As told by a guy.
It happens to the best of men: arousal but no lift ... interest but no erection.
When a man can't get it up, the experience for him and his partner falls somewhere between awkward and utterly mortifying — I've even heard of men not calling women back because they were so ashamed of their inability to keep things on the up and up.
Because men are so sensitive about it, and because it's about as embarrassing a moment as he can experience, it puts the woman in a really tough spot. Of course you just want to say, "Honey, is there something I can do to help?" But in some cases, that's exactly what he doesn't want to hear. He's thinking, "No, I'm just dying from the pressure here, and the last thing I want you to do is even notice, much less try to help!"
Even worse is if you say, "Is there something wrong?" or "Are you okay?"— because, yes, there obviously is something wrong (you don't have to remind me!) and, no, I'm clearly not OK; I'm flaccid!
So what can a woman say or do when her man can't rev up the engines?
Here are a few possibilities (but know that any one of these can backfire, too, depending on the circumstances). But in order of most likely to go over well, here are five things you can say to help make the best of the situation:
1. Don't worry, honey. It happens to all guys.
Granted, he might wonder how much experience you have (some guys like to pretend it's your first time — I think they're silly), but at least he won't feel like he's the only loser on the planet. Misery sure does love company.
2. We'll just touch for now — I love that.
This way he can feel like he's still giving you a decent experience and it's possible that gentle, relaxed, not-trying-to-start-anything touching will eventually bring him around.
I'd advise steering clear of his penis, though, at least until it starts showing life on its own. If you touch it, he might think you're trying again and his guilt and feelings of failure can get in the way.
3. You know what? It happens to me sometimes, too.
Guys might not realize that, sometimes, women don't get wet even though they're aroused. Letting him know that it's a human thing, not just a flaw with his equipment, will help ease his mind.
4. Why worry? I know you're a great lover. You make me happy all the time.
Clearly his confidence is not at an all-time high, so a little reassurance that he's not a disaster the rest of the time will boost his self-esteem. And right now, the thing he needs most is self-esteem.
5. If there's something you'd like, just let me know.
Yes, this is pretty close to "Is there something I can do to help?" but the difference is in the approach. Asking what you can do implies there's a problem that needs fixing; asking if he wants something allows him to either articulate his needs or ignore your question. Still, this tactic is a bit risky as he might feel as if you're disappointed with him.
Sometimes, however, changing things up a little will put him in the right headspace and back on track. Just be careful when and how you ask.
Note that in all of these cases, the thing you need to make clear is that you're not mad at him, frustrated or mocking him for not being able to get an erection (or for having lost one).
And remember: You shouldn't take his present condition personally. Trust me, a guy can have performance anxiety simply because he likes you a ton and is trying too hard to make you happy! Or: he could have something else on his mind; some odd thing may have triggered his response; he may have had a lot to drink ... any number of other things could be happening that have nothing to do with you or whether you're sexy.
If it becomes chronic, there may be a more significant issue at work. But an isolated case or two or jitters during the first few times you're together is normal.
So once you have a handle on not taking it personally, help him realize that he shouldn't take it personally, either. He probably thinks his inability to maintain an erection reflects on his whole identity, so make sure he understands that you know it's a fluke,and no big deal.
Finally, keep in mind that men are a lot more complicated than they're given credit for. It might seem as if they're like light switches — easily turned on — but there's a brain involved, and that can be a wildcard. And when a man does have troubles, he really is at his most vulnerable. So careful what you say and do. He's ultra-exposed — in every way imaginable.