Episode 20 - Insane in the Membrane (Living with Erectile Dysfunction)

In this episode, James shares his experience of living with psychological erectile dysfunction including lessons learned, how he deals with it when it comes up, and what his journey has been as he and Mirage have made new partners along the way.

Episode Transcript

Hey everyone, this is James coming to you with another solo episode. Today’s topic is going to be about psychological erectile dysfunction (which I’ll refer to ED for short) and what it’s been like living with this over the last few years. I’ve been wanting to release an episode about this for a while now to share things I’ve learned along the way since receiving the diagnosis, how I personally deal with it when it comes up, and what my journey has been as we’ve made new partners along the way.

As our podcast intro states, none of this should be considered professional advice, this is just me sharing our stores and my opinions. I’ll be referring to some experiences we’ve had but I realize we haven’t yet released episodes about those specific details yet. Bear with us, Mirage and I are working on those and will release those episodes as soon as they are ready! So let’s get started from the beginning.

I think the first time I had learned what erectile dysfunction is was through a TV ad for Viagra which at the time I thought was meant for penis enlargement. ED wasn’t something that was talked about in my family growing up, nor did I learn it in any of my health classes in middle or high school. Therefore, my only association with ED was “Oh, only older people deal with this stuff.” so I shrugged it off as “it’s just an old person issue”. I never really gave it much though after that because I figured — I’m young, that’s not something I’ll have to deal with for a very long time (if at all). That all changed completely when it happened to me during our experience with the first couple J and K that we talk about in Episodes 13 - 15.

In those episodes, I describe the instant feeling of panic that I felt at the time. When I wasn’t able to get any sort of erection while I was with K, I didn’t know this was ED. I had used the words “whisky dick” instead because I believed I drank too much in order to participate in any penetrative sex. At that time, I remember thinking, “how can I sober up quickly to be able to get an erection?”. I remember trying to mentally get to a point where I could get aroused quickly so I thought of some of my favorite porn scenes and even made up a few fantasies. None of it was working. I tried touching myself while I was going down on K to help. I tried really listening to her verbal feedback and tried to make myself more aroused by what was happening with Mirage and J and their chemistry, and it STILL wasn’t coming up. It was so disheartening because this was the very first time engaging in anything physical with someone other than Mirage, so it felt like I was disappointing her. I remember feeling so defeated and apologizing to K afterwards. What made me feel somewhat better was just her reiterating that it’s completely okay and that she was still having a good time.

Two days later after our first experience with J and K we met our second couple (J and A) and hit it off over brunch. We then got to meet them at their apartment one month later for dinner, drinks, and dessert. I’m giving a very shortened version of this now since we’ll be releasing more detailed episodes of those experiences later this season. But for now, just know that things progressed to the bedroom with them. On top of that, A is (assolutely “whoops”) ABSOLUTELY my type in the same way Mirage is my type — so the attraction was definitely there. I remember not drinking as much that night because I didn’t want to end up not being able to get an erection. We get invited to their bedroom with them, things start getting physical, and we’re all naked at this point. A and I start making out, I get on top of her, and then the exact same thing happens as it did with K. I then start getting into my own head and start internally freaking out thinking “not again, this can’t be happening again”. It SUCKED! A and I we were able to engage in other forms of non-penetrative sex and she even tried going down on me, but there was nothing happening and I felt so defeated again. I remember apologizing to her in the same way I did with K and was fortunately reassured that it happens and that it was completely okay.

That night, I was so bummed during the drive home with Mirage. I was very happy for her because she was able to participate in sex with both J and A. However, I was very sad at my performance and was starting to detect a pattern of not being able to get erections when I needed them the most. This was the first time I admitted to myself that something was wrong here.

So at this point, we now have had two experiences with two different couples and with no penetrative participation on my part. What was so shocking to me was that the arousal was definitely there. Mentally, I was absolutely in the right headspace and was SO turned on by what was happening around me and getting to be physical with a new partner. Things just weren’t working physically and that made me feel terrible.

I started playing devil’s advocate with myself and asked “wouldn’t this problem be solved if you just keep having sex with Mirage instead of with someone new?”. While there is some truth to that, there are so many different variables at play here. Mirage and I have been together for over twelve years. She knows everything there is to know about me, all my buttons, all my triggers, all the things that I absolutely crave and make me feral. Over the years we have developed deep intimacy that no-one can even come close to. Because of all that, it’s a lot easier to get aroused both mentally and physically than with anyone else.

All of that changes entirely with a new partner. Not only do the nerves get in the way, but everything resets when you have sex with someone else. All the techniques and tricks I know work well with Mirage might not work at all with someone new. Sure there might be some go-to physical things I can default to but everyone’s anatomy is different. Everyone’s preferences all vary and what one partner might like might not translate well with another partner.

For a brief moment, I do remember questioning whether or not we were BOTH meant to participate in non-monogamy. After our first experience with our first couple, we used to identify as “swingers”. I remember thinking are we actually swingers if I can’t get it up. I started belittling myself and thinking, should we just go back to being a “hotwife” couple instead? I was definitely struggling with this at the time because it felt like so much growth had happened since our very first non-monogamous experience with A in Episode 4. The conflict was that I was placing so much weight on my ability to sexually perform with this new lifestyle we were now a part of.

The final straw that made me consider getting some help with this issue was when it started affecting my sex life with Mirage. At some point during this journey, I needed to upgrade my dosage of my antidepressant. It needed to be doubled twice in order to effectively help with the depressive symptoms that I was dealing with at the time. The stronger the dosage, the more it affected my libido and my ability to get aroused AT ALL. It got so bad to the point where I started losing my ability to become aroused in general and was definitely not getting anymore erections. I remember talking with my psychiatrist about this because this new dosage was not going to work given how sexually active I am so I was eventually switched to a different type of medication that didn’t interfere with my sexual health.

When I finally decided to get help with this issue, I felt very anxious about setting up an appointment with my doctor because I didn’t know how to describe what I was feeling. To me, it sounded very silly to just be like “I’m having trouble getting erections”. I also didn’t want to be judged for sharing that I was having sex with multiple partners. I also didn’t think I would be taken seriously given my age.

I eventually found an online platform called GoodRx Care (not a sponsor). I filled out a very easy questionnaire about the symptoms I was experiencing including frequency and severity of the lack of erections. It was super straightforward and it didn’t require any sort of awkward phone call with a healthcare provider. Everything was done conveniently online and I was able to chat with a doctor via their messaging platform which helped me be a little more transparent about the situation. There were some clarifying questions that needed to be answered and I was eventually given a diagnosis of psychological erectile dysfunction along with some resources on the condition and a prescription for the generic version of Viagra which I was able to pick up pretty quickly.

I’ll be honest, at first I was very nervous taking this medication because I didn’t know how it would make me feel. I knew the end result would be the ability to get erections more easily, but given what I had mentioned at the start of the episode of not knowing much this I questioned things like “is my dick going to get bigger”? No, it’s not.

Fast forward to one month later after our experience with the second couple, we end up meeting our third couple (J and L). I’m noticing now that many of these couples have similar initials so I apologize if it’s getting confusing. Again, I’m going to keep things short on this episode so that our listeners have the much more detailed versions of these stories on future episodes. J and L were the first polyamorous couple we had met during our journey. At the time, Mirage and I still identified as swingers but this new relationship was a small piece of what caused us to start questioning where we were on the journey to becoming polyamorous ourselves. J and L invited us to their apartment and they were very clear about wanting to sleep with us. This time, I had brought backup so at one point I had excused myself to go to the bathroom to take my newly prescribed medication. I didn’t want to risk not being able to get an erection so it felt very reassuring to have this on me. The thing with this prescription is that (depending on the dosage) you’re supposed to take it about 30 minutes to an hour before intercourse, it’s not an immediate fix. This worked out perfectly that night because the first 30-45 minutes was mostly witnessing Mirage and L getting to know each other intimately before J and I were invited to participate with them.

What was so incredible to feel was that it was very transparent that I was aroused. Mirage and L put on a very stimulating show. They had very obvious chemistry. When J and I were invited to join them, there was a lot of foreplay happening that night. When I was with L, we started kissing, she took off my clothes, and we could both clearly see that I was erect. This felt so wonderful to me. She started blowing me that night and I just felt this huge weight lifted off of my shoulders. Like I could enjoy the feeling of being included. The most memorable part of that night was when we were both on the bed. I got on top of L and was fully ready to have sex with her and we DID! 

The feeling of being inside somebody else was mind blowing to me. I remember thinking at the time, FUCKING FINALLY! Both Mirage and I are in this group sex session TOGETHER. She’s getting absolutely destroyed by J and I’m having sex with L. This specific experience was so eye opening to me because the group sex part of it felt very equitable. I felt very much included that night. It was very emotional for me and it was a huge ego boost. I felt so much more confident after that date.

Since then, we’ve had more experiences with those same couples (J and L, and J and A), along with some new ones, and eventually with our own individual relationships. If I know that sex is a possibility on a date, I always bring my medicine with me. There have been times where I haven’t needed it, but if I’m able to plan ahead it’s always available on me in case I need it. I’m at a point now where I take it anyways so that there is less of a chance of not being able to get an erection. If I time things correctly, my erections feel so full, which if I do engage in sex with a partner I feel powerful and unstoppable. I love feeling “wicked hahd” as Mirage would say being from New England. 

However, I do also want to share that even taking this doesn’t necessarily guarantee a successful erection. Mirage and I have many different stressors in our life and depending on what we’ve got going on, things can and do get in the way of our sex life. There have been times where I haven’t been able to get an erection, even after having taken my medication simply because of my headspace or the stress response to whatever it is I’m going through. Sometimes it’s just from being too tired.

I definitely want to recommend a couple of resources. Like I previously mentioned in this episode there are a lot of online platforms you can use. GoodRx Care is one of them, hims.com is another one that primarily focuses on men's health. I also recently ran into an app called Mojo that primarily focuses on psychological ED and gives tips and techniques on how to deal with it. From what I could tell at the time, given that it was a trial account, it didn't seem like there was much content on there but definitely something worth checking out. I think also understanding that this happens and so many factors can contribute to it (stress-levels, sleep, diet, health, you name it).
When it does happen, practice self care and positive self talk. Know that your ability to get an erection doesn’t define you. I’ve been very fortunate to have met some very understanding partners that have all provided comfort in the moment. Yes it’s a lot easier to hear it than it is to accept it, but really try to. As an observation, one thing I am noticing more recently is that it’s getting easier to get aroused with partners that we’ve been seeing for a longer period of time. The connection of the more developed relationships feel very similar to the same way that I’ve been able to develop intimacy with Mirage. 

I’m a big fan of redirecting when I start getting in my head. Sometimes it just take a little while longer and then I’m there. I’m very much someone who gets aroused by knowing that what I’m doing for my partner is working. I get very pleased when I can audibly hear the breathing, the moans, the “yeses”, and when a partner calls out my name. Those things typically do it for me and get me going and then I’m able to participate in penetrative sex.

However, there are times where not even those things work and that is OKAY. Some of my most memorable experiences have included those where no penetration was involved and we just focus on doing other things that are pleasurable. This happened a few months ago when I was visiting L but we still had an enjoyable intimate time together.

I hope this episode provides some reassurance to those listeners that are personally dealing or know of someone that also lives with this condition. If you have any other resources you recommend, please let us know. I’d love to see what else our listeners have used to help with something like this and share it with the rest of our followers. As always, if you have any questions or feedback for today’s episode, send us an email at james@sextracurricular.com or mirage@sextracurricular.com. You can also follow us on our social media accounts. We always love hearing from our listeners and we appreciate all your support for this show. Thanks for sticking with me today and we’ll catch you next time!

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