19 April 2021: I was interviewed today by my hero Dr Jo Milios and the wonderful Melissa Hadley Barrett. It was edgy to be so frank in telling the story of the first year of my sexual recovery after prostate cancer. I think they pointed the way for me to go deeper in this blog, too.
Here are some of the highlights.
From a young age my penis became the most exciting part of my body
Maybe my brain is more exciting. But I admit: all those jokes about men’s brains between their legs have more than a grain of truth! The profound impact on my psyche of my genitalia has been brought home to me over the last year, as my penis lost so much of what had brought me joy. Losing the ability to have ready erections has been like losing an old and dear friend.
My initial recovery after radical prostatectomy surgery was exciting – particularly because of the “undetectable” cancer test results that followed. And I still had some erectile function for the first month or two. Then it all faded away, just around the time I was learning about the erectile dilemma of “use it or lose it.”
New understanding of my (new) male body
Now that my body has changed, I realise how much I have been shaped by the experience of my body being so quick and obvious in its sexual response. I came to expect sex to be spontaneous, natural and “no fuss.” But as my wife points out, that is mostly because my female partners have taken most of the responsibility for the awkward and necessary preparations and precautions.
I’ve had to recognise that real sex is often awkward, messy and funny – it’s not usually like what you see in the movies. Laughter helps with adapting.
Sexual recovery after prostate surgery: acknowledging the losses
There are big differences in sexual sensation before and after prostate surgery. I found my “old friend” felt a lot more rubbery. And now I or my partner need to “work” at it, whether to get an erection or an orgasm.
The bottom line about ED is this. There are many workarounds to make ED more bearable. But for its owner, a penis is much more fun when fully erect.
And for me, more than a year after surgery, the biggest challenge, that can take me into despair is not knowing: do I give it up, or do I hang in there? The experts in the interview give their view on how long it can take.
Difference between mechanical recovery, masturbation and lovemaking with a partner
I can generate an erection now, at least with the Vacurect and sometimes from direct erotic stimulation. But too much focus on the penis is limiting. Paying attention to myself takes away the very essence of lovemaking with a partner. And often, it is difficult as a man to relax into erectionless sex.
One of the scariest and most damaging consequences is emotional withdrawal from my partner when my own sexual response “doesn’t work.” I am so committed to staying connected, but my gut says “don’t get close or it will end in tears.” It is a painfully slow recovery from my arousal needing direct stimulation to getting aroused by erotic thoughts and feelings with my partner.
We thought we were way beyond needing PIV sex … but it was difficult to adapt. Victoria and Kate’s Soft Penis Pleasure online training course was so helpful.
Shifting sands of my sexuality
“I am more like you now.” My sexuality is more elusive, less automatic. I need more attention to my body where previously I was always focused on bringing pleasure to my partner. It confuses me about my gender identity and sex role: am I a giver or a receiver?
My surgeon should have sent me to a physio!
I am so grateful to global leaders in male pelvic floor physiotherapy like Dr Jo Milios, and the local practitioners who were vital to my recovery. As the wonderful founders of the Penis Project say on the recording, there is a circle around the globe of people helping each other understand what it takes to recover from prostate cancer and adapt to our new bodies in intimate relationships.
I am grateful for all the help I have received.
Listen to the podcast or watch the full interview on YouTube: