As I mentioned in my last post, I’m going to be sharing a series of stories about our challenges on the path to sexual satisfaction and aging. The piece I’m sharing today is an excerpt from our book, Making Love Again.
This excerpt has to do with our experience dealing with the medical community. What we learned was such a game-changer for Keith and me that we always share it in our speaking engagements, and I’m pleased to be sharing it once more on this platform.
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The time and setting of this piece occurred three months after the removal of Keith’s prostate gland due to prostate cancer. We are in the examining room of Keith’s urologist and surgeon, Dr. Barrett. During these past months Keith has slowly returned to his daily activities and work schedule, but he has not been able to get an erection—consequently we’ve not engaged in intercourse; the longest we have ever gone without making love during our entire marriage.
Dr. Barrett was pleased with Keith’s progress and spoke very reassuring words to us.
“Keith, you seem to be doing really well. Your incision’s healing nicely, and the fact that you’re no longer incontinent is very encouraging. Of course,” Dr. Barrett noted, “the best news is that the test for any remaining cancer is non-detectable. Everything looks great.”
Then Dr. Barrett added the standard: “Do you have any questions?”
Keith sat taller in his chair. “Only one,” he said squaring his shoulders. “When can I start having sex again?”
Dr. Barrett seemed genuinely pleased with Keith’s query.
“Whenever you feel up to it,” he replied, making a note in the chart. “And you do know you can experience an orgasm without having an erection, don’t you?”
Keith nodded confidently. “Sure.”
After making a few more notes in Keith’s chart, and checking one more time to make sure he had answered all our questions, Dr. Barrett ended the meeting by asking Keith to return in three months for another check.
As we headed down the long corridor leading from the examination room to the exit, I tugged at Keith’s hand, trying my best to hurry him along. I was anxious to find a place we could be alone, so I could press him for answers to the new questions I now had.
It seemed to take forever for us to round the corner of the registration desk, pass in front of the somber-looking patients in the waiting room, and arrive at the large lobby in front of the elevators. To my relief, the area was deserted.
I put my hand in front of the button, preventing Keith from pressing it. “Wait a minute before you call the elevator,” I started, “I have to talk to you first.”
Keith looked confused, then concerned. “Okay, what about?”
I stepped back slightly from the elevator doors, pulling Keith gently with me. Leaning close, I spoke in whispers, even though no one else was around.
“Hon, what made you ask Dr. Barrett about having sex?” I asked expectantly. “Has something happened to make you think you’re ready?”
Keith looked slightly sheepish. “Well no… The question I had wasn’t really whether it was all right for us to have sex, but when we could expect it to be possible. I mean, how much longer is it going to take ‘til I see some signs of life?” Keith glanced downward, shuffling his feet.
“Oh,” I said, “Well, he obviously didn’t answer that question. So I guess we still don’t know if you’re on track or not.”
I took one more step backward, my back now touching the wall, and quickly scanned the area one more time for strangers. Reassured that we were still alone, I stood on my toes, reaching up to put my lips right next to his ear.
“Well, then…how about this ‘orgasm without an erection’ idea? Did you know you could do that?”
Keith blushed, and turned his head away from my whisper.
“I’ve never heard of such a thing, Gin,” he began, stepping back and speaking in a normal tone. “I don’t know where this guy’s coming from!”
Then he lowered his voice again. “You can’t have sex without getting an erection. That’s where your desire comes from. I don’t know why he even said that.”
“But Keith,” I pushed, not willing to be put off, “Dr. Barrett must know what he’s talking about. He’s a doctor.”
I was annoyed with Keith. Why hadn’t he said anything during our meeting with Dr. Barret, if he’d found the comment so bogus?
“So why didn’t you ask him about it?” I persisted. “I thought this was something you knew but just had never said anything to me about that being possible.”
Keith glanced up the hallway, and then back at me. He, too, was now obviously annoyed.
“Look, I’m not going to talk to Dr. Barrett or any doctor about how to have sex! I know how it works! He doesn’t have to give me a lesson, for God’s sake!”
Keith’s mouth formed a thin line as he moved toward the elevator button and pressed it three times in quick succession.
“Either it works or it doesn’t, Gin, OK? And if it doesn’t, you don’t just chit chat about it.”
Once again, I just didn’t get it. Here was something important for us to know—something that might help us have sex again—and Keith wouldn’t even talk to his own doctor about it?
Feeling pressured to end our conversation before the elevator arrived, I cocked my head and tried to coerce. “Come on, hon. How about calling him in the morning and asking him to tell us more? Please?”
Keith looked at me with a mixture of astonishment and frustration. “Are you kidding? Gin, listen to me. One thing guys don’t do is ask other guys how to have sex!”
* * * * *
I’ve posted this scenario to illustrate two points.
The first is how frequently things are left unsaid between doctor and patient—especially in regard to sex and intimacy. And the second is the often unknown fact that yes, men can experience satisfying orgasms without achieving an erection.
Keith and I have long gotten over being shy about seeking answers and/or exploring ways to remain sexually active—even as age. Over the years, we’ve become more comfortable asking questions of our care providers, and often, prior to our doctor visits, we search online for answers, so we can verify or clarify what we’ve heard.
As to the second point, the orgasm without erection piece: this bit of information was a crucial factor in helping Keith and me reestablish our intimacy, not only after Keith’s prostate cancer surgery, but equally as we have aged. Anatomically, the concept might not seem possible—orgasm without erection—however, not only is it possible, Keith attests his orgasms are equally satisfying as ‘before.’ Still, when we talk about this during our presentations, this concept continues to be a new revelation to many.
So there you have it: the two crucial pieces of wisdom that have enabled Keith and me to remain active lovers as well as partners…even into our 70s and hopefully for many years more.