Men, You are Not a Performance Machine

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Men, You are Not a Performance Machine

One of the most common reasons men seek out sex therapy is due to “erectile disorder;” however, most are simply experiencing erectile disappointment, albeit not pleasant to experience either.

Erectile disorder (ED) is defined in the DSM-5 as the recurrent inability to achieve an erection, maintain an adequate erection, and / or a noticeable decrease in erectile rigidity during partnered sexual activity (1. American Psychiatric Association, 2013). I am moving to rename erectile disorder unless you have visited a urologist, and this has been medically diagnosed as an erectile disappointment. My goal with this article is to educate and dispel the myth that men are performance machines ready to have intercourse with any woman who blows in their ear at any time.

Dr. Chris Donaghue (2. 2019) stated, “Healthy functioning for a penis is one of the more shamed and misunderstood elements of sexuality.” Gentlemen, your penis is not a dildo and should not be expected to perform like one. Research has proven that 90% of males aged 35–55 have experienced at least one erectile disappointment where they could not attain or main an erection acceptable for intercourse (3. Metz & McCarthy, 2004). With those odds, I am pretty confident that anyone reading this has either been with someone who has experienced erectile disappointment or personally experienced it.

What Couples Need to Know

  • Have Pleasure-Based Sex, Not Performance-Based Sex
    • When you are concerned about your performance, you are not concentrating on what feels good, enjoying the moment, or finding the fun of the experience. Focus on the performance can result in experiencing anxiety regarding your value as a partner and lover:
      • Sex [becomes] harmful, as it is often about ignoring authenticity and intimacy. Instead, it is used to feed the ego and help one not be vulnerable or present with themselves, their desires, their body, or their partner (2. Donaghue, 2019).
    • When you are participating in pleasure-based sex, the participants are focusing on what feels good at that moment using all available tools, for example, toys, oral, and fingers, to ensure ultimate pleasure. Forcing an erection can be counterproductive and can become a distraction from the sexual experience as a whole.
  • Expand Your Definition of ‘Sex.’
    • As a society, we are sold on the narrative that sex means penetration; however, that is a lie; sex means pleasure and can look any way a couple (or more) wants it to look in the moment. A delayed erection can enhance your sexual experience. Sex is intimate, sensual, erotic, passionate, fun, and more. It is not defined by penetration. If there is a situation where an erection has not come to fruition, take time for kissing, body exploration, massages, engaging in a new style of play, roleplay, or anything that takes the focus off of performance.
  • Stay in the Moment & Communicate
    • Placing unrealistic expectations on yourself or your partner will only cause the sexy moment to halt suddenly. Stay calm and openly communicate with your partner if something is not working for you or doesn’t feel pleasurable. If you experience erectile disappointment while playing with a beautiful partner, use your mouth and hands, grab a toy, and stay in the moment! This should not be a hit to your ego but rather a massive boost in your connection with your partner in that they feel comfortable telling you what they want at that moment. There should be no shame at the moment. Readjust, reassess, change positions, use toys, but most of all, be creative.

Arousal and Erection Facts

  • Partaking in pre-sex adult beverages can significantly decrease the blood flow to the penis resulting in a lack of firmness and less intense orgasms.
  • Awaking erection is associated with Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. It stems from dreaming and being close to their partner, and this erection could quickly go flaccid if used for quick intercourse (3. Metz & McCarthy, 2004).
  • A man will have an erection every 90 minutes during their sleep.
  • According to McCarthy (4. 2012), men mislabel erectile dysfunction due to loss of an erection; however, if the erection lasts longer than 2 minutes, the real issue is Ejaculatory Inhibition — the erection is lost because the man runs out of sexual energy.
  • A majority of men under 50 experiencing erectile disappointment can see vast improvements in the quality of their erection by participating in sex therapy.

Wrapping It All Up

Your penis is glorious. You are a human, not a machine, and sometimes things will not go as planned. I encourage penis owners to relax with the inevitable occurs, use alternative tools if needed and enjoy the sexual experience. Ladies, we should not shame men with erectile disappointments, guide them and help them explore their bodies using other available items. We all are responsible for stopping the shame associated with erectile disappointment during times of play. We are all in this lifestyle to have fun, meet new friends, and share the sexy experience, not cause more mental distress than the world already does. Learn more about evolving and enhancing your sex life at

Dramatically Yours,

Dr. Stephanie Sigler, Ph.D.


  1. American Psychiatric Association. “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5TM, 5th Ed.”, 2013,

  2. Dr. Chris Donaghue. “It’s No Dysfunction, Your Penis Is Fine. Understanding “Erectile Disappointment.”” Medium, Medium, 16 Sept. 2019, Accessed 26 May 2023.

  3. “Coping with Erectile Dysfunction.” New Harbinger Publications, Inc, Accessed 26 May 2023.

  4. McCarthy, Barry, and Emily McCarthy. Sexual Awareness: Your Guide to Healthy Couple SexualityAmazon, 5th edition ed., Routledge, 19 Mar. 2012, Accessed 26 May 2023.

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