape is the impact on your sex life. If you are out of shape, explore the possibility of whipping yourself into shape and your sex life will benefit. If you suspect your health is getting in the way of your sexual function, it may be worth having a conversation with a doctor to get their professional recommendations.
The next thing to tackle is your stress levels. Stress has a huge impact on arousal and erections. The body needs to flip into the parasympathetic mode before an erection can occur, so if you are chronically stressed you may be short circuiting your body’s ability to get erect and feel more pleasure. Read more about stress and arousal here.
The third line of attacking for exploring how to get stronger erections is tackling pelvic tension. Most of us carry a great deal of muscular tension in the muscles of our pelvis. This physically limits the amount of blood flow to your genitals and can block erections. This is true for both men and women, it is just more visible on men who are noticing weaker erections. Our favorite form of relieving pelvic tension is butt massage – by tackling the big muscles of the buttocks you can release a lot of tension and get way more blood flowing to the genitals. It is our #1 recommendation for relaxing foreplay. You can also try perineum massage, which tackles tension at the nexus of muscles found at the perineum. We think it is so important we included our stroke-by-stroke guide to perineal massage in both our Foreplay Mastery Course and Prostate Massage Online Course, so pick up either one of those video guides to learn how to do deep massage at the perineum and get more blood flowing to your penis.
Again, if you are experiencing full erections some of the time and have a sex life that is fulfilling to you and your lover, there is nothing to worry about when you sometimes feel aroused without an erection. Enjoy the full body sensations of arousal, including stimulating your soft penis and notice how much pleasure is available to you. If you are never experiencing a full erection, explore the suggestions above about how to get an erection and pay attention to your erections as a sign of your overall physical health.
Chris and Charlotte, The Pleasure Mechanics
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