When Your Dick Stops Working

I’m Alexander Cheves, a sex writer, worker, and educator. Friends call me Beastly. My book, My Love Is a Beast: Confessions, is available now everywhere books are sold.

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I know there is no guarantee that my question will be addressed, but I am going to try anyway. I am a older, gay, male professional. I am complicated. I have been single, celibate for 15 + years. I stopped having sex with men. I do masturbate everyday to men I have fantasies about. I am concerned about my health. I am HIV negative, but I have had exposure to genital herpes and HPV. I’ve not had a break out with genital herpes since March 2011.

I feel that I stopped having sex with gay men physically, because I don’t feel respected, accepted by them. I never got what I wanted in relationships, so eventually I stopped having sex. I also stopped due to the fact that I had an operation in 2014 to remove polyps in my rectum due to HPV. To stay alive, healthy and well is more important to me than having sex with a guy who does not affirm, accept me as I am. Even if I was respected by gay men. I would still put my health first.

I do feel gay men are kind of boring, because they are so insular. They hang in groups, dress alike, and I am nothing like that. I am cerebral, a Veteran, an academic. I volunteer in the gay community to make it a better place. I sit on the board of a gay organization, beside my profession as an academic. I still find them attractive, but I have lost faith in believing that I will ever get what I want from gay men sexually, as well personally.

I am sex positive. I love some degree of kink, and the men I meet are not necessarily into that. I don’t look like I would like smelling and licking feet, pits or inhaling men’s body odor, but I do like those things. I don’t feel this way towards every gay man, but my nose has a way of picking up the scent of a man to whom I am attracted. I have been attracted to guys who I don’t feel sexually interested with regards to their scent or body odor or licking them, but I feel deeply attracted to certain men with whom I need to smell, lick and touch in that way. Yes, I am definitely a bottom. I am heading towards 60 years old. I’m in good shape physically. I’ve been told I can pass for my mid 40s. Actually, I am rebuilding my body by getting my teeth fixed and later my hair thickened and staying fit, so I can look great in my 60s and 70s.

Am I wrong to see gay men as I do? Am I wrong to want to be affirmed, desired, respected for who I am? I am not lonely, but I do have questions about my choice about staying celibate for so long.

Hi brother,

You’re seeking, I think, an argument against your celibacy, and I don’t know if it’s my place — as an advice blogger, sex writer, or fellow gay man — to provide that. As I’ve written elsewhere on this blog, I only encourage people to do what they want to do. I don’t encourage anyone to do what they don’t want to do.

If you want to be celibate, be celibate. If you want to have sex, have sex. I can help you with the latter, but it must only be done out of desire, not obligation or expectation.

I’m assuming that last paragraph is mostly rhetorical. You know, as I know, that no one is wrong for wanting to feel affirmed, desired, and respected. Everyone needs to feel these things. These feelings are the foundation of community. We must feel these things with our lovers, partners, and people.

I won’t deny that our people — gay men — have problems. A minority populace that composes less than 5% of the total population — whose very existence is considered a moral question by nearly every religious institution — can be expected to have problems. These problems are well-documented; you aren’t the first to complain about mean, vapid, superficial homosexual clones. Larry Kramer beat you to it when he wrote his infamous temper tantrum Faggots in 1978 — 304 pages of slut-shaming and self-hatred. You’re not the first to feel that gay men are promiscuous or that gay sex is too dangerous and not worth the physical and emotional risks.

And yet, you yourself are a gay man, so your existence negates, in a way, your own description of gay men, which is painted with a broad brush. You are a feeling thing, a human that needs humans, a person that needs sex, love, and the comfort and validation that come with connection. These are blunt facts, and all the hand-wringing over how homosexuals behave won’t change that. All sex has health risks, and most sexually actively adults have some strains of HPV. To get the things you need, you might have to wade back into the uncomfortable, occasionally vapid, and often isolating waters of gay culture, because in that strange stew are men like you, men who feel the same things you do. You might have to accept some health risk in order to get the reward and joy of sex. Proactive health care practices like regular STI screenings can mitigate the risks but cannot eliminate them. Every fuck is, in its way, a health gamble. We still roll the dice because we are not meant to be alone.

Generalizations about gay men will not serve you well. Gay men are not homogenous. We cannot speak about gay men as a unified populace or make sweeping statements about them — how they dress or act — because there are so many different kinds of gay men. Two nights ago, I went to a gay bar in Savannah, Georgia — the first gay I nervously walked into, many years ago — and while I was there, I realized that something had changed in me in the years since I first stepped into that place. When I was in college and gay bars were new to me, I thought that another man being gay was enough to connect us — that our shared sexuality was a unifying trait that made us able to understand each other.

I realized that I no longer felt that way — that my lifestyle, my cities, my choices, my sex habits, and other things made me too different from many fellow gay men. I met guys at the bar that night who were gay — I shared that feature with them — but the similarities stopped there, and I realized that I had little chemistry with them. Being gay was no longer enough. I needed more than the lowest common denominator.

That happens for most of us. New gays, fresh from the closet, often think being gay means being able to go home with any gay man, and the closet teaches us this. You find the only other gay man in town, message him in secret, and meet behind the bleachers or in the woods, and your differences don’t matter, your tastes and preferences are irrelevant, because you’ve found another and that’s all you need then.

You, my friend, simply need more than someone being gay. And you’re experiencing the isolation and disenchantment that most gay men experience about the “gay community” as they age. That’s okay. But try not to run from it or lock it out. They’re still your people. Lord knows they are messy and sometimes mean — the world has been mean to them, and hurt people hurt people — but they are yours. They are your brothers and sons, lovers and comrades. Those younglings at the bar who all look alike, who gossip in catty groups? Some of them are HIV-positive, and you saved them — you and other queer people your age — when you marched for your dead lovers and the dying marched beside you. Those insular homos, among whom you feel you don’t belong, are, in their way, the payoff. They are the first generation to have guides. They are the first to have gay daddies, and they sorely need them. They don’t realize how much you matter, how much they need you, so you have to simply love them, forgive their childish ways, and be there when they need to break. Your lovers will likely not be found among them — they will be found among other men who have grown up a bit.

Gay scenes vary widely from place to place, gay speak changes based on localisms, and “gay culture” — this monolithic fantasy thing — is actually composed of a patchy network of weird little regionalisms and local rituals. To say you don’t like gay men or gay culture is to say that you don’t like the gay men nearby or the local scene where you live. That’s fine. Maybe it’s time to leave. Maybe it’s time to travel more.

There are gay men all over the world who live in myriad different ways, enjoy vastly differing degrees of visibility, wear different clothes, have different cultures, and enjoy different things. You’re seeing a wee slice of gay culture — the gay men in your immediate vicinity — and it’s not uncommon to simply outgrow the local scene. Some years ago, I outgrew the local scene in Savannah, and as much as I love flitting back through for a weekend, I will never again belong there. The feelings you’re having may be a sign that it’s just time to move on.

I bristle at generalizations of gay men and staunchly disagree with Kramer’s “satire” claiming we’re all vapid clones. It’s an ugly stereotype that, in my experience, is far from true. The kindest and most talented people I know are gay men. They don’t get as much fanfare in a gay bar as the young men with chiseled bodies and big arms, but they are there, sitting on the barstool, the true saints — the ones who have loved so greatly and deeply that they’ve redefined what love is and what it can do. Many of them are men from your generation, some of them are men from mine. They are the good ones, and they’re waiting for you to step up and say hello.

Love, Beastly

Dear Beastly,

I recently starting reading some of your inventive, creative postings online. Congrats on having the stamina to produce content that’s relevant to your wide-ranging readers.

I know you’re not an M.D., but wanted to find out if you, who have zillions more contacts than alter-cocker I, have ever heard good or bad about the costly treatment for ED called GainsWave or any similar acoustic-wave treatment, as well as it’s similarly wildly-priced but slightly different in effect PRP (platelet-rich plasma) injections which allegedly further enhance both function and sensitivity of the penis.

Though you are likely wonderfully young and mostly hang with similar sweet birds of highly-potent youth (generational divide being more pronounced everywhere, but in particular in the gay sub-culture, now than at perhaps anytime in history, thanks to the sheer-line contrast between those suckled on tech from infancy and those of us who came by it too late to consider it fundamental to our beings…), perhaps you’ve parleyed with some older men who’ve tried GainsWave or similar treatment with either success or failure.

If you have ANY insights into this, please share. If I proceed to trying this at a local urologist’s group-practice in San Francisco, I’ll be blowing about 20% of my yearly income to do so. That’s why I’d greatly appreciate any input, as though at a superannuated vintage of 67, most in gay-dom would privately (or bluntly?) think and say that I’ve outlived all usefulness, sexual & otherwise, but I’d frankly like to feel empowered for one last turn at bat, however thinly-traded a commodity ancients like myself are. And spending such a sum, though fully worth it if the procedure is effective, is beyond sobering.

Thanks in advance for any anecdotally-obtained reviews or impressions you might have obtained thanks to your monumental social and sexual connectedness!

Best,
Louis

Hi Louis,

Though you describe me as someone “suckled on tech from infancy,” I assure you I do not possess “monumental social and sexual connectedness.” That would be nice, but I’m not a porn star or gay celeb — not yet, at least. And you’re correct, I’m not a doctor. If I had info, it should not be taken as advice, and I cannot diagnose, treat, or recommend anything. There are some questions I just cannot answer on this blog because of my lack of credentials — I am not a therapist and not qualified to answer questions about significant mental health struggles, the possibility of self-harm, or the possibility of someone else being harmed.

Your question skirts the line of questions I can’t answer, and truth be told, I almost didn’t answer it. No, I can’t provide any info on alternative or emerging E.D. treatments. It’s absurd that the costs of treatments are so steep. Healthcare in the U.S. is broken — most other countries put us to shame — and I’m sorry you are dealing with all that.

The only thing I can help with, maybe, is what I suspect is your real question: Is there any hope for me?

You’re asking a younger man, who you see as more enmeshed in sex, gayness, and youth, if you — your age, your ability, your body — stand a chance. It’s clear that you see in me all the generational differences that separate us, so much so that you might not notice our similarities, but I assure you the similarities exist. Younger guys struggle with E.D. too — I do and my partner does. And beyond all the physical struggles we share as people with penises, we share the universal experiences of wanting and needing to be wanted back — often unsuccessfully and frustratingly. We share love and loss, struggle and fulfillment, sex and shame.

I don’t know all the medical treatments for E.D. It’s clear that it’s not an easy fix. Age happens; it is inevitable. I have a dear friend who had penis surgery and lost several inches of his dick and had to have a penis implant installed, which he manually pumps. He hated his new dick until he realized it was a superpower — he could stay hard as long as he wanted, he had no refractory period. He could fuck, orgasm, and just keep going. Yes, he lost some inches, but he gained something, too. And more than that, he discovered anal play, anal orgasm, and became a fist pig. The sex he’s had in his late-fifties has been the best of his life. He mourned the loss of his past sex life for a bit — he cannot really ejaculate, so shooting cum is something he had to say goodbye to — but he adjusted, rediscovered his body, and found new pleasures beyond his wildest dreams. His story gives me so much hope. I have developed chronic G.I. issues and over the last few years and I have had to say goodbye to my former identity as a total bottom. I’m still mourning that. But I’ve discovered, in this process, that there are more sexual sides to me, that my body is capable of more pleasures than I knew.

So there. That was my anecdotal story. And it should not be taken as an endorsement of penile implant surgery. It should be taken as a lesson: sometimes the body doesn’t work, or stops working, and we must mourn, and then we must rediscover it, this instrument we live in. Regardless of what you try and what medical decisions you make, your dick still might not work as it once did, and that doesn’t mean your turns at bat are over. Sexual “usefulness” doesn’t amount to having a hard cock.

This question makes me sad, because I get so many like it, and this tells me there are many folks out there who feel close to giving up, who feel desperate and are desperately seeking hope that things aren’t over. I imagine there are many gay men out there who feel that they no longer have any sexual value because their bodies do not align with this script, this idea of sex we’ve been taught. Let’s abandon that script — it’s boring, it’s old. I don’t need to see any more pornos. There are many ways to enjoy pleasure and experience sex that don’t involve erections — my favorite sex does not (have you ever tried fisting?). This might be a sign that you need to explore the long buffet table of sexual options available to you. This might also mean it’s time to seek partners who validate you regardless of how your dick works.

You need partners who encourage you to explore your body in new ways. That can be difficult — you might have to look harder and longer, and be more precise with where and how you look — but when you find them, the sex will be better than if you found someone who just wants a hard dick and nothing else.

And you will find someone. There are many men out there who feel as you do — I get messages from them. When you find them, accept each other, touch each other, and don’t worry about erections. Try new things. Do what feels good.

Love, Beastly

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