Why ED was the Best Thing to Happen to My Intimacy


Sex is not the same thing as intimacy. Michael J. Russer explores the ignored connection between true intimacy and self-overcoming


Erectile Dysfunction (ED) is the best thing to happen to me and my intimacy.  There, I said it. Actually, I say it a lot. On radio, TV, print, online and occasionally gatherings (it’s a great way to quiet a room down if things get rowdy). If some guy had made the same claim to me just two years ago, I would have thought he was either insane or just messing with me. Being fully impotent (i.e. can’t get it up to save my life, even with the pills) is not something most men would be willing to discuss. Or for that matter, even comfortable listening to men talk about. The way some men react, you would think that my “condition” is contagious.

However, my impotence is just a context, a gateway if you will, to discoveries about extraordinary intimacy that I would have never experienced on my own otherwise. It served as the most unlikely of shepherds guiding my female partner and me to levels of emotional and physical intimacy most normally functioning couples can barely imagine. In order to fully appreciate how we arrived at such a blissful place, it helps to see the state I was in prior to this unlikely transformation.

In September of 2011, I ended a 26 year marriage where the last eleven years were essentially celibate. It was your typical baby-boomer “let’s stay together for the kids’ sake” relationship. Two months after the separation I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Given that five out of five other members of my immediate family with cancer died from it, I wasn’t about to take any chances. My prostate was surgically removed that December. Despite the successful surgery, my PSA continued to climb (not a good sign). So, just to make sure, I went through seven weeks of daily intensive follow up radiation treatments. My impotence was the result of one of these treatment modalities and is not an uncommon side effect for prostate cancer treatment. Sadly, many men die each year from prostate cancer because they avoided getting checked, mostly out of fear of losing their “manhood.” Let me make something very clear right now. I may not be able to get it up but I am fully alive and have absolutely no problem getting it on.

The irony of being fully impotent immediately after legally and morally clearing the way for new sexual experiences was not lost on me. In addition to going through the four stages of loss related to being diagnosed with prostate cancer, I had to go through the same four stages all over again with respect to my flaccidity. The first stage is disbelief. I distinctly remember looking up at the heavens and shouting “You have GOT to be fucking kidding me!!” The next stage is anger, and I had plenty of that (mostly aimed at myself for being so shut down all those years). Then came a bit of depression and finally, acceptance (the most important stage). I no longer fought reality, which opened me up to unimaginable possibilities of intimacy.

About nine months following my surgery, I met the wonderful woman who is now my life mate. Given that I hadn’t been with another woman for nearly thirty years (and of course, with my “condition”) I wanted to start out slow, first as friends and hiking buddies and see what might arise (metaphorically speaking). However, it soon became clear that we were both open to the next step.

With my acceptance, I was determined to be completely open, transparent and vulnerable about my inability to get hard. So sitting on the couch one fall afternoon, looking intently into her gorgeous eyes, I explained my condition and asked: “Are you willing to explore other ways of being intimate with me?” At that point, some women would have looked at their left wrist (whether sporting a watch or not) and said, “Oh my! Look at the time!” Not this incredibly conscious, beautiful woman. Her response was “Yes, of course.”

Now I could write a book (and in fact I am) about what we subsequently discovered and how we discovered it. Perhaps my biggest revelation however is that my ED ended up being the biggest gift to my intimate life I could possibly imagine. I have to say that even today it is sometimes still difficult for me to believe this could actually be possible.

It turns out my ED gave me the opportunity to slow down as a lover and really focus on my partner instead of taking care of my hard-on. Making love has become an exquisite process, not a goal. And it has allowed me to match my partner’s sexual response profile so closely that we each have mind-blowing intimate experiences every time. 2-4 hour love-making sessions with my partner climaxing a minimum of five times and occasionally more each session are, believe it or not, the norm. And no, she is not some sort of Sex Goddess. In fact, she is fully postmenopausal and has never experienced anything remotely like this prior. Nor have I. And keep in mind, all this happens with me being completely flaccid.

Research has shown that most women are not satisfied with their intimate encounters, despite what our male egos tell us. Just about the time most of us issue our last grunt and roll over to go to sleep, women are just getting warmed up. In fact, one university study has shown that 87% of women reported using vocalizations (i.e. moaning) to boost their man’s self-esteem and speed things up. I am not making this up nor trying to make guys feel bad. It’s just that men and women are wired very differently with respect to sexual response.

As a result of all this, I have made the choice to define my manhood not by the size or stiffness of my penis, but instead on how well I can deeply connect with and please my partner in a context of true emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy. And from that perspective, it really doesn’t matter to me or my partner if I ever get hard again. Never in my life have I felt more as a man with respect to my relationship with women than I do now.

Because I am unable to get hard, no matter how turned on I become, I no longer have that overwhelming urge to “use it” as typically happened prior to ED. Essentially, it short-circuited my usual male wiring. The biological imperative that arises with an erection is an incredibly powerful thing. When we’re hard, we’re ready, willing and able—right now. That’s great for making babies and propagation of the species, not necessarily for fostering deep intimacy with our partners.

This is how it happened for me and it may or may not resonate with you. Either way, I totally respect and honor that. My deepest belief and mission is that exquisite emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy is available to every man and woman who is open to receiving it. And my sincerest hope for the men reading this is that you don’t have to lose your manhood to discover it like I did.


image credit: Flickr/Mr Jaded

About Michael J. Russer

Michael is a prostate cancer survivor who was left completely impotent as a result of his treatments. Yet, it was because of his impotence that he and his partner discovered an entirely new approach to emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy that far exceeds anything either experienced prior to when things were working "correctly." His mission is to help men, women and couples everywhere to achieve extraordinary intimacy on all levels.

He is an international speaker, author and thought leader on the issues of human connection and intimacy. He also speaks pro-bono to Cancer Support Centers and Gilda’s Clubs around the U.S. for cancer survivors and their partners about regaining intimacy in the face of cancer. Go to MichaelRusserLive.com to explore the possibility of having Michael speak at your next event.

Michael is also a champion of the nonprofit men's work being done by the ManKind Project ( MKPUSA.org). He completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in 2012.

Website: MichaelRusserLive.com
iTunes: Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Disconnected World
TEDx Talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XK8f8w7ICng


  1. Thank you for your brave honesty. Your story does not surprise me. I was always fascinated with the character Jake Barnes in Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises” because he had a good rapport with women yet he was impotent. In fact, I always felt he had a good rapport with women because he was impotent.

  2. You are an amazing role model for just about every sexually active male on the planet. Thank you for sharing your story so that others who may be suffering with ED can find their way out. And even for those who don’t have ED.

    • Thank you Bettina. The challenge for me is to present these ideas and experiences in a way that men will not take offense or feel challenged. Most men have an ability to do what I will never be able to do again and I totally honor and acknowledge them for that. My hope is that my experience and continuing journey in the area of intimacy will resonate with many of them in a way that offers possibilities that they and their partner perhaps never considered.

  3. “In fact, one university study has shown that 87% of women reported using vocalizations (i.e. moaning) to boost their man’s self-esteem and speed things up.”

    That’s because most of these women were never sexually attracted to the men in the first place!

  4. Perhaps I can shed light on the above question. My partner was affected by ED a few years ago and we’ve experienced a similar experience to the author. My partner receives pleasure from me. I explore his body and touch him lovingly and he receives oral pleasure as well. He is still able to climax, and before ED had no problem lasting. In our case I pleasure him for as long as it takes, and he is aroused knowing that despite his condition I always make him feel like a strong veral man.

  5. Congratulations on your recovery.

    But I have to say I didn’t fully agree with your article. You believe that most women would run a mile when you tell them that you are impotent, but, in fact, studies show that 75% of women can’t orgasm through penetration alone. So I believe more women would be open to having a partner with ED than you might think.

    • Thanks Alba. I’m pretty sure the article didn’t say that I thought that about women in general. I know many women who actually prefer men with ED as they tend to be more present and giving as lovers (no indictment functioning men here). From a man’s perspective, we tend to be concerned about how our women will view us as lovers. Given the cultural “wiring” that the harder and longer lasting a man is, the better he is in bed (something many women will also disagree with) –it’s easy to see how concern of her reaction was in my mind –especially given she was the first woman in 30 years I considered being with other than my ex-wife. When you are nervous and vulnerable, all kinds of fears (false or otherwise) can pop into your head.

  6. First, congratulations on your physical recovery. Second, I admire your willingness to talk so publicly about this, so good for you again.

    If it isn’t too much a matter of me missing the point of your story, how does this work for you? Your pleasure? If I were in your situation my first concern would be about redefining myself in a healthy way with this new trait factored in, but a close second would be a concern for my physical enjoyment of sex. How has that changed for you?

    • seconded

    • Thank you Adrian. In terms of my pleasure it comes from two sources. I have the ability to enjoy very intense and prolonged orgasms, in fact much more so than when things were functioning properly. Part of the reason for this is that there is no “off switch” that typically occurs when a man ejaculates (no prostate = no ability to ejaculate). Many people (including some prominent urologists who should know better) think you have to be hard and ejaculate in order to climax. Erection, ejaculation and climax are actually three independent physiological processes that happen to occur simultaneously for normally functioning men.

      So yes, I can receive incredible pleasure from my mate (our primary form of genital stimulation is oral). However, I enjoy even greater pleasure out of my ability to give her extraordinary intimacy. The level of satisfaction and fulfillment that results from that is far beyond any orgasmic experience I have (as powerful as they are). It’s interesting that my mate feels the same way. That if either of us had to give up either receiving orgasms or our ability to give them we would both, without hesitation, give up the receiving.

      • hey mike i have to say that i agree in every way with what your saying. i have a spinal chord injury that has caused severe ED and i have the same feelings about being able to give pleasure than receive it. since i have no sensation. i have not had a climax in about 4 years. still working towards it but even if i dont, i still get great pleasure out of giving pleasure. its an amazing experience . i wish i had known before my injury.


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