Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common sexual concern for men, especially older men prone to cardiovascular diseases and medications with side effects that affect sexual performance.

For men’s health awareness month, I spoke with five men who share what it’s like to keep their sexual lives active despite their challenges with erectile dysfunction.

Five Nigerian Men Share What It’s Like To Navigate Sex with Erectile Dysfunction

Johnson*, 45

I was diagnosed with stage two hypertension after I turned 40 and have been on blood pressure medication ever since. A major side effect is erectile dysfunction. I initially stopped taking the drugs after I noticed because I couldn’t stand not enjoying sex with my wife. However, she was more concerned about my health and insisted we return to the doctor to ask if other medications could be considered. My medication has been changed a couple of times, but it’s been the same. Now that my erection isn’t like it used to be, we’ve incorporated a lot more foreplay into lovemaking. It wasn’t like we didn’t do foreplay before, but now that’s what we focus on more. On some days when the erection surprises us both, we have penetrative sex. I’ve suggested buying sex toys, but my wife wouldn’t hear of it. She’s fine with the foreplay, and I can’t complain.

Ademola*, 50

I’ve been managing erectile dysfunction for more than 15 years now. It got in the way of my sexual life in the early years because my wife and I didn’t know much outside of regular “missionary sex”. However, things changed after we attended a couples’ retreat. The retreat had a session for sex education for couples, and we were keen to attend because we both knew of my condition. It was at that retreat that we learnt more about how to spice up our sexual life outside of penetrative sex, including the use of adult toys. The strap-on toy has really helped; I don’t have to worry about a weak erection or going limp during sex.

Hassan*, 43

The sex hasn’t been the same with my wife since we were both diagnosed with cardiovascular diseases. Before I was placed on medications, I’d noticed my erection wasn’t like it used to be. Even though my wife didn’t think it was much of an issue, I was bothered. She was more concerned about our general health, and I kept reminding her that sex is also an important part of our health. I spoke with some of my friends, and I learned that some of them faced similar challenges. I guess it’s one of the downsides of ageing. Now, I use prescribed medication to control ED, but I also do lots of exercises to keep my testosterone levels up. My doctor also advised taking lots of watermelon before sex, and it helps.

Ibrahim*, 30

I was diagnosed with bilateral hydrocele—a swelling of both scrotums—when I was 10 and had to undergo surgery. The swelling returned when I was in senior secondary school, and it affected my erection. I could barely get my penis up, and I was always in so much pain. I had another set of surgeries when I was in 100 level. After the surgery, I noticed my erection was always in the semi-solid range. I complained to the doctors and was placed on some medications, but they don’t seem to help that much. When the medications do work, and the erection is strong enough, I feel pain in my scrotum.

The whole experience made me avoid relationships for the longest time because I lived with the constant worry that I couldn’t sexually satisfy my partner. I’ve had breakups caused by my inability to satisfy sexual desires; they wanted more than foreplay and all the other sexual gimmicks. After that, I resolved to seek out someone who wasn’t so keen on sex. When my current partner mentioned she was asexual, I was more than relieved. Our sex life is perfect because we both have tailored expectations.

Ibrahim*, 32

One of the hardest parts of getting diagnosed with HBP was learning that the drugs could affect my erection. The doctor wasn’t really nice about it either. When I told him my dick wasn’t as hard as it used to be, he said, “You have to pick one between your health and your erection.” I didn’t even know what to say. The treatment was supposed to be temporary, but after some checkups, my BP wasn’t down, and the doctor said I should keep to the medication. I still take the drugs, but I always stop when I’m planning to have penetrative sex. So, if I want to have sex on Friday, I stop taking the drugs on Tuesday or Wednesday. I know this isn’t ideal, but that’s how I’ve been managing it.

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