Nerves & Dysfunction


bananas_for_twoWomen have it easy.

That’s right, I said it.  The prevailing notion is that a man can and will fuck anything presented to him, (and, to be fair, some men CAN and WILL) but in the lifestyle there are a few added stressors that can make that stereotype a bit less…possible.  Uh oh, settle in, Cooper’s talking ED.

Well, look at it from our perspective here for a moment.  My partner, even if she’s not 100% into it, or is feeling a bit self-conscious, or nervous, with some lube and a few well-timed moans, she can perform exactly as expected.  Not that I’m suggesting she SHOULD fake it, I’m just saying that she CAN.

We can’t, really…

And for a lot of us, especially those new to the group sex experience, especially those who have been monogamous for a long time…well…things don’t always function as well as we’d like.  After all, there’s another guy there with another cock, and this is often a VERY new experience indeed.  Then assume that guy is performing the way you wish you could be.  And then (perhaps the biggest hurdle of all) assume he’s doing this with your wife while you sit on the other side of the bed with a gorgeous woman you desperately WANT to please with a very unimpressive flaccid shorty hanging between your legs.

You know, hypothetically, of course.

I’ve been told by (and believe) several women in the lifestyle when they say that as long as the man (and his tongue and fingers) are willing to overcome this minor inconvenience, well, they’re pleased as punch.  And I believe them when they say this.

But I don’t think women quite understand the psychological feedback loop we can find ourselves in.  It happens once, then next time we worry if it’ll happen again, which of course makes it that much more likely, then after another time or two the doomsday scenario appears where we begin to wonder if we’ll EVER get it hard with a playmate again.  Seriously, this goes through our heads!

The first thing we have to acknowledge as men in the lifestyle is that our cocks WILL fail us.  It’s a fact of life.  Could be this time, next time, or in five years, regardless of health or masturbatory regimen.  And it may fail us in the erection (aka, classic failure) or it may decide fuck all you want, no orgasm for you! (aka, new and surprising insanity.)

These things can be medical, to be sure, and if they’re happening in ALL situations, not just lifestyle ones, you should definitely schedule a visit with your doctor to be poked and prodded. For many of us, though, it’s a situation where I’m fine with my wife, and when I take matters into my own hands, but when you add the swingset…

My message to the guys is simple: know that it happens, and not only to you.  Know that worrying only reinforces that feedback loop, and as hard as this may be, relaxing is often the cure.  Also know that it will probably just pass on its own.

For the ladies, well, I’ve got a tip or two for ya.  When dealing with this situation, we’re probably going to apologize, because we feel as though we’ve let you down.  (You know how fragile we men can be.) Just make sure we know you’re having fun regardless, and perhaps direct our face between your legs.  Often, while we’re working on something else and aren’t thinking about our neurosis, it resolves itself.

We KNOW that most of you have far more orgasms through oral sex than penetrative sex, but that societal definition that has turned SEX into only cocks going into holes  (I say holes so as not to exclude the bis and gays.  Hi, guys!) has made us really second guess our urges.  While for you, the main course may well be us licking your lap.

Now, to the topic of…assistance.  Prescription pills like Viagra and Cialis as well as those herbal supplements like Stiff Nights can and do help.  And one of these can be great for breaking the feedback loop and popping that boner when you really need a “win.”  But if you don’t NEED them, then you want to be careful you don’t set yourself up for dependency by taking them every time.  Then you might create a brand new feedback loop.  So tread lightly.

Now, those of you who complain about men who can’t always get it up, and put on your profiles that you’re looking for men who can get and maintain an erection…go fuck yourself!  You’re part of the problem.

Anybody have any other suggestions to help overcome this inconvenient issue?  Let us know in the comments!


About Author


About Cooper Cooper S. Beckett is the co-founder and host of Life on the Swingset: The Podcast since 2010, author of swinging & polyamory novels A Life Less Monogamous and Approaching The Swingularity, and memoir My Life on the Swingset: Adventures in Swinging & Polyamory. He teaches and speaks on swinging, polyamory, pegging, play parties, and coloring outside the boundaries of your sexuality. He is a graphic & web designer, photographer, and voice over artist, has been a guest expert on Dan Savage’s Savage Lovecast, & is the announcer of Tristan Taormino’s radio show Sex Out Loud. He is currently working on two instructional non-fiction books, one about beginning non-monogamy, and another about pegging.


  1. Avatar
    Mistress Arabella on

    Horny Goat Weed (despite its name) is a great herbal supplement that's safe for most men to use. It comes in capsules and also tea… (I recommend the pure form… not mixed with other supplements)… Also, ginger can do wonders if you're into that ever-so-kinky practice known as "figging" … And there are magic potions for women, too. Believe me, we need 'em too, sometimes. And if we don't feel SAFE and EMOTIONALLY SECURE then we're gonna have a much harder time getting off. Just sayin'…

    • Avatar

      "Now, those of you who complain about men who can’t always get it up, and put on your profiles that you’re looking for men who can get and maintain an erection…go fuck yourself! You’re part of the problem."

      That go fuck yourself part is pretty funny, and it is also true that those women are part of the problem.
      We have a couple that they guy is usually fine, but once he gets an issue it is a back and forth thing…. He never had a problem until a woman pressuered him about rising fast (and that made it not rise) and then she was cruel to him about it. That one instance Fucked him up for good because he is in a constant state of fear now about not being able to perform. The end result is that both he and his wife suffer for it because he simply refuses to play with any new couples and will only play with couples he is extreamly comfortable with and believes to be actual friends (rather than just sex friends) because he is afraid of ridicule.

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    That poor guy! I'm sure that happens more than anyone would like to admit. I just remember one profile with the line "If you can't get hard fast and stay hard, don't bother contacting us!" I rarely have a problem these days, but that line made me say absolutely not to that profile. Not going to give it a chance to happen with that couple.

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    No mention of my favorite culprit? The bitch-goddess Alcohol! With one hand she gives us the courage to perform deviant, often-dangerous and (if you're lucky) messy sex acts, and with the other she takes can take away our boners quicker than you can say "bend over, baby".

    Drinking in excess is a boner extinguisher. If I'm going to play, I limit myself to one beer per hour. For me, that's something that has taken a concerted effort and it has paid off big time.

    Also, blood pressure medication and diabetes can cause ED… two more good reasons to lose weight.

    Good topic, sorry it has to exist.

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    This is "MasterDoc", the dominant of the kinkylibrarian. I saw you on her blog as part of the latest elust. This is a good discussion.
    To add one thing: perhaps viewing impotence in a swing situation as a canary in the mine shaft (aka an early warning sign) is a useful technique. I was cutting back on swinging since I was having an ED problem too often with new partners (although doing fine with regular ones). However, when i started having hot flashes too I wondered if there might be an organic problem. Sure enough, my testosterone was waaaaay low. Now I'm getting treated and back to my doggish ways.
    Why wait until late to get a problem in SUCH an important area checked out? 🙂

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    yes they should fuck themselves. I am on the other side of the fence as far as gender goes, but I am on the anoragasmic side of things as well. It is hard for me to get off in new situations despite the arousal, despite the excitement….I still enjoy it though and don't like being pressured to have an orgasm…I have recently committed to not faking it, but still cant we all just play nice?

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      Really that should be the goal across the board…whether you're having an orgasm or not, chances are you're having a good time or you'd stop doing it…so just go with the flow, enjoy yourself, and then get your orgasm in another way.

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    Cooper –
    I was looking up information on the supplement you mentioned, Stiff Nights, and it appears to be the subject of an FDA recall.

    I am hoping not to have to go the little-blue-pill route, but I am looking at all the options. First plan of attack is to play again with a couple we are quite comfortable with in hopes I can break the feedback loop by focusing less on my orgasm and more on hers (and hers).

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    Awesome post. I can totally relate! For me, I've been able to trace my occasional ED problems to alcohol. When I knopw ahead of time that there might be "play time" later in the night, I limit myself, otherwise I tend to have various ED problems. Unfortunately, the couples that we play with are more of a spontaneous thing, where we deliberately go into a night out not planning on plahy time, but then as people get more and more drunk, the play time usually manifests itself and then I find myself scrambling to take half a Viagra to prep myself. Ah…the joys of getting old.

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    ever heard this joke? "Which is worse…..finding out for the first time you can't do it a second time? or finding out for the second time you can't do it the first time?"

    Bet you laughed didn't you? Funny

    I'd say both are equally troubling….but the joke says a lot about our expectations…both from our partners and from ourselves.

    Having been the victim of both the cruel ridiculing partner(s) and my own fear of failure, I basically quit trying. If and when I go to a play party I am usually there for my partner to have fun, or I go with the intentions (and expectations) of never getting it up (yes…I know this alone sets me up for failure), and the total desire to work my magic with my fingers and tongue should I be so lucky. I enjoy being around sexually free and open people….but generally around here the folks you run into in the swing scene are what I call "sport-fuckers" and don't usually have my (or anyone elses for that matter) emotional and mental well being at heart. Selfishness abounds.

    However in the BDSM scene, folks seem to be kinder and aware of implications beyond the physical…..and there's tons of fucking going on there as well. That's where I invest more erotic time and energy….and most of the time there I don't even have to worry about it because my cock doesn't even see the light of day.

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    Gentlemen, I have been in the lifestyle for several years and must say that this has happened a few times to me as well, however, when I have set back and thought about what was the cause there have been various reasons not just one. Taking blood pressure medication and drinking excess alcohol will definitely cause this, low testosterone and exhaustion will as well. In all situations I have found that communication with your partner or mate works best and as far as I am concerned I get as much satisfaction pleasing the lady in other ways than just using my cock. Learn to use all the tools you have been born with to satisfy your partner, after all isn't this about pleasure and fun? Why make it a task to accomplish or a goal to succeed. Enjoy having fun and be aware of your health and alcohol intake. My rule is … if I have to get drunk to do the deed, why am I even doing this?
    By the way ladies, shame on you for putting such pressure on the men in the lifestyle, we know you want satisfaction, how about some communication while were together rather than putting restriction on your profile… you just might be missing out on contact from some guys who would really satisfy you but are "worried they might fail"
    I don't know about the rest of you but we are in the lifestyle for friendship, fun, to fulfill fantasies and relaxation from the normal worldly ways.

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      To be fair, the vast majority of the ladies I’ve encountered have not put ANY pressure on me. Of course I tend to just not get together with those who would…

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    You mentioned briefly ” or it may decide fuck all you want, no orgasm for you! (aka, new and surprising insanity.)” which can be a big problem for anybody using anti-depressants.  If anybody has any suggestions around this side of the problem, would be happy to hear it. 

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    My wife and are just getting started in the lifestyle and I can’t seem to get hard yet.we have swapped
    three times and still no luck. I want too do this. I love it so far. Please help me. Thanks.

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      Really the only “cure” is distraction, you need to not focus on it. So I would recommend (unless you want to go medicinal) going into a situation planning NOT to have penetration and you may surprise yourself

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    The Other Professor on

    We’ve dealt with this by assuming soft-swap until it becomes clear that there will be no performance failures in an evening (though they do spring up (as it were) from time to time regardless). For some reason, getting an erection for oral sex is always easier than getting it for penetration. And though it does require that “hey, guys, I know we discussed soft-swap but are you up for a little proper fucking?” discussion (which you need to lay the groundwork for earlier by saying “we’re soft swap but we’ve been known to get carried away so we’ll ask if we find ourselves in the full swap zone”). This is, in fact, even with ED meds, the only way we can be certain.

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    I’ve been on the (non) receiving end of some guys who couldn’t achieve or maintain an erection. It really does mess with their heads! But you may not realize that it can also mess with the woman’s head: He must not be attracted to me. I must be doing something wrong. Does he think I’m too fat? He probably wants to stop.

    The biggest mistake I’ve made in these situations is that I start trying really hard to “help” the guy get it up. Even though I would mostly be happy with incredible oral, I worry that I need to get him hard so that “he” can have a good time. Then we both end up focusing way too much on the penis. He starts his mental loop, I start mine, and ugh!!!!!!!!! Best thing a guy can do in this situation is #1) Tell me how hot and sexy he thinks I am. #2) Acknowledge the problem in a light-hearted-these-things-happen kinda way. #3) Find alternative activities that will make us both happy.

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    nothing ventured, nothing gained! here goes…wife and I have been discussing expanding our horizons. she has past experience with group and 3’s. I am trying to work through issues to consider trying this with her. one issue I am having a really difficult time with is ED. I am a fairly healthy diabetic with almost no ability to get an erection. nothing helps. don’t want surgery. don’t like ridicule. don’t want to put my wife in an unpleasant situation…unpleasant is not the whole idea, right? so, am I wasting my, and potentially everyone’s, time even thinking about the lifestyle? any helpful advice would be greatly appreciated, even if it just “stay home”. thank you!

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      Strap ons, dick sleeves, finger and tongue action. A video camera, a glass of good chardonnay and a lounge chair. Dick cage and ball gag.

      Just a few ideas on ways to play without an erection. If you want to try it, do it! It’s your wife and your life, so dive in!

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    I see the point that you are making: erectile dysfunction is more difficult to overcome when the guy is put on the spot to overcome it.

    However, criticizing and blaming women who want reliable erections is not going to help your cause. You will just anger those people and cause them to dig their heels in deeper while simultaneously drawing coos of approval from the choir.

    Instead, I think you should rephrase your blog as a request to those women (and maybe even men, too) to consider your feelings. It is certainly a more difficult essay to write, but you will get much more traction with a request for help than with a shout of “fuck yourself”.

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    I have run into this in swapping and multi-partner situations and it just seems perfectly normal. Honestly the only part about it that is a problem really is worrying I’m not giving the guy a good time. If he likes a bit of other sort of stimulation himself.. whatever it is.. cuddling, butt play, massage, a soft blow job.. then I feel awesome about it. Of course some guys just really like to feel like rock stars giving their partners pleasure too.. and that’s awesome if that works. I have pretty much always been satisfied personally.. but I really like to feel like I do a good job too, so another suggestion is to let us know how to make you feel good without a hard cock. If my partner feels really bad and sort of “resorts” to doing down on me I feel guilty and it’s just not that much fun.. so please only do things you enjoy too. It’s super hot to just play and enjoy each other in all kinds of ways, penetrative and not, so consider actually exploring things that interest you if your cock isn’t hard.. I mean.. more power to ya if that includes some lovely pussy eating.. but it’s doesn’t HAVE to.

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      I love this every time I read it. I’m going to shake your hand at Desire for this piece alone. I am of slightly mixed minds with regards to people putting it “we don’t want to play with you if you can’t get hard and stay hard!”. On the one hand, people have the right to their preferences and if they are in this because they are looking for a stunt cock that always fuck them silly, they should have the right to that proclivity. However, it would be better put in a softer (heh), more circumspect fashion. They could say instead “We put a high priority on fucking so we are looking for male partners that never have performance issues.” Sure, it still makes them shockingly shallow and we’re entirely uninterested in meeting them, but it blunts the implicit message of “if your dick isn’t 100% the moment you take your trousers off, you’re not worthy of us”. And it also betrays a real misunderstanding of how sex works and an impressively douchey arrogance…I mean, whenever I’ve had performance issues, it’s been related to being too attracted to the woman, not the other way around, but lady, if you have to demand that men have erections in your presence, you may just not be very arousing.

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