There are many ways to describe an erection, but finding the right words is hard when things don’t get as tough as expected.

Londonder Xander Gilbert, 33, has not only found the right words to talk about it – he and his cousin Angus Barge, 31, from Edinburgh, have started a business helping men struggling with erectile dysfunction (ED).

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Xander Gilbert (pictured with girlfriend Alice Howwood) suffered from erectile dysfunction in his 30sCredit: Olivia West
Xander and his cousin Angus Barge started a business to help men who also suffer from erectile dysfunction

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Xander and his cousin Angus Barge started a business to help men who also suffer from erectile dysfunction

Almost HALF of men have suffered from some form of erectile dysfunction at some point.

And Angus and Xander don’t want anyone to struggle in silence.

Xander says: “Angus and I were on a long drive to my parents’ house in Oxford around 2018 when he said he was struggling.

“He didn’t know I had been too.

“But we had a conversation – with the two of us staring straight ahead or out the window – and both felt so much better for being honest.”

Their conversation didn’t end in the car. Drawing on Alex’s background in technology development and Angus’ background in counseling and psychotherapy, the duo created Mojo Men (mojo.so) in 2020. They didn’t look into back.

Xander says, “I started having problems in my early twenties.

“I had a few sexual encounters that gave me huge performance anxiety. I googled a lot but kept it to myself.

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“When I met my girlfriend Alice in 2018, I decided to be honest.

“Before we got intimate, I told her that I had been through it and it happened sometimes.

“It was quite a painful conversation, but being candid was much better than worrying about what might happen.

“It turned out that things between us were fine.

“But I think a lot of that was because there was no anxiety on my end because I had been open – something not many men are.

“Honesty must have worked as we welcomed our first child this year.”

It can also be difficult for women to talk about a partner’s problems, as Xander’s partner Alice Howwood, 31, from Oxford knows.

She says: “Xander was the first guy I’ve been with who mentioned erectile dysfunction, but I immediately admired the fact that he was candid about it.

“Women can sometimes feel like it’s their fault, that maybe they’re not attractive enough. But that removes the problem itself.

“There is pressure to persevere and keep trying. But changing what you do or finding intimacy in other ways can really help.

Angus said of that conversation in the car, “I have no idea what made me open up to Xander.

“It was awkward at first. I felt less alone when he said he took care of it too.

Key questions

WHAT IS THAT? Most men fail to get or keep an erection once in a while.
This is often due to stress, fatigue, anxiety or alcohol abuse and there is no need to worry.

But Amanda Barge, psychosexual therapist for Mojo, says, “Erectile dysfunction is a recurring inability to get or keep an erection during sex.

“For it to be a ‘malfunction,’ it has to happen regularly – about 75-100% of the time.”

HOW’S IT GOING : “Getting an erection is quite a complex process – it involves your brain, your nerves, your hormones, your muscles, your blood vessels and your emotions.

A problem can result from any of these factors, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

WHY THIS HAPPENS: “The difficulty for many is that once they’ve had a problem, they start to ‘spectate’ their penis – which basically means they worry about not being able to get aroused and often fear losing an erection.

“Their bodies go into fight-or-flight mode, which is not a great place to enjoy sex. They’re so in their heads that they’re unable to enjoy the thrilling sensations of making love.

“It can become a vicious cycle, causing real distress and relationship problems.”

WHO IS AT RISK? “Erectile dysfunction becomes more common as men age, but situational erectile dysfunction can occur at any age for many different reasons, including underlying medical conditions, lack of excitement, being in too much of a rush, anxiety, depression, bad mood, relationship problems, fatigue, alcohol or drugs, lack of experience.”

UNDERLYING HEALTH CONDITIONS: “Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease, multiple sclerosis, Peyronie’s disease (fibrous scar tissue under the skin of the penis), injuries caused by surgery or prostate cancer and cycling-related injuries can all increase a guy’s risk of erectile dysfunction.”

…AND HERE ARE THEIR SIX TIPS FOR YOU

Xander and Angus have six tips for getting your sex life back

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Xander and Angus have six tips for getting your sex life backCredit: Getty

CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR: “The first port of call should always be your GP to make sure erectile dysfunction is not a symptom of a more serious medical condition,” says Angus. “However, in almost all cases of erectile dysfunction, there is a psychological element that needs to be addressed.”

DON’T BLAME: “Whichever side of a relationship you’re on, blaming yourself doesn’t help,” Xander says. “Men can pretend it’s never happened before, which doesn’t help anyone. ED is no one’s fault. It is a health condition that needs to be sorted out.

FORGET PENETRATION: “We asked over 100 women what their favorite part of sex was,” says Angus. “Not a single one mentioned penetration. So if ED is a problem, mix things up.

TALK: “If you’re in a relationship, talk about erectile dysfunction outside of the bedroom,” says Xander. “If you have casual sex, consider mentioning it beforehand to reduce the pressure on yourself when the time comes. It’s hard to do, but it could really help you.

HONEST EXPECTATIONS: “Seventy-seven percent of men access porn every month, which can give you an unrealistic version of sex,” says Angus. “It’s worth looking at your habits and behaviors to see if you’re putting pressure on yourself.”

TO REASSURE: “In a relationship, erectile dysfunction can make both of you feel vulnerable, and that’s when it becomes easy to start to internalize,” says Angus. “Reinsurance will go a long way in helping both of you.”