Why He Just Can’t Get It Up Sometimes and What You Can Do to Help

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The truth about why men have sexual problems and issues with libido and what to do about it.

It’s whispered about in forums, often addressed in advice columns like ours, and gabbed about among girlfriends, but rarely discussed openly. We are talking about the dirty little secret of men’s waning libidos. Every week, my batch of ESSENCE.com Intimacy Intervention questions include some form of, “Dear Abiola, My man can no longer perform.” 

The already taboo issue is complicated by myths and legends of supposed hyper virility among men of color. I felt it was necessary to bring a man into the conversation, but not just any old relationship expert. Brent Reeves is also an expert in gender roles, race, relationship communication and community building. He is currently the Director of Multicultural Affairs and International Student Services at McKendree University and a divorced father of two.

Brent, let’s talk about our men and the sexual problems that we are afraid to discuss in our relationships. Why do you think that this is such a taboo conversation? Let’s discuss dynamics.

A man's sexual prowess is at the very core of his masculinity. Given that, he will be very resistant to divulge any information that he is not functioning at the highest level. Like an injured animal in the wild, he will cover any and all weaknesses for survival "procreation" sake. Society has conditioned us to not want to discuss these problems to anyone - not friends, family, or doctors. And especially not with someone who we want to impress in bed. We want to be perceived as the best sexual partner our woman could have. In other words, we try to protect our fragile egos regarding sexual ability at any cost.
While men and their libidos are not as complex as women’s, we must be aware that they do exist and can become problematic as we age. It is widely held that a male’s sexual peak is in his late teens and early twenties. Bah hum bug for the rest of us! Conversely, it is not as widely known (even by women) that a women’s sexual peak is well into her forties and beyond. It almost seems like some sort of cruel trick God has played on us men. I have been extremely jealous of the average woman’s sexual prowess (stamina, multi-orgasmic abilities, very short refractory period) compared to men.  Men’s libidos in essence are up or down, no pun intended.  

Thank you for that very honest answer. What are the general phases of arousal?

There are several phases of excitation and arousal in both men and women as researched and documented by my idols William Masters and Virginia Johnson. But women’s arousal and desire for sex (libido) has many more factors involved than men (mood, emotional connectivity, time it takes to become aroused/foreplay, etc.).  However, for the average healthy male, all it usually takes is a visual and/or physical stimulus and it is on and poppin within minutes. Unfortunately, it is usually over for us in minutes as well.  (laughs)

Well let’s get right into the main complaint of my unsatisfied Intimacy Intervention readers. What happens when the man’s libido begins to decrease? No one really talks about this.  

What are some of the physical and socio-psychological issues at hand for men?  How can these issues be mitigated if at all?  Human males have to practically “will” themselves to an erection!  Many other mammalian species (gorillas, chimps, dogs, bears) actually have a bone in the penis.  It is called the baculum. Human males do not. We have to totally rely on blood flow and a strong circulation in order to get hard and maintain that erection.  So, many things have to come together for that to happen especially as a man ages.


Aha. So I’ve talked about this extensively, but let’s get a run down again. What are some causes of a man’s lack of sex drive? 

Here’s a quick list:  Low testosterone, the male sex hormone, obesity, diet, excessive heat like hot tubs or saunas, hypertension/high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stress, depression, anxiety, anger, disappointment, bad or declining relationships, prescription or illicit drugs and alcohol,  just to mention a few.   Any or all of these factors can make it difficult for a man to get and/or ma99intain an erection strong enough for penetration.  When a man experiences erectile dysfunction (ED), then he can quickly lose his desire for sex.  Waning libido and ED are very closely related although both can have different origins.


Is it possible for a man get an erection and still not desire sex?  

Yes!  However, it is not a good situation to have one without the other.  If waning libido and/or ED occur, then a man can want to avoid having sex.  So, ladies, a man’s lack of desire to have sex with you isn’t always from him cheating with another woman. These issues are typically very embarrassing to a man and he will probably avoid talking about it.  


Okay, Brent. Let’s cut to the chase. What can a reader do to help improve her man’s waning sex drive and/or erectile dysfunction?  

Here is a list of things that could help since no one can stop the aging process: Testosterone therapy; herbal aphrodisiacs; prescription drugs like Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra; a low fat diet, especially avoiding fried foods; exercise/weight loss; Kegels; plenty of rest especially during refractory periods. Refractory periods are(the time it takes a man to get a second erection. She can also try foreplay, foreplay, foreplay; relaxation while building anticipation; penis pumps and penis rings; confidence and self-esteem building; visual stimuli like sexy lingerie, role playing and fantasy reenacting, watching adult movies together, and exploring a fetish or two.  


Thank you for the comprehensive breakdown. I know that will be helpful to many. 

Just remember ladies, if he loses his erection, don’t stress him out more by asking him, “What happened?  Is there a problem? Don’t you want me?” Just work with a brother! Get him to relax.  You become the initiator and take charge!  In time, he will get it back.  Just be patient.  This can happen several times in a 45 minute period.  Take the pressure off of him to “perform”.  Lighten the mood to relieve tension with laughter or some silliness.  Reassure him that he is in good hands - pun intended. 


Well said. Thank you so much Brent for helping to shed light and remove taboos. Any closing advice for our readers?

Tell him what you want to do to him.  Ask him what he wants you to do.  If it is within your comfort levels, then give it to him.  Finally, you should always have him see a medical doctor to rule out or identify any physical issues such as low testosterone levels, diabetes, hypertension/high blood pressure, etc.  If there are no physical issues, then seek help from a sex therapist or marriage counselor to identify any psychological or social problems.  Just remember, waning libido and ED will happen to most if not all men as they age.  Be his support in these times and he will love you even more.


Great news, ladies. Brent promises to continue to answer your questions in the comments below.

Abiola Abrams is the author of the award-winning Sacred Bombshell Handbook of Self-Love, Manifest Your Miracles meditation album and African Goddess Affirmation Cards. The popular lifestyle guru is also the founder of the Sacred Bombshell Self-Care Kits, blog, web TV show, and online academy at SacredBombshell.com. Follow her on Twitter to continue the discussion about this week's hot topic, and then email her your burning questions now. Anything you send will be posted anonymously, promise.


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Filed under: Love & Sex