Pleasure and sex amid cancer are possible. Learn from a Sex Educator how men can have sex during and after cancer treatment.
Last month we talked about how females can have sex & pleasure during and after cancer. This month, we turn our attention to the men.
To recap the basics:
- Sex may or may not be on your mind during cancer treatment – but at some point, you will start thinking about it
- When and how long it takes for your sex life to return depends on factors like what it looked like before your diagnosis, which treatments you receive, and how your partner handles the news
- Many cancer survivors report some sort of sexual dysfunction including but not limited to erectile dysfunction, low desire, and issues with ejaculating
- Newer treatments mean that you have more time to figure your sex life out since they let you live a longer & richer life.
That being said, what do men and the people who love them need to know about navigating sex and cancer?
Cancer can affect your erections.
Some types of pelvic surgery, pelvic radiation, some chemotherapy agents, and the disappointment, fear, & distress that can come from cancer and it’s treatment may impact your ability to get and keep an erection.
You may be able to get an erection that’s firm enough for penetration, but probably not as firm as before. Or you may not be able to get an erection. Luckily, not only are there are many different ways to treat erectile dysfunction, but it’s also possible for you to experience lots of pleasure and even orgasm without an erect penis.
Cancer can affect your ejaculation.
Certain surgeries, pelvic radiation, hormone therapy, & some chemotherapy drugs can impact your ability to ejaculate. You may find yourself experiencing a dry orgasm where you feel the sensation of an orgasm but no semen comes out. Or you may have retrograde ejaculation, where semen goes back into your bladder rather than out through your penis. Neither of these is painful or harmful, though they can impact your fertility. You also may experience premature ejaculation
Another issue can be climacturia – where some urine leaks out during ejaculation. The amount varies widely, from a few drops to more than an ounce (about the amount of shot of alcohol). Urine isn’t dangerous to your partner. If it’s a bother for your furniture, check out our favorite solution below.
Cancer can affect your orgasm.
Despite the fact that orgasm and ejaculation often go hand in hand, they are two separate processes. Having changes in one doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have changes in the other.
Everyone has a different experience with orgasm after cancer and it’s treatment. Yours may feel stronger, or not; more satisfying, or not. Having less intense orgasms is normal with aging, but the effect can be more severe for cancer survivors.
Cancer can cause other sexual side effects.
Pelvic surgery & radiation can lead to pain during sex. Unfortunately, the exact cause is unclear. These treatments may damage nerves in your pelvic area or block blood flow to your penis.
Hormone therapy that lowers the level of testosterone in your body can also cause a decrease in sexual desire. Fortunately, this doesn’t happen to everyone, and younger people with penises are less likely to experience such effects.
Cancer & its treatments can other physical side effects that impact your sex life.
When it comes to sex, context matters. Non-sexual physical side effects don’t impact your sexual & reproductive organs but can make having sex more difficult and/or less enjoyable.
Examples of these effects include:
- Swelling of your extremities (lymphedema)
- Nerve damage & pain
- Weight changes
- Loss of muscle mass
- Skin changes
- Growth in breast tissue
- Loss of hair
- Other physical changes
Cancer can cause psychosocial and emotional side effects.
Decreases testosterone, changes to your erection & ejaculation, and a lower sex drive causes some men to feel like “less of a man.” Thankfully, and despite the messages society sends, your manliness is about so much more than your hormones and your penis.
Other psychological side effects include:
- Struggling to get out of your head and into your body to enjoy sex
- Body image changes
- Self-esteem changes
- Increased stress
- Struggle to be vulnerable & connect with your partner(s).
All this is normal. And all this is something you can work through.
How to Treat Sexual Side Effects
You can treat your sexual side effects.
There are both medical interventions and non-medical options. These vary based on what side effects you experience as well as what treatments you receive(d). No option is right for everyone and you may need to explore more than one option.
Treat sexual side effects with:
- Testosterone replacement
- Pelvic floor trainers
- Changing how you have sex and the types of sex you have
- Treatments for erectile dysfunction including pills, injections, pellets, vacuum devices, and implants
Treat other physical side effects with available therapies like:
- Compression sleeves for lymphedema
- Wigs for hair loss (alopecia)
- Anti-acne medication
- Medicated lotion for dry skin
- Physical & occupational therapy
Treat psychosocial and emotional side effects with help from a:
- Sex therapist
- Somatic bodyworker/sacred intimate/somatic experiencing practitioner
Please note: Any professional that you choose, should have experience working with cancer survivors.
You may also enjoy complimentary & alternative (CAM) therapies such as:
- Tai chi
- Energetic healing (eg Reiki)
- Essential oils
Be sure to discuss any of these treatments with your cancer treatment team. There might be issues with your treatment and some of these treatments.
You’ll also likely find that focusing on creating the right context for sex helps you to enjoy it.
- Figure out which sex positions work for you now, both physically & mentally.
- Time sex when you’re in the least amount of pain and/or time your medications so you can enjoy the greatest amount of sex.
Remember that self-care, from the simple (showering, eating, etc.) to the more decadent (spa day) is also very important.
Lastly, expand your definition of “sex” to include ALL sexually pleasurable activities. This includes but is not limited to:
- Mutual masturbation with or without luxury sex toys
- Oral sex
- Kissing make-out sessions
It isn’t easy when society sends a strong message that intercourse is the be-all-end-all. And it doesn’t change that you may miss your old sex life. Yet, when you shift your definition, it allows for so much more pleasure and intimacy.
Best Sex Toys for Men with Cancer
Tantus Super Soft Penis Ring
A penis ring, such as the Tantus Super Soft Penis Ring, can help you get and keep an erection. It can also enhance your orgasm and may help prevent climacturia. This 1.5″ silicone penis ring is large enough for comfort and safety. It is an excellent penis ring for beginners.
We-Vibe Pivot Vibrating Ring
(Free & discreet shipping)
If you want to add vibration, we recommend the We-Vibe Pivot Vibrating Ring. Rumbly vibrations provide hands-free clitoral stimulation and vibrations to the penis when using the Pivot during penis-vagina sex. Connect the Pivot to your smartphone with the free We-Connect app for more features including using your smartphone as a remote control. Pivot is soft and stretchy for comfort and is easy to use.
(Free & discreet shipping)
The Pulse 3 Solo and Duo Masturbator uses oscillation technology to stimulate your frenulum. This luxury sex toy for men can be used with an erect or flaccid penis. The Pulse 3 Solo is meant for solo play. The Pulse 3 Duo is best for partner play because it has a remote control and has vibration on the underside of the toy as well. No matter what type of cancer side effects you are dealing with, the Pulse is a great option.
Aneros Helix Syn Prostate Massager
There is nothing wrong with using a prostate massager. In fact, many men believe that a prostate orgasm is better than a penile orgasm. When you stimulate your prostate, you can experience an orgasm even with a flaccid penis.
The Aneros Helix Syn is a prostate toy that is specifically designed to help you strengthen your pelvic floor…while giving you immense pleasure. The Helix Syn is an excellent prostate massager for beginners.
Aneros Eupho Syn Prostate Massager
The Aneros Eupho Syn is an excellent prostate massager for intermediate users. This Aneros prostate massager is ideal for men with stronger sphincter muscles, who can control the massaging capabilities through varied contractions. The slim design (compared to the Aneros Helix Syn) and the small head allows for more targeted massages.
LELO Hugo Vibrating Prostate Massager
The LELO Hugo Vibrating Prostate Massager is the Cadillac of prostate vibrators. This hands-free sex toy is also excellent for advanced users. It has 2 powerful motors and comes with a remote control. Hugo’s motors are located in the tip to stimulate the prostate and in the base to stimulate the perineum for dual stimulation. Its base is flexible so you can place it right where you want it.
Fun Factory Bootie Butt Plug
Starts at $34.99
No prostate, no problem! Did you know that the same nerve which makes your penis so sensitive also branches into your anus? That’s why butt plugs can bring people so much pleasure, regardless of gender and sexuality.
Fun Factory Bootie is a great butt plug for any type of user. The simple and super soft silicone butt plug offers flexibility with the necessary firmness for any posterior pleasure zone! The Bootie is a comfortable butt plug that fits perfectly between the cheeks! Available in small, medium and large.
b-Vibe Novice Vibrating Butt Plug
Starts at $130.00
The b-Vibe Novice Vibrating Butt Plug is a small and easy to insert vibrating butt plug for beginners. This silicone sex toy is about the size of a finger and features a slightly tapered design, which makes it ideal for anal play beginners. Novice can be used with or without the included wireless remote control.
Penis pumps can be used to get and maintain an erection or have a firmer erection.
Liberator Decor Fascinator Throe
(Free & discreet shipping)
The Liberator Decor Fascinator Throe is a luxurious blanket that also happens to be waterproof. This is the perfect solution for dealing with urinary or anal incontinence. Plus if your skin has become sensitive, you can choose from a silky satin side or a soft microfiber one.