Everything You Need To Know About Erectile Dysfunction

by Cam Fraser

on 15 Jun 2021

Depending on the study you read, erectile dysfunction (or ED) affects anywhere up to 76.5% of the global population of men. Needless to say, it’s important to have a conversation about this sexual dysfunction which affects so many people with penises. Especially when so much of our society still positions the penis at the centre of sex.


So, what exactly is erectile dysfunction?

According to The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (better known as DSM-5) erectile dysfunction is clinically defined as the recurrent inability to achieve an erection, the inability to maintain an adequate erection, and/or a noticeable decrease in erectile rigidity during partnered sexual activity. In order to meet the diagnostic criteria, these symptoms must have persisted for at least six months and must have occurred on at least 75% of occasions.

ED has many possible causes. For example, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and diabetes are the two most common medical causes while obesity, diseases of the nervous system and surgery can also have an effect.

Hormone imbalances, like low testosterone, as well as the side effects of medications, such as those used to treat high blood pressure, depression and anxiety can also cause difficulty when it comes to sexual “performance”.


Erectile dysfunction vs. erectile disappointment

The term erectile dysfunction is often misused in an everyday context by people who are actually describing erectile disappointment. That is to say, many people with penises who believe they are experiencing ED can’t necessarily be clinically diagnosed as such. Instead, they may just be disappointed with how their penis is functioning.

Unfortunately, many people have unrealistic expectations regarding penises due to inadequate sex education. There is an expectation that penises should get and remain erect on-demand as desired, for as long as needed. However, it is totally normal for a penis’ firmness to wax and wane throughout a sexual encounter.

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What male sex aids can help to fix erectile dysfunction

Luckily, there are certain sex toys which can be used to help. So, if you’re wondering what you can do to aid your erection, here are a few examples.


One of the most recommended sex toys for help with ED is the cock ring. Made from soft or hard materials like metal and silicone, cock rings work by preventing the backflow of blood in the penis. This keeps it harder for longer than it otherwise would, helping you to enjoy yourself in the moment and remove any stress from the sexy situation which is supposed to be fun.

Another useful toy — sometimes best paired with a cock ring — is the penis pump. These toys are placed over the penis and the air is then pumped out of the cylinder so that a vacuum is created. The vacuum draws blood into the penis, causing it to swell and become erect. While they serve a therapeutic purpose, penis pumps can also be used recreationally (even if you don’t have any issues) to temporarily enlarge the penis.


A slightly less common suggestion is the penis sleeve, a hollow, phallus-shaped sex toy that’s worn over your penis during penetration. With a variety of different shapes and sizes, some penis sleeves are more realistic looking than others while others vibrate or feature added textures.

These toys are great for making sex more pleasurable and relaxing for you and your partner if you find it difficult to stay hard. By taking the pressure off the hard-on, you can focus on the other areas of pleasure and intimacy which make sex so fantastic.

Using a male vibrator can also help to treat erectile dysfunction. Strong vibrations and rhythms massage the penis without applying too much friction-based stimulation.


This is especially helpful for people who frequently and vigorously masturbate by hand. So much so, it has been suggested to desensitise the nerves in the penis or condition them to only maintain an erection from a specific type of stimulation.

The idea is to be able to be sexually responsive to more than just rubbing one out, so you can enjoy a range of sensations. This is one way that partners can help with or prevent ED. By using different strokes on their partner’s penis, targeting sensitive areas such as the frenulum — the bridge of skin connecting the shaft to the foreskin— they can diversify the experience.

How to stimulate someone with erectile dysfunction

If you or your partner are having trouble getting and maintaining an erection, try gently massaging and fondling the flaccid penis.

Even though it isn’t erect, a penis can still feel pleasure. With a bit of lube or massage oil, try rolling the penis in between your hands and rhythmically squeezing it, applying gentle pressure with your fingers, almost like a shiatsu style massage.

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Erectile dysfunction treatments you can try at home

Diet, exercise, and other lifestyle factors can also impact sexual health and erection strength. Try cutting back on alcohol and cigarettes while consuming more dark, leafy, green vegetables. Doing some light to moderate cardio a couple of times a week can also be great for blood flow and heart health, both of which are important for healthy erections.

Whether it is erectile dysfunction or disappointment, having difficulty getting or maintaining an erection can feel embarrassing and emasculating. Be kind to yourself and be mindful of any unrealistic expectations you may have on your body.

Remember, there are plenty of non-invasive, non-medical options to try which can certainly help improve your erection quality however, if it seems as though there may be an underlying issue or the problem persists, speak to your GP.


Cam Fraser is one of Lovehoney's resident sex coaches. He answers all your queries on pleasure-oriented sexual experiences for people with a penis.

You can find Cam at @thecamfraser on Instagram or at www.cam-fraser.com. In addition to working with clients one-on-one, he has an 6-week, online men's course called "Outperform A Pornstar".

Cam Fraser

Written by Cam Fraser. Lovehoney Australia's Resident Sex Coach
Answering all your queries on pleasure-oriented sexual experiences for people with a penis

Originally published on 15 Jun 2021. Updated on 16 Jun 2021