Erection Poll: Results, Analysis and The Great US vs. UK Sex Divide

Medically reviewed by Dr Bruce Oran
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last reviewed June 16, 2021
2 minute read
Medically reviewed by Dr Bruce Oran
Written by Sonya Neville
Last reviewed June 16, 2021
3 minute read
The Erection Poll: Results & Analysis

We’ve conducted a survey all about erections: The Erection Poll. Created with the partner in mind. 

We wanted to know how erectile dysfunction affects our sexual experiences, and whether its impact was so great it started to present problems for our relationships.

In partnership with professional sexperts and relationship vloggers Hannah Witton and Shan Boodram, EveAdam was able to garner nearly 5,000 responses to the Erection Poll.

“I’m really happy with how well the Erection Poll was received and I’m eager to share our broader findings and analysis,” says Dr. Daniel Atkinson, EveAdam UK Clinical Lead. “I believe it will help aid in the fight against the stigma and misinformation that surrounds what is a very sensitive health condition.”

So what did we ask people in the EveAdam Erection Poll? Things like:

  • Have you ever had a partner who couldn't get it up?
  • Did it affect your relationship?
  • Would you question your relationship if the sex/erections weren't good enough?
  • How important is penetrative sex to you?
  • If your partner had ED, would you suggest he takes pills?
  • Would you want to know if your partner was taking meds for ED?

Hannah and Shan, who helped to create and promote the Erection Poll, analyzed just some of the key data in a joint YouTube video.

You can watch the whole video here.

How do people in the USA respond to ED compared with people in the UK?

There were several similarities, but also several differences between UK and US respondents in how they perceived and approached ED in a relationship.

In the UK, 72% of participants knew precisely what erectile dysfunction was and why it happens. 

(Hint: it’s when the penis is unable to remain rigid enough in moments of sexual stimulation. ED can be caused by health conditions or poor lifestyle choices and often relates to blood vessel health. But ED can also be the result of psychological issues, like performance anxiety.)

However, only 61% of US respondents knew exactly what ED was and how it happened. 

More surprising still, this contrasts with real-life experiences. 67% of US participants had been with a sexual partner who had problems becoming, or remaining, erect. Whereas just 56% of UK respondents had encountered ED.

Questioning a relationship because of ED​

US participants also had a slightly more concerned attitude toward ED and the problems that may arise because of it. 68% of US respondents would question their relationship if the erections weren’t “good enough,” compared with 59% of UK participants. 

“While there is a significant difference here, what really stands out to me is that more than half of respondents know what ED is and some of the reasons it happens and more than half (we don’t know if it’s the same half) would question their relationship if they or their partner were affected by ED,” comments Dr. Atkinson.

“It highlights two really important things,” he continues. “The first is that erectile dysfunction affects lots of people and that includes men with ED and their partners, and also that people view sex as important to them. But secondly, it prompts us to consider whether men have access to the help they need to address something that is both common and important.”

ED: make up or break up?

We asked the question “Would you break up with a partner who frequently couldn’t get it up?” While the top answers were similar in both countries, the US had three times as many people answer that penetrative sex was too important to them to remain in the relationship.

We also asked “How important is penetrative sex to you?” 17% of those in the UK reported it was “the best part of sex,” compared to 24% in the US. 

But there were also some similarities and consensus between the two nations. For example, 91% and 89% of partners would want to know that their partner was taking erectile dysfunction medication, for the UK and US respectively.

56% of UK participants would suggest ED pills if their partner was experiencing erection problems, compared with 60% of US participants.

What do partners have to say about ED?

We also asked people to tell us, in their own words, what they said in the moment when faced with ED. 

They were:

  • Do you feel you handled it well? What did you say?
  • Did you say anything to make the situation worse? What did you say?
Analyzing the response types, we identified the following trends for the UK.

And in America, here’s how partners felt they handled the tricky situation.

We also picked out key quotations from these questions that ask for a written response.

The Erection Poll takeaway: communication and compassion go a long way

One of our biggest findings surrounded the importance of good communication in relationships. While it stands out that more than half of partners would break up because of ED, they would only do so if their partner was unable to talk about it and communication broke down. With this knowledge, hopefully those who experience the symptoms and, sometimes, debilitating psychological nature of ED are reassured and feel more confident being open with their partners.

Sex in modern relationships now comes with so many expectations that the psychological pressure to 'perform' means that many men are doomed to failure before they’ve even begun. We definitely need to work on communicating more honestly with our partners to develop the intimacy that is the much more enjoyable part of sexual relationships.

Dr. Atkinson, EveAdam UK Clinical Lead Tweet

“We were quite struck by the sheer amount of understanding and acceptance that were displayed in these personal accounts of ED,” says Dr. Atkinson. “Some of the data we analyzed was surprising, but mostly there was a genuine theme of compassion running throughout these survey responses. Above all else, this seemed to be the key theme. That many people are just doing their best to create safe spaces in their sexual, romantic and long-term relationships where men experiencing ED feel comfortable enough to come forward and communicate.”

“It’s worth considering how men (and their partners) think about the act of sex and whether ED is viewed as an indication of their ‘performance,'” Dr. Atkinson continues. “Esther Perel’s book Mating in Captivity discusses whether sex in modern relationships now comes with so many expectations that the psychological pressure to ‘perform’ means that many men are doomed to failure before they’ve even begun. Pornography is just a click away, and is often the main source of sex education for many young people and most of it doesn’t portray the reality of sex in every day life. I suppose that sex and intimacy in loving, respectful relationships doesn’t sell! Whilst there are lots of very effective medical treatments like Viagra and Cialis which can help with the physical ‘plumbing’ aspects of penetrative sex, we definitely need to work on communicating more honestly with our partners to develop the intimacy that is the much more enjoyable part of sexual relationships.”

Many people are just doing their best to create safe spaces in their sexual, romantic and long-term relationships. Talk to your partner. Our survey data shows that you are likely to be understood. Our data shows that your concerns are likely to be met with compassion.

Dr. Atkinson, EveAdam UK Clinical Lead Tweet
“I would implore any person experiencing erectile dysfunction to do just that,” Dr. Atkinson concludes. “Talk to your partner. Our survey data shows that you are likely to be understood. Our data shows that your concerns are likely to be met with compassion. And, lastly, our findings indicate that by communicating, your relationship might stand a better chance of surviving.”

Love data?

Download an infographic of all the Erection Poll results here.

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