Leonardo da Vinci is one of the more famous people to observe that a man’s penis is not under his control: “Many times the man wishes it to practice and it does not wish it; many times it wishes it and the man forbids it,” he wrote.
And it’s true. All men, at one time or another, will lose their erection just when they want it most. It can happen for lots of reasons: too much alcohol, fatigue, stress, tension, illness, distraction, or boredom. Many prescription medications can interfere with erections as well.
Unfortunately, if you lose your erection once, it can set you up for a vicious cycle of failure. What might have begun as a purely physical problem with your blood vessels, nerves, or other parts of your reproductive system can morph into a complicated psychological reaction called “performance anxiety.”
Anxiety of any kind releases hormones that clamp down blood vessels, including those feeding the penis. Thus a fear of erectile failure can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The resulting sexual snowball can lead to less and less sex, feelings of emotional distance, abandonment, rejection, and anger.
Fortunately, many cases of performance anxiety can be alleviated by simply talking openly about it with your partner and relaxing about it. Remember that it’s perfectly normal to lose an erection once in awhile—it’s not about your masculinity or her attractiveness. The more you can normalize it, and the less you take it seriously, the quicker you’ll discover your erection and sexual satisfaction returning.
But if you seem to be stuck and erections fail more often than not, you might consider getting some help from a sex therapist. Of course, there are the various erection-enhancing drugs available as well, which boost both your confidence and your physiology. One hazard of this approach is that you could become dependent on them.