The chemistry is there, the kissing is passionate, but when you go below the belt… your partner can’t get hard. You’re both nervous and a bit embarrassed, and you’re left wondering… is it you? Is it nerves? How can you help your partner get hard, and stay hard next time?

Let’s set the scene.

It’s Saturday night and you’ve finally broken open that expensive bottle of Chardonnay, slipped into your new sheer, black lingerie, and turned up the volume on that steamy Spotify playlist. Your partner is over and you’re feeling tantalizingly sexy as you climb on top of their body. Nothing can shatter your confidence tonight.

As you unzip your partner’s jeans, you unsettlingly discover they’re not as turned on as you thought (physically, even if they’re super game). In fact, they’re not hard at all, even though everything seemed to be going well above the belt.

Your partner’s face turns red and you roll off, puzzled and embarrassed. Your self-assured, sex goddess prowess is crushed, and you spend the next day wondering why their boxers weren’t turned into a flannel tent.


A banana laying flaccid next to an opened fruit.


What Does It Mean When a Guy Couldn’t Get Hard?

I’ve experienced my fair share of awkward bedroom mishaps, from stained sheets after an anal encounter gone wrong to a bellowing queef, and yes, even instances where my partner expressed they were totally down to play, and yet, their penis was down too, but in a haplessly literal way. 

Initially, these incidents can shake our egos and cause us to question our own expressive sexuality. We might internalize it — wondering if it’s something we did (or didn’t do), if we came on too strong (or not strong enough), or if our partner simply wasn’t into it. 

It’s not that you’re not a rock star in the bedroom. Contrary to mainstream beliefs that men think about or want sex all the time, people with penises have intertwined physical, mental, and emotional responses that impact their body’s chemistry (whether it’s stress, nerves, or having too many drinks!)

 In reality There’s no need to get hung up on the boner lapse, because ninety-nine percent of the time, the status of their dick has nothing to do with you. Here’s where the real issue could lie.


A couple laying in bed, the man holding his partner's face.


1. They’re nervous

It’s not that you’re not sexy enough for him to get it up — it could actually be that you’re so sexy that it’s making him nervous. Performance anxiety is one of the biggest contributors of erectile dysfunction. As WebMD notes, 

“In men, one of the effects of the stress hormones is to constrict blood vessels. Less blood flowing into the penis makes it more difficult to have an erection. Even men who normally don’t have any trouble getting excited can become unable to get an erection when they’re overcome by sexual performance anxiety.”

Essentially, your partner has psyched themselves out so much about your upcoming debut, they end up choking on stage. Your partner could be worrying about their size, scared their moves won’t impress you, or even scared they won’t get an erection — bringing their fear itself into reality!  An underlying fear, lack of confidence, or shame could have sent their dick into temporary hiding. 


Alcohol splashing out of a glass in a dark room.


2. They drank too much alcohol 

Alcohol is an ironic little elixir that gives us the courage and lowered inhibition to make a move on a potential partner, and then immediately nixes the ability to make our fantasies a reality. Commonly referred to as “whiskey dick,” if your date drinks too much, the aphrodisiac could become their downfall. As noted by Livestrong, when a person experiences a boner, their “penis fills with blood then the vessels close, preventing backflow, so that the penis remains erect.” Yet, a night of heavy drinking stops those blood vessels from closing, resulting in a flaccid dick.


A collection of pills and medications.


3. They’re on certain medications

Antidepressants can enhance a person’s mood, but they, unfortunately, might also decrease one’s libido, inhibit a boner, or delay or prevent orgasm. In addition to SSRIs, there are a whole host of medications (even drugs without a prescription like antihistamines) that can cause impotence. Even nicotine could be the culprit!


A man sitting on the edge of his bed with his head in his hand.


4. They’re stressed out

The mind and the body are interconnected, so if your partner is consumed by work woes, life stress, or financial troubles, they may lose the ability to get or maintain an erection. For some, the extra adrenaline could kick a libido into gear, but for many stress reduces libido and can kick boners to the curb. Stress releases cortisol and pumps up blood pressure and cholesterol, all of which can contribute to erectile dysfunction.


A couple in bed, laying with their heads next to one another's.


5. They just aren’t in the mood

As mentioned, men are not ravenous for sex despite the stereotype. Sometimes guys – just like women – just aren’t horny. We are so accustomed to this archaic notion that men are ready and willing to have sex every second of every day, but this simply isn’t the case. He’s a human too, and his libido ranges in intensity. This has nothing to do with your own hot self — it’s just how nature works, and we all have days where we’re more turned on than others, no matter how much we are attracted to our partner.


A couple in bed, the woman laying over her partner.


What to do If Your Partner Can’t Get Hard

The best way to approach a flaccid dick is with understanding. Don’t blow up the problem or take it personally, just let your partner know it’s okay and ask what you can do to help. If they’re nervous, you can have an open conversation about what you both like, and focus on activities that turn you both on, taking penetration temporarily off the table as you get more comfortable. If they’re stressed, they may need some time to decompress and approach when they’re in a better headspace. They may want to talk to their doctor about medications or check their testosterone levels, or simply wait til they’ve had less to drink.

In the meantime, you can still explore pleasure together. Whether you love making out, grinding on each other, or exploring an erotic massage — there are so many activities beyond penetration that can turn you on and get you off, maybe even more than penetration. It can be really hot for your partner to watch you get off, or you can try using a powerful vibrator on your partner, or in between you both!  You can try using a couple’s toy that will give you both pleasure at the same time. 

Or you can simply let it go all together and save the sexy occasion for another night. As a Jezebel interviewee expressed, keeping it casual is sage advice.  saying, “‘Sorry, that really sucks, but don’t let it bug you. We’ll try again later,’ would be [an] ideal reaction.” It’s not your or your partner’s fault (neither of you can control biology) so there’s no reason to get upset about it — simply save sex for another day when the conditions are right!