Couple holding hands while walking down the sidewalk.

Sexual Guilt and Erectile Dysfunction: Relearning Ingrained Attitudes

Erectile dysfunction can be a challenging condition to manage. For men that find themselves struggling with it, a big part of managing the condition isn’t actually the dysfunction itself. It’s the feelings that stem from it.

One of the most difficult things to come to grips with as far as ED is concerned is the emotional toll that the condition can have from it. In fact, one of the biggest issues that we can see arise with erectile dysfunction is guilt. Sexual guilt and the pressures that we can face to conform to societal standards of being sexually active can weigh more than the physical toll of erectile dysfunction.

It’s also not just the person dealing with ED that can experience sexual guilt — this can be a big issue for partners as well.

How do we deal with the pressure and management of sexual guilt?

Cultural Expectations Can Be Hard to Navigate

When we’re born, we aren’t programmed with sexual guilt. We learn it from the people that raise us and the culture that we’re born into.

For Americans, the idea of sex can be complicated. Though we see it almost everywhere that we turn, it’s had to talk about sex or have access to adequate, inclusive sex education when we’re in school. Regulations on access can vary on a state-by-state basis. Even so, sex education alone isn’t enough to help teach people how to navigate the cultural expectations of being sexual.

In other parts of the world, access to information on inclusive, pleasure-focused sex can be even harder to come by.

Gender also plays an important role in how we perceive sexuality. For men, there is an expectation to be aggressive, the hunter, or to always be in the mood for sex. And these ideas that we place on people based on their gender can create unnecessary stress. It takes away the individual agency that we have to define what we want our sex lives to look like and instead prioritizes outside expectations. Needless to say, that isn’t a healthy way to approach sexual expectations.

Inside of a church.

Religious Expectations Can Be Even Harder

Besides education and culture, there are other sources of expectations that can create unnecessary stress for people — one of them being religious expectations. Religion can be a major source of sexual guilt. For one Muslim writer, the connection of religion and sexual expectations explained a lot of the guilt that he was experiencing, and that seemed so normalized in the experiences of those around him. In his article, writer Aqsa Hussain found that Muslims ranked higher in negative sexual self-judgment, contributing to a lot of sexual expectations and that “religiosity both directly and indirectly predicted sexual guilt and anxiety,“ according to the Sobia Ali-Faisal study.

The connection between religious expectations and sexual guilt is something that has been talked about before, but it’s worth noting. Especially in connection to erectile dysfunction, sexual guilt can be a harder thing to shake than other parts of dealing with erectile dysfunction.

In conclusion

With erectile dysfunction, the line between expectation and reality can often be blurred. And with sex, it can sometimes be harder to understand where our desires stem from, and whether they belong solely to ourselves or are a connection to the outside expectations before us.

It’s important to be aware of how our expectations can be coming from, and the role that they play for sexual guilt. Because ultimately, being able to recognize where the expectations are coming from, where our sexual guilt can be stemming from, and what this means for our own sex lives is important to decipher. After all, knowing all of this can help us get that much closer to becoming the sexual beings that we want to be, whether we’re managing erectile dysfunction or not.

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