[Note: This post is aimed at cisgender men in heterosexual relationships, on account of they are the ones that need the advice. If you are not a cisgender man in a heterosexual relationship, you may still benefit, but it is going to be exclusionary of you.]

I know a lot of guys who have insecurities about how their dicks work during sex. They take too long to come, they come too quickly, or they can’t get an erection. This is my advice:

Is there any reason why a hard penis is required for sex? No, not really. There are a variety of sexual experiences that don’t require a penis at all: cunnilingus, fingering, frottage, BDSM, and just spending a lot of time making out and exploring each other’s bodies. A hard penis is not required for a woman to experience penetration: both hands and dildos exist. (Indeed, strapons designed for men exist, and might be worth investigating if you regularly can’t get hard.) Hard penises aren’t even necessary for blowjobs and handjobs: in fact, the experience of giving head to a soft penis is sensual and I recommend it to everyone.

Is there any reason why a male orgasm is required for sex? Once again, not really. There is absolutely no law stopping a man from saying “eh, I’m done now, let’s snuggle and go to bed.” Women do it all the time.

Is there any reason why sex cannot continue after a man comes? I hope you’re catching on here, because the answer is also ‘no’. I assume gay men have not universally mastered the trick of simultaneous orgasm, and I assume fifty percent of them do not regularly go without orgasm; by extension, there are a whole lot of guys in the world having sex after one of them has already come.

Now, I’m not saying this 100% fixes the problem. You might come very quickly and then be completely uninterested in sex afterward, leaving your partner unsatisfied. It’s disappointing to not be able to experience PIV, just like it would be disappointing if blowjobs were suddenly taken off the table. And having orgasms feels really really nice and it’s legitimately upsetting if you never get to have one.

But I think those issues are only a relatively small fraction of the sadness a lot of guys feel about their dicks not working the way they want them to. A lot of it comes down to things like “I’m not normal” and “I’m terrible in bed” and “I am going to disappoint everyone I have sex with,” and those things aren’t true. Being good in bed is about being creative, good at communication, willing to try new things, and concerned about your partner’s enjoyment– not about anything your dick does or doesn’t do.

I mean, think about it from your own perspective. Imagine that you had a choice between a woman who was a dead fish in bed, who never moaned or touched you or did anything but lie there passively until you finished, and a woman who was a passionate and enthusiastic lover, who will experiment with all your kinks, who has a sense of humor when things go wrong, who can clearly say what gets her off and what doesn’t, and who really wants to make sure you have a good time– but who has severe vaginismus which means she will probably never be able to have PIV. Which would you choose? I think most men would choose the latter. It’s much easier to replace PIV with blowjobs or handjobs than it is to replace creativity and enthusiasm.

It’s totally possible that your female partner thinks that sex has to involve PIV until the man comes, and if that’s not possible then you’re doing it wrong dammit. If it helps, she’s being silly, and you can send her this post and hopefully she will realize how silly she’s being. Female partners! You have a choice here! You can either continue to have a single limited definition of what sex is and be unsatisfied, or you can expand your definition of sex and get to have a much more enjoyable sex life, which will probably include more things that make you orgasm. I have absolutely no idea why you would choose the former, but like… you do you I guess.

This is not just me being ridiculous here. The evidence-based treatment for sexual difficulties is something called sensate focus, which is basically having sex in ways that do not involve genitals having to behave in particular ways. It turns out that when you take the pressure off– when you stop going “oh god! I have to get an erection! why don’t I have an erection yet? please! I need to have an erection! oh no it’s not going to happen she’s going to think so much less of me oh god oh god”– then it’s a lot easier to get and keep an erection. By no longer stressing about your sexual difficulties, you can make the situation a lot better.