ERECTIONS ∙ 3 minutes read

What women are actually thinking when you get erectile dysfunction

By Kirsty Mason | Medically reviewed by Dr Luke Pratsides

Numerous studies have gone into men’s experience with erectile dysfunction so Numan felt it was time to pass the buck to women, and find out what it’s like for them. Our research found some unexpected results...

We conducted a survey that digs deep into the female perspective of erectile dysfunction, asking about the prevalence, experience, and emotion surrounding the encounter.

We were burning to know: how many women have experienced erectile dysfunction during a sexual encounter?

First, let’s look at the stats from male questionnaires.

It’s safe to say that a consensus is yet to be reached, with stats ranging from low to high, and varying across countries. A random sample of 600 men aged 40-70 found the prevalence of erectile dysfunction was 34% in Japan, 22% in Malaysia, 17% in Italy, and 15% in Brazil. They found age was the greatest predictor. 

A questionnaire distributed in medical practices found 39% of men reported erectile dysfunction. Once again, they found the prevalence of erectile dysfunction increased with age. A study on men participating in a health screening found similar results, with 32% reporting erectile dysfunction.

Given the above stats, you’d expect to see similar results from the female survey on erectile dysfunction.

Think again.

The staggering results showed that nearly 70% of women aged 18-35 have had a sexual encounter that involved erectile dysfunction, with 34% revealing it had occurred with more than one sexual partner. Of the women who reported experiencing erectile dysfunction, 78% noted it had occurred on more than one occasion, whereas 22% reported that it had occurred just once.

When asked how they perceived their partner’s erectile dysfunction, 43% of women thought it was performance-related, 35% noted stress, and 33% thought it was due to depression. Physical causes such as diabetes and low cholesterol were not reported at all, and only 3% of respondents referenced low testosterone or high blood pressure. 

Despite 83% talking openly with their partner about it, only 24% sought a solution. Shockingly, nearly 60% said their partner did not take any action to treat their erectile dysfunction.

Good news for men - the survey made it clear that erectile dysfunction is nothing to be ashamed of.

When asked about the experience, 39% of women admitted feeling ‘undesirable’, yet positive feelings of empathy and support were just as common, and many women described feeling both. The survey also found that 17% of women felt indifferent to the situation. Reassuringly, women were more likely to feel that the experience didn’t impact their relationship, with only 7% saying they never saw their partner again.

Speaking out about the issue, one woman admitted: "It was more of a big deal to him than me. I didn’t mind. It happens. I remained casual about it.” 

Another woman shared her experiences, remarking that penetrative sex isn’t everything. "A person who I have sex with has ED due to the meds that he's on. It’s never bothered me, as penetration isn't what sex is about and there are other things too. I enjoy the intimacy of sex without penetration or the need to have an orgasm from either side."

The survey highlighted the need to talk openly about erectile dysfunction, with one woman commenting: "My now-husband injured himself while visiting Japan. He slipped and fell on concrete steps, severely bruising his tailbone and swelling his prostate. His doctor told him the trauma to his prostate could lead to ED. I was worried for him - more for his mental state than the physical. We discussed our future and the "what ifs". We had been dating a little over a year so this was the first time we spoke about our long term relationship goals. It was genuinely eye-opening and intimate. We were fortunate enough that the swelling went down and after a few months, he was able to function just as before. Because of this, we were able to establish open and honest communication that continues to develop, 7 years and a baby later."

The bottom line

Compared to surveys conducted on men, women reported erectile dysfunction occurring at a much higher rate. Many women have experienced erectile dysfunction with multiple partners and the majority found it occurred on more than one occasion.

When asked about the emotion surrounding the encounter, some women described feeling ‘undesirable’ although empathy and support were just as commonly described. The majority of respondents felt that the experience did not impact their relationship with their partner.

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