Sexual health

Erectile Dysfunction Drugs – Not The Ultimate Fix

Published: JULY 21, 2014 | Updated: JULY 1, 2020
ED drugs may promise a quick fix but communication is the most important tool.

Erectile dysfunction (ED) can be a real downer in the bedroom if you love penetrative sex. Many men worry about erectile dysfunction and the pharmaceutical industry is making a killing by manipulating those fears, but there are other ways to deal with this issue. Here, we list some alternative methods to try.


False Advertising?

There are three primary medications for erectile dysfunction: Viagra, Levitra and Cialis. Each works in a slightly different way but all three increase blood flow to the penis. Viagra helps with immediate and short-term erections; it works for about four hours. The effects of Levitra last up to five hours. Cialis can be taken on a daily basis, or "as needed" to improve erections, and it has a 36-hour window. What you may not know is that these drugs don’t give you an erection on their own - they simply help with blood flow once you're already aroused.

Drugs like Viagra, Cialis and Levitra may give a man a more dependable erection, but they won't fix issues regarding mismatched expectations in the bedroom, and they won’t patch up a strained relationship.

If you or your partner has erectile issues, it may be a great time to change up your sexual practices. Penetrative sex should be just one of many items on your sex menu. A vigorous round of intercourse sounds appealing and it may help your heart rate, but it also puts a strain on your joints and actually might not be as satisfying as you’ve always thought it was.


There are lots of options for fun and pleasure in addition to penis in vagina sex. Often, the shift in focus from intercourse to other sex acts can help take some pressure off of achieving an erection, which can alleviate erectile issues on its own. However this is difficult advice for those men who have always thought of sex as intercourse and therefore take pride in a good hard erection. (Read 10 Things You Didn't Know About Foreplay for more on the world of sex outside of intercourse).

Alternatives to Penetrative Sex

If penetrative sex isn't possible, there are many delightful alternatives. First, focus on pleasure - not climax. Men usually orgasm within two to 12 minutes of entering a woman's vagina during intercourse. Imagine how amazing it would feel to prolong your pleasure and draw it out, rather than race to the finish line. Kissing, touching, licking, stroking and light spanking can turn both you and your partner on. Don't rush to the destination. Instead, try to enjoy the ride!


Blow jobs feel wonderful for a guy, no matter his degree of hardness. You can start out fairly soft and slow and still end up with a great climax if your partner is enjoying himself. Both partners can reciprocate and use oral sex as a way to bring both to climax, or as part of your sexual play. (Get some tips in The Ultimate Guide to Giving a Great Blow Job.)

And never underestimate the power of manual stimulation. Invest in a good lubricant and play around with the delightful sensations that it inspires. It’s OK to guide your partner, telling them what feels good and when to speed up or slow down. You can engage in a mutual masturbation session or take turns pleasuring each other.

You could also add sex toys to the mix. These days there's a lot of selection for vibrators and dildos, depending on what you’re looking for. Have a couple of choices on hand and try them all when pleasuring your partner. A vibrator will feel good when used on your penis and testicles and she’ll love it as well. If she craves penetration you can always use a dildo on her while you use your other hand and mouth for extra stimulation. (New to sex toys? Check out our article, 10 Basic Sex Toys You Should Know and Try!)


The possibilities are endless when you start to explore other avenues to pleasure. Adding variety to your sexual practice is a great way to enhance your relationship and build intimacy in a way that allows you both to experience pleasure, erection or no erection.

Remember that when erectile dysfunction becomes an issue for one partner it affects both of them. It's a difficult subject to bring up, but communicating with your partner about these issues is so important and it will strengthen your relationship. Discuss whether you should look into one of the ED medications and include your partner in the decision-making process. Don’t just spring it on them without warning, literally or figuratively!

Tools to Increase Arousal and Strengthen Erections

You can find a number of products to rev up your arousal and strengthen your erection at a reputable sex toy store. Cock rings are tight fitting rings that slide onto the penis and fit tightly at the base, keeping the penis full of blood and therefore erect. Most cock rings are made with rubber or other stretchy materials, but there are also fancier versions with snaps or Velcro that allow you to adjust the size accordingly. Some cock rings have attachments designed to stimulate a female partner's clitoris during intercourse, and several more-expensive models have vibrators built in. Penis pumps can also be used to increase the flow of blood into the penis.


If you are having erectile issues you should also schedule a visit with your doctor. Not all erectile dysfunction cases have a physiological basis but they can be an early indicator of health problems. Include your partner in this conversation - they can be your strongest support and advocate.

ED drugs may promise a quick fix, but communication is the most important key to building and sustaining a strong intimate relationship. As you and your partner age, it becomes more important to talk about the changes you’re experiencing and work together to find creative solutions. A natural way to broach the issue with your partner may be to simply say, "I can tell that my erections aren’t as firm as they used to be 10 years ago." It may make you feel uncomfortable and vulnerable to discuss this but hopefully your partner will be able to respond in a loving and supportive way.

(Check out sexpert Ducky Doolittle's Q&A for more tips and tricks for dealing with erectile dysfunction).

Walker Thornton

Walker Thornton is a 61-year-old sex writer, educator and public speaker. She has ranked in the Kinkly Sex Blogging Superheroes for the last three years. Walker has spoken at national sexuality conferences, speaking on midlife sexuality. She is a member of the Leadership Committee of the Sexuality and Aging Consortium at Widener University. Walker writes for Midlife Boulevard, Senior Planet and other websites and online magazines. You can connect with her on Facebook...

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