How to Do It

My Boyfriend Keeps Stalling on the Cure-All for Our Problems in Bed

I don’t want to nag but…

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Dear How to Do It,

I’ve been dating my boyfriend for a few months. We were friends with benefits for about a year before that. He’s in his mid-40s. I’m in my late 30s.

The problem is that he has erectile dysfunction that’s been getting rapidly worse to the point that we can barely have sex. He always makes sure I get off through oral, fingering, etc., but I really wanted to do the same for him. Also, penis-in-vagina sex is what I enjoy most. He’s overall pretty healthy, but he’s been dealing with some anxiety and recently started smoking cigarettes again. That seems to have made things worse. Also, we both tend to drink pretty heavily when we’re out together, so that doesn’t help. He keeps saying that he’s going to go to the doctor to see about getting Viagra, but that hasn’t happened yet.

I’m not sure if he’s embarrassed. I’ve told him that plenty of guys his age use pills to get hard and it’s not a big deal. The smoking thing seems obvious, but he’s a grown man who’s well aware of the risks there, so I really don’t want to nag him about that. Is there anything I can do or say to nudge him into going to the doctor about this?

Stoya: The nag and nudge language is throwing a flag up for me. They’ve been friends with benefits for about a year and dating for a few months. He said that he is going to go to the doctor to talk about pills and he hasn’t done it. There’s no appropriate nudging at this point, and you avoid nagging by saying, “Hey man, hard dick inside me, that’s my thing, and I’m not getting it.”

Rich: Yeah. There is this thing that you sometimes see amongst men where they’re just so resistant to go to the doctor, it’s a strange, gendered tendency. I don’t really get that. Is it related to the, “I can’t ask for directions. I am the king of my domain in every single way, and I’m all I need” idea? I don’t know. But if it helps in any way, I’d like to offer that guys in their 20s use Viagra. At one point, I became aware of how casually it was being used amongst gay men, for example, to just casually be like, “Oh, do you want a Viagra?” It was surprising, I was like, “Wait, there’s no shame around this? You don’t feel embarrassed?” A lot of them really don’t, which is great.

There’s also that utilitarian aspect of some men, especially when they congregate together, where it’s like, “No, we’re just going to do whatever we need to do to fuck as best as possible.” I understand that impulse way more than I understand, “Oh, I’ll get to it. In the meantime, I’ll just get you off with oral.” I think that you’re totally right that it needs to be stated in no uncertain terms: “This is really what I’m into. There’s a way that you could provide that. You’re not providing it.” At least by inference, I’d look into my options after that, because I can’t control the hardness of your dick. I can’t force the Viagra down your throat, so maybe I could find somebody else who takes it gladly or doesn’t need it.

Stoya: They’ve been dating for a few months after their friends-with-benefits thing. I get the sense that this is a, we were polite together and sometimes talked about stuff in addition to having sex situation. Not that they’d been serious buddies for 10 years and then decided to start having sex with each other

Rich: Yes.

Stoya: So our letter writer should ask themselves how much time they’re willing to put in trying to nudge and prod the guy. He is either going to schedule that doctor’s appointment or not, and so far all signs point to not.

Rich: It would be interesting to get his perspective on this, as unvarnished as possible, because there is a chance that he’s like, “I actually don’t even like PIV sex that much, and I’m completely fine with doing things this way.” Therefore, his behavior would just be reflective of what he’s naturally inclined to do. Him stating that, of course, would then signal the mismatch there. That would then be data, which our letter writer could go on to use for future decisions.

But what the described situation indicates to me is just there’s a general mismatch. It might not be sexual, it might not be, in terms of sexual taste, but it is, in terms of approach to life. She clearly sees an issue that could be fixed and it’s been pointed out to him, and he doesn’t seem particularly inclined to do so. Do you see yourself with a person who takes that stance toward these issues? Do you see yourself with somebody who has a laissez-faire approach to fixing stuff that needs to be fixed?

Stoya: Yeah. Though I am wondering if for her, the smoking thing seems obvious, but it may not be obvious to him. I think, of all the men that I’ve had conversations with where I’ve accidentally informed them of what to me is a simple fact such as yes, some penises are of a size that they need the large condoms,—

Rich: Right.

Stoya: And they’re like, “What? How can I possibly… No, my dick is average.” And I’m like, “Please do not make me itemize the dicks that I have seen in my lifetime. Just try the big condom.”

Rich: Right. I think that’s a great point. There’s a big difference between nagging somebody and having a conversation about something. If you’re talking about this stuff already, try mentioning, ”Do you think it could have anything to do with smoking?” Phrase it in the form of a question, and see what he thinks. And there are people who just have a very pronounced fear of doctors. We’ve heard from them in the column, and it’s like, “I don’t know what you do to get their ass in the doctor.” My boyfriend is less than inclined to go to a doctor unless he absolutely needs to. And then I do nag him. I’m like, “No. Literally, go get your blood work done. Get your annual physical. Just do it.” And that worked.

Stoya: I ran out of the gynecologist’s office during my physical this year. I’d already seen two that year, been pap smeared and everything, but my physical, at the end of the year, I was not expecting a gynecologist. I’m wary of focusing too much on the Viagra—

Rich: Yes.

Stoya: Because he might, very legitimately, have a thing against the idea of the pills. But chilling out on the drinking and smoking is another possibility that does not require a doctor’s visit. And instead of putting new chemicals in the body, it’s actually just not putting other chemicals in.

Rich: Exactly. The fact of the matter is, he’s going to have to take some kind of action here. If he doesn’t want to do that, and if things continue the way that they are, that’s more data on which to base decisions. That’s what it is.

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