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What Women Need To Know About Men's Sexual Health

For men, the struggle can be real and painful.

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Gregory Reid (Stylist: Megumi Emoto)
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I’ve been having great sex (with my boyfriend) for three years. I always feel satisfied, we aren’t afraid to get creative, and he’s a wonderful post-sex cuddler. We talk about our turn-ons, turnoffs and everything in between. Well, almost everything. There is this one, not-so-tiny thing we just kind of ignore. You see, my boyfriend never ejaculates during intercourse. I want him to, and I’m pretty dang sure he wants to as well. It’s just not the easiest topic to discuss, so I don’t bring it up. I fear that if I do, he’ll feel like less of a man.

There’s this powerful stigma that real, desirable, masculine men are superheroes in bed and would never struggle with sexual-health or performance issues. I know it isn’t true, yet I’ve been reinforcing the negative stigma by avoiding the topic altogether. I want to protect my man’s ego, but the truth is, there’s nothing to protect — because there’s nothing to be ashamed about!

Most men who struggle with their sexual health, my boyfriend included, suffer in silence, shame and embarrassment, and it’s time to change that. In an effort to open the lines of communication about men’s sexual health, I sat down with Lisa Lawless, founder of Holistic Wisdom, in Bend, Oregon, to discuss what women need to know about men’s sexual health — and, more important, how we can help.

What are the most common conditions?

Most of us are familiar with premature or delayed ejaculation, erectile dysfunction and porn addiction, but the list doesn’t end there. As men age, prostate issues are common and can cause urinary incontinence, overall discomfort and erectile dysfunction, all of which can have a negative impact on sexual health. Lawless also sees men with testosterone deficiencies, complications from STDs, infertility and Peyronie's disease, a condition that “causes painful erections and curvature that make intercourse difficult,” she says. And guess what? Women aren’t the only ones staring in the mirror overanalyzing every roll, wrinkle and dimple. Lawless notes that many men struggle with “being overweight, too thin, balding and, more than anything else, their penis size.”

What’s the big deal anyway?

Having these conversations and seeking treatment is about so much more than pleasure and intimacy. Sexual dysfunction is often a symptom of a more overriding health condition, and ignoring sexual symptoms could be deadly. Lawless explains: “One of the most common indicators of cardiovascular disease is erectile dysfunction. If blood can’t travel through the body properly due to a cardiovascular issue, it will often show up in the inability to become partially or fully erect.” Erectile dysfunction could be the first indication of coronary artery disease, hypertension and peripheral artery disease. Other health problems that can cause sexual dysfunction in men include neurological disorders, diabetes, obesity, and drug and alcohol abuse. Bottom line? It’s more about health than sex.

What’s a woman to do?

So, how do you start the conversation? Lawless suggests that women “become educated about the specific concern” before starting the conversation. Do research online, talk to medical professionals or find others who have been treated for a similar condition. When you do start the conversation, be sensitive, use nonjudgmental language and, most significant, be patient. If your partner doesn’t want to jump right into the conversation, respect his decision, and give him space, understanding and support. Be mindful that his ego and self-worth may feel threatened. You want to send the message that you love him, support him and care about his health. It may take time for this to sink in. In the meantime, be sure to let him know he’s as desirable and lovable as ever. If, after weeks or months, “you feel that you and your partner are struggling to understand each other,” Lawless recommends that you “seek out the help of a health care professional or mental health therapist who specializes in sexual health.”

The sad truth

The struggle is real and painful. Lawless' company often receives calls from men “in tears, talking about their struggles with erectile dysfunction and expressing concerns that their wives won’t love them or will leave them if they find out or the issue can’t be resolved.” Awareness is key, and Lawless is passionate about changing the narrative. “My hope is that we can let men know this is a health condition that has many solutions,” she says. “While it can be stressful and profoundly impact their sense of self-worth, they are not alone and are still capable of emotional and physical intimacy with their partner, even when it’s not in the traditional sense. After all, they are still worthy of respect, appreciation and love.”

And with that, I think it’s time I lead by example and have the talk — because life is short, love is big, and he shouldn’t struggle alone in silence and shame.

Are you able to talk with your partner about sex? Let us know in the comments below.

Follow Article Topics: Health