Michael Russer said becoming impotent was one of the best things that ever happened to him.
He admitted his erectile dysfunction diagnosis — given two years ago in the wake of surgery and treatment for prostate cancer — was at first “disturbing, to put it lightly,” but explained it’s since transformed into a “a blessing” that’s allowed him to explore new levels of emotional and physical closeness. “Intercourse is great for making babies,” Russer said. “It’s not always conducive to growing deep intimacy between a man and woman.”
Russer, a 61-year-old father of two and Santa Barbara resident since 1970, had recently given up his career as a technology author and speaker when he ended his 24-year marriage in September 2011. “We were your typical baby boomers,” he said. “We went from soul mates to roommates.” Two months later, he learned of his prostate cancer. “People usually do the other order,” he said. “They get diagnosed then reevaluate their life.”
Noting that four out of five of his family members who were diagnosed with cancer have since passed away, Russer said he’s nevertheless fared well since his surgery and treatments and is now “very healthy.” But as a result of his prostatectomy and radiation, Russer has been rendered “fully and clinically impotent to the point that the little blue pill or any other kind of pill won’t do the job,” he said. “I still get nocturnal erections, but they don’t happen when you would normally hope they do, if you catch my drift.” Russer said he had to go through the four stages of loss again, to cope with the fact his sexual prowess would be drastically diminished right at the moment he became free to date again.
Around a year later, he met the woman who would become his “life partner” and with her forged new ways of developing and maintaining a healthy physical intimacy that transcended anything Russer had experienced before. “The biological stuff can literally get in the way of deep emotional connectivity,” he said. “I don’t have that overwhelming urge anymore, which enables me to slow way down and totally focus on her. What comes out of it is such deep emotional and physical intimacy that would stun the imagination of most people who are functioning normally.”
The first conversation Russer and his partner had about his erectile dysfunction (ED) was a little uncomfortable at first, he remembered, but he was upfront and honest about it, something most men who have ED aren’t. “Many try and hide it,” Russer said. “That’s the biggest mistake you can make.” Russer noted that men are often overwhelmingly burdened by societal expectations of virility and machismo that can come between them and their partners. “The word ‘performance’ has got to be removed from bedroom and replaced with ‘presence,’” he said.
Over the course of his continuing journey with ED, Russer noticed how little information and how few support groups were available to men in his shoes. “No one talks about ED,” he said. “There’s so much shame and anger associated with it, and so many men just shut down.” To help remedy that lack of resources, Russer has made it his “mission” to talk about impotency and how instead of closing the door on a man’s sex life it can actually open new paths of possibility toward a more fruitful and fulfilling experience with their partner.
Russer said it wasn’t an easy decision to go public with his message and share the details of his personal life, but, as he put it, “Until we talk about it, there is no healing.” Telling his wife and kids about his next career move was difficult, Russer said, but they’ve been supportive of the work.
This Tuesday, October 22, Russer will speak at the Center of the Heart Church on Turnpike Road, and he is currently coauthoring a book — Hardly Broken — about relationships and intimacy. For tickets to Tuesday’s speaking event, contact Roxy at the Center of the Heart Church at (805) 964-4861 or register online at MichaelRusserLive.com. For more information on Russer and his upcoming book, go here.