Why Can't Guys Get Hard Sometimes? 9 Reasons Why Men Can't Get It Up

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Most of us are raised to believe that men are ravenous sex-beasts, eternally horny and only pretending to be a part of polite society so that they can find some new crevice to jam their Jeremy Irons into. So the first time we cross paths (and genitals) with a guy who can't get an erection, many of us immediately panic and assume that the problem must be us. We must be profoundly unsexy. After all, what could else possibly stop these hormone-addled maniacs from getting an erection?

As it turns out, there are actually tons of things that can keep guys from getting an erection that have nothing to do with you (also, all that stuff you learned in middle school about how all guys are hump-crazed sex lunatics might have been slightly off). Between 20 and 30 million American men experience recurring erection difficulties, and almost all men have, at one time or another, had their top ramen refuse to boil. And while erectile issues are often seen as an older man's problem, in reality, one quarter of men seeking medical treatment for erectile difficulties are under 40.

So not only are erectile problems common, they're nothing for you or your special friend to be freaked out about. Check out the nine most common reasons that dudes sometimes can't get it up, and get ready to become the soothing voice of reason the next time the guy you're with has a hard time pitching his tent in your happy valley. Everything (and every penis) is gonna be fine! (And before you read on, be sure to check out Bustle’s new podcast, I Want It That Way, which delves into the dirtiest parts of dating, and find more on our Soundcloud page.)

1. Booze

Ah, booze: you giveth us the self-confidence to talk to potential sexual partners with one hand, and taketh away boners with the other. While chronic heavy drinking can lead to chronic erectile dysfunction, even one night of hitting the sauce too hard can make it difficult to maintain or achieve an erection.

Stiffy Solution: Luckily, alcohol-induced impotence (also known by the infinitely less classy alias "whiskey d*ck") is a totally temporary condition, one that should clear up as soon as your dude can once again walk a straight line and recite the alphabet backwards. If your dude has consistent erectile problems from consistently drinking too much, however, he should consider cutting down on the sauce, and possibly talking with a doctor.

2. Recreational Drugs

You may already know that lots of hard drugs — like cocaine, heroin, or Oxycontin — can cause sexual problems (though, quite frankly, if you're on cocaine, heroin, or Oxycontin, you have many more pressing concerns to deal with than getting dirrrty). But did you know that sometimes, even pot can inhibit erections? And you thought weed was just a harmless way to enjoy the musical stylings of Pink Floyd. Who knew it could actually mess with one's own pink floyd?

Stiffy Solution: There's only one fix here, alas — sober up (and if your dude now has to admit that The Wall is unbearable to listen to while sober, well, that's just the price he'll have to pay).

3. Exhaustion

Being chronically overtired impacts everything, including your sex drive and your ability to become aroused. Dudes grappling with insomnia, or dealing with punishing work or school schedules that leave them barely any time to sleep, may find the inability to pop a chub added to their many burdens.

Stiffy Solution: Frustratingly enough, the only solution to exhaustion-based impotence is to get some rest, which is obviously difficult (or your dude wouldn't be having this problem in the first place). But if your guy has been resistant to getting help for his insomnia or asking for different hours at work, the inability to get his nine iron out on the putting green might be the thing that finally motivates him to make a life change. So, at least there's that.

4. Certain Medications

Just as certain meds can make it difficult for men to have an orgasm, some can keep the flagpole from even getting raised in the first place. Anti-depressant medications like Prozac and Zoloft, anti-anxiety pills like Valium, high blood pressure medicine like Diuril, and even over-the-counter cold medicines like Sudafed and anti-heartburn pills like Zantac can inhibit erections.

Stiffy Solution: Obviously, no one should ever go off a prescribed med without consulting with a doctor. But there are erection-friendly alternatives to nearly every daisy-wilting medicine listed above. And your dude shouldn't let embarrassment keep him from talking to his GP about this — doctors are well aware that erectile difficulties are a possible side effect for all of these medicines; they just don't know which patients will experience what side effects, so they're waiting for you, the patient, to bring it up.

5. Stress

Not to give your already stressed-out dude one more thing to worry about, but stress is the cause of 20 percent of all erectile problems, from one-off boner blunders to a lingering inability to get and maintain an erection. Of course, sex difficulties are just the tip of the stress-induced health problem iceberg — sustained stress can also lead to insomnia, stomach troubles, chest pains, anxiety, and more severe health issues in the long term.

Stiffy Solution: Again, saying "stop being so stressed out so you can get boners again" is easier said than done — but a lot of people find sexual dysfunction to be a stronger motivator to live a healthier lifestyle than the threat of, say, a heart attack down the road; so there's a chance that this could actually be a good thing in the long run for your boo, if it helps him take his stress seriously. Relaxation techniques like yoga, exercise, meditation, tai chi, and getting adequate sleep can all lessen the impact of stress on your body (and your dong).

6. Performance Anxiety

Remember those cultural messages we discussed earlier, about how men are wild sex aliens from the planet Weenus? Well, men are raised hearing those messages, too, and they can end up screwing with their sexual self-image —for instance, they can lead men to obsess over their own virility, and panic about impressing a new partner, until they've thought their boner into a corner and can't get an erection. Performance anxiety is one of the most common culprits behind lost erections, especially among younger, less experienced men.

Stiffy Solution: The best thing you can do here is be understanding. By not freaking out yourself, or asking anxiety-provoking questions like "Is it something I did?" or "Do you not find me sexy any more?", you can help create a relaxed atmosphere where your partner (and his penis) can eventually see that there is nothing to worry about.

7. Smoking

Smoking damages blood vessels, inhibiting blood flow throughout the body ... and I mean throughout the body. While studies have found that men with erectile problems only make up 20 percent of the general population, 40 percent of men with erectile problems are smokers. And a 2011 study of a group of male smokers with erectile problems found that 75 percent of them saw those erectile problems disappear after they quit.

Stiffy Solution: Show this article to your nicotine-loving lovah. If all that cancer stuff hasn't made an impact with him, maybe the promise of better erections will (I've always thought that warning labels that just said "THIS WILL KEEP YOU FROM GETTING A BONER" would probably end almost all cigarette sales within, like, a decade).

8. Relationship Problems

Remember what I said before about how it's not you? Okay, sometimes it is you. But it's not that you're not sexy — it's that for men, as well as women, relationship problems (like fighting all the time, or having clashing expectations about where things are going) can severely mess up your sex drive and ability to become aroused. Which makes sense — if you're spending 90 percent of your time together fighting about whether you're going to move in, switching gears to make 10 percent of your time together into a sexy sex party is pretty damned difficult.

Stiffy Solution: The only way over this one is through — as in, taking your relationship problems seriously and dealing with them, even if you'd prefer not to. Either you'll solve your relationship problems/erectile difficulties, or you'll break up, but look on the bright side — either way, you won't have to worry about your dude's penis anymore.

9. More Serious Health Issues

Of course, sometimes having a hard time getting hard can be indicative of a much more serious health problem. Some studies have found that erectile problems in young men are one of the first indicators of developing heart disease; erectile difficulties have also been tied to diabetes, thyroid problems, and other super serious health concerns.

Stiffy Solution: The good news is, almost all of these conditions can be successfully treated if you catch them early on. And since erectile problems may be the first side effect your dude has experienced, seeking medical treatment for his erectile problems may be the thing to get him into a doctor's office. So if your dude is a well-rested, non-drinking, non-smoking, paragon of relaxation who suddenly can't get wood, urge him to talk to his doctor — his misbehaving penis may actually be communicating something way more important than "Not tonight, honey."

Images: Bradhoc/ Flickr, Giphy (10)

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