Medically reviewed by Jill Johnson, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 8/19/2021
An erect penis has been symbolic of a man’s prowess and virility for thousands of years. Ancient cultures didn’t erect phallic statues and monuments for nothing.
Make no bones about it, erectile dysfunction blows. (Get it? No bones? We’ll see ourselves out.) If you have ED, it can not only affect your own self-confidence, but can also dig at your partner’s enjoyment during sex, as well.
Jokes aside, thank you for chuckling at our terrible ED puns — but we can’t promise that will be the last of them in this article. What we can promise is more info on how to make sex enjoyable if you’re struggling with ED. Keep reading.
Okay, so what exactly is erectile dysfunction? ED is a highly complicated sexual dysfunction disorder that affects the sexual behavior of millions of men worldwide. Regardless of your sexual orientation, you will likely be affected by it at some point, to some extent. It happens.
There are two major aspects of the male erection: the reflex erection and psychogenic erection. Both can be involved in ED and can be treated with a variety of different therapies and medications.
The reflex erection happens when the penile shaft is touched and is controlled by the lower part of the spinal cord and its peripheral nerves. The psychogenic erection is achieved by erotic or emotional stimuli, and is controlled by the limbic system of the brain.
Healthy erections are all about blood pressure and flow. When you’re aroused, your nervous system causes the soft tissue of your penis to relax, allowing blood to flow into the blood vessels. As blood flows into the blood vessels, the pressure created in the tissue of your penis traps the blood in place, keeping your penis hard as you engage in sexual activity. For more information, you can check out our guide on How Do Erections Work?
As a man, it’s common and perfectly normal to occasionally have difficulty getting or keeping an erection. However, when difficulty getting or maintaining an erection starts to interfere with your sex life, it’s generally viewed as erectile dysfunction.
ED can be caused by a number of factors, ranging from age, to heart health, to hormone imbalances and injury to the pelvic region.
If you’re struggling with ED and haven’t tried foreplay, now is the time. Foreplay is erotic or intimate physical stimulation with your partner before the “main event” of sexual intercourse.
For many couples, foreplay includes kissing, oral sex, hand jobs, nipple play, anal stimulation and more — feel free to get creative! As long as both parties are enthusiastically consenting, foreplay is anything you decide to make it.
The idea is to mentally and physically stimulate yourself to help you maintain a firm erection during sex. To be effective, foreplay requires open expression of emotions, communication and consideration of place, pace and style.
In one study of married couples, foreplay for just one to 10 minutes led to 40 percent of women having orgasms during intercourse.
What’s more, that percentage rose to 50 percent with 12 minutes to 20 minutes of foreplay, and got up to 60 percent with foreplay that exceeded the 20-minute mark.
Of course, it’s not a numbers game. It’s not just the time you spend participating in foreplay, but also the quality of the foreplay itself and the sexual desire between partners, as well.
Foreplay is not a solution to ED, but it may help sex become more enjoyable for you and your partner. It allows you to communicate your sexual desire to your partner and for your partner, specifically.
If you’ve cruised Amazon’s sex toy section in the hopes of solving your ED problem and avoiding an awkward conversation with your healthcare provider, we see you. We understand you.
Sex toys make a lot of claims about their effects on erectile dysfunction, but do they actually work? Let’s explore some of the biggest players in sex toys for ED.
Penis sleeves. This is a hollow, tube-shaped sex toy that’s worn over your penis during sex. A 2019 review of penis sleeves stated that they allow for the preservation of penetrative sex for men with ED, but research is scant, as they've been slow to gain acceptance in the scientific community.
Cock rings. Cock rings are flexible, ring-shaped devices worn at the base of the penis to enhance sexual pleasure during sex. Cock rings work by slowing down the flow of blood out of the penis, thereby prolonging an erection during sex. We make a vibrating cock ring that you should proooobably check out.
Male vibrators. When used in conjunction with other sex toys during sex — such as a cock ring — male vibrators can provide added stimulation for both partners. However, that’s where the research stops. There aren’t any conclusive studies that show vibrators have a positive effect on erectile function.
Other sex toys. Other sex toys, such as vacuum pumps and extenders, may help you stay hard for longer. They don’t do anything to solve the problem if you can’t get hard at all — whomp whomp.
For many people, when it comes to sex, oral sex is sometimes even more enjoyable than intercourse. It’s a highly intimate activity that can enhance your sex drive if you’re struggling to stay hard during intercourse.
In a study conducted on older couples dealing with ED in their relationship, it was found that regular oral sex improved their sex lives and overall well-being. The study found that oral sex may be an important component to maintain an active sex life, a high-quality relationship and psychological vibrancy.
Oral sex doesn’t need to take the place of intercourse in your relationship, but it can add another level of sexual intimacy with your partner that you may have been previously missing in your relationship. Both giving and receiving oral sex can be a pleasurable experience for both partners.
No, we’re not talking about the herbal “supplements” sold in gas stations and sex shops. Sexual performance medication — or ED pills — can be a fantastic solution for men who are getting soft serve when they exclusively order hard serve every time, if you know what we mean.
These oral medications are designed to make it easier to get hard and maintain an erection during sex. They’re very effective, but before you go running out to the drugstore, know that they do require a prescription from a healthcare provider.
Since there are several different kinds of ED medications, there is not a one-size-fits-all process. In order to get a prescription for one of these medications, you’ll need to make an appointment with your healthcare provider to discuss your sexual performance concerns.
It’s also important to keep your expectations realistic when it comes to any sexual performance treatment. Yes, some aspects of your sex life may improve with medications, but other aspects can be a bit more complicated.
There are also some side effects to these medications, which is something else you should discuss with your healthcare provider if you’re considering taking one to treat your ED.
Erectile dysfunction is a common medical condition that affects millions of men every year and is nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about. If you’re struggling with ED, foreplay, sex toys, oral sex and ED medication can help make sex more enjoyable for you.
Instead of browsing Amazon for the latest ED “cures,” have a conversation with your healthcare provider about potential treatment options.
Need some help with your foreplay game? Our guide, 6 Foreplay Ideas to Try can give you some solid ideas if you’re in need.
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