From a medical perspective, your semen packs a pretty incredible punch. Within the 2 to 5ml of semen (AKA your ejaculate) that you yield every time you ejaculate, there contains around 20 million spermatozoa (your moving sperm), each roughly 50 millionths of a metre long. If you can’t picture this, just think back to your childhood when you stared at the tadpoles in your garden pond. That’s about the gist of it – except much, much smaller. Of course, your spermatozoa are not alone in your semen, having for company complex enzymes and fructose sugars that help your swimmers, well, swim and survive for longer.
As recently as two decades ago, doctors tended to blame erectile dysfunction on psychological problems or, with older men, on the normal aging process. Today, the pendulum of medical opinion has swung away from both notions. While arousal takes longer as a man ages, chronic erectile dysfunction warrants medical attention. Moreover, the difficulty is often not psychological in origin. Today, urologists believe that physical factors underlie the majority of cases of persistent erectile dysfunction in men over age 50.
A very stressful or intense situation, or performance anxiety, could definitely make a man lose his erection. The pressure to perform could be psychologically too intense to keep a strong one. Another, lesser talked about erection killer is difficulty penetrating a partner during sex. It’s related to performance anxiety and stress, but also fatigue. If sex becomes tiring, fatigue will bring a quick end to an otherwise great night.
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If the problem is physical, there are numerous treatments available, such as penile injections or penile revascularization surgery, which increases blood flow to the cavernosal artery of the penis. There are also medications like Viagra, Cialis and Levitra, but Lehmiller cautioned men with erectile difficulties not to self-medicate without seeing a doctor beforehand due to the potential negative side effects associated with such medications (such as chest pain or shortness of breath).
It’s important not to take a bout of psychological ED personally. Still, when confronting a suddenly soft penis in the moment, “It’s not you” can be hard to believe. For instance, Erin, 22, tried—really tried—to make sex with Drew* happen. The first time his erection died right before they were about to have sex, she improvised and gave him “really long” oral instead. But the lack of a boner was confusing. “That had never happened to me with a sexual partner, so I was like, ‘Okay, he’s just not into me,’” Erin recalls.