Medically reviewed by Mary Lucas, RN
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 2/09/2021
If you’re affected by erectile dysfunction (ED), you probably find it difficult to develop or maintain an erection during foreplay and sex.
Although ED can affect your ability to have penetrative sex, it’s still possible to have an orgasm and ejaculate without an erection.
In fact, many men with ED are able to reach orgasm through stimulation even if they can only get a partial erection or can’t get an erection at all.
Below, we’ve explained how it’s possible to reach orgasm and ejaculate without an erection, as well as the treatment options that are available if you’re affected by erectile dysfunction.
Erectile dysfunction is a common problem that can affect men of all ages. An estimated 30 million men in the United States are affected by ED.
A variety of factors can cause erectile dysfunction, including physical health issues and psychological issues such as sexual performance anxiety.
Even if you can’t get or maintain an erection, it’s possible to reach orgasm and ejaculate through stimulation, either by yourself or your partner.
Treating erectile dysfunction will help you to stay hard during foreplay and sex, meaning you can ejaculate during penetrative sex rather than by masturbation.
While getting an erection might seem simple, it’s actually a complex process that involves more than just your penis.
Erections start with stimulation, both physical and mental. When you feel sexually aroused, your nervous system tells the muscles around your penis to relax, allowing blood to flow into the soft erectile tissue of your penis called the corpora cavernosa.
As blood flows into your penis, the tunica albuginea -- a membrane that surrounds the tissue of your penis -- contracts, trapping the blood inside and helping you to remain hard during foreplay and sex.
The process that allows you to reach orgasm and ejaculate is separate from the process that’s responsible for giving you an erection.
Unlike erections, which are controlled by the muscles and erectile tissue of your penis, orgasm and ejaculation is a reflex action that’s controlled by your central nervous system.
When you’re sexually stimulated, such as during penetrative sex or manual stimulation by you or your partner, arousal and excitement gradually builds.
When the excitement of sex or masturbation reaches a critical level, it triggers your ejaculatory mechanism.
During the first phase of ejaculation, your vas deferens (the small ducts that bring sperm from your testes to your ejaculatory ducts) contract, bringing sperm into the base of your penis. At the same time, your prostate and seminal vesicles secrete the fluids that produce semen.
During the second phase of ejaculation, muscles at the base of your penis contract, forcing the semen out. It’s normal for these muscles to contract several times during ejaculation.
The ejaculatory mechanism can occur whether your penis is erect or flaccid, meaning you don’t need to have an erection in order to reach orgasm and ejaculate.
Erectile dysfunction can be frustrating, especially when it occurs again and again. Luckily, it’s often treatable. Today, several medications are available that can treat ED and help you to stay hard during foreplay and sex. These include:
Sildenafil. The active ingredient in Viagra®, AKA generic Viagra, sildenafil provides relief from ED for four to five hours per dose, although its effects have been known to last longer.
Vardenafil. The active ingredient in Levitra®, vardenafil provides relief from ED for four to five hours per dose.
Avanafil. Available as Stendra®, avanafil is a newer, second-generation ED medication that’s fast-acting and less likely to cause certain side effects.
All of these medications require a prescription. We offer generic and brand-name versions of ED medications online, following a consultation with a healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate for you.
Beyond medication, it’s also possible to improve your erectile health by making certain changes to your habits and lifestyle. We’ve talked more about these in our detailed guide to natural ways to improve and protect your erections.
If you have erectile dysfunction, you may find it difficult to get or maintain a full erection during sex, foreplay or masturbation. Although this can make penetrative sex difficult, it’s still possible to reach orgasm and ejaculate even if you can’t get hard. If you’d like to treat your erectile dysfunction, a variety of real, science-based treatment options are available.