When a character about to have sex cannot get it up. The cause is often a sexual version of Performance Anxiety, but may also sometimes be related to Unresolved Sexual Tension — for someone other than the person they're with at the moment. The "guy can't get hard for girl(s)" variation is the most common — the phrase, "It's okay, this sort of thing happens to lots of guys," is closely associated with this trope.
Strictly a comedy trope, since the situation is usually temporary, and playing it for drama lasts longer. Double points if something like, "I'm sorry, I swear this has never happened to me before " or the above-mentioned, "It's okay " phrase shows up in the dialog.
Can be Truth in Television (and there are usually other ways to get the job done). One of the leading causes is the classic panic attack, which causes an adrenaline rush and in turn diverts blood flow away from the genitals - quite a lot of blood heads downward to facilitate sexual activity, yet much more blood is diverted back upwards when adrenaline is involved, mostly so that your essential organs can function at their best. Other common causes of erectile dysfunction include age (it's four times more common among men in their 60s than those in their 40s), poor cardiovascular health, stress, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption.
The Distaff Counterpart to this trope (in which a female character is incapable of getting properly lubricated and/or sufficiently "relaxed") is not unheard of but, as the above description suggests, the male version is infinitely more common in fiction. There's an additional Double Standard in that male examples are almost invariably played for comedy with the man being the butt of the joke: female examples either tend to attribute the character's lack of lubrication to her partner's sexual inadequacy or unattractiveness, or to deep-seated psychological issues or traumatic sexual experiences.
Contrast Raging Stiffie, Speed Sex (for when the guy goes off too quickly rather than not at all), Something Else Also Rises. Parodies of the latter are occasionally used as a visual gag — e.g. a skyscraper collapsing. Think Unsexy Thoughts is an inversion of this.
- Maison Ikkoku: Godai and Kyoko's encounter in a Love Hotel, after Kyoko says she's thinking of Soichiro (meaning the dog, but Godai interprets it as her late husband).
- Girl Friends: Akko's night with some random drunk guy after a party. Naturally, he begs her to keep it a secret.
- The hermaphrodite protagonist of Boku no Futatsu no Tsubasa once tries to have sex with a boy she likes. He can't get it up. She then does it with the local Casanova, who is apparently indifferent to her peculiarities, but in the end, decides that she likes girls better, anyway.
- When Miharu is introduced in Aki Sora, he says that he can only get aroused when he's watching his girlfriend having sex with another guy; in a later chapter, he yells out a window that he's impotent.
- In the yaoi manga Brother, Asuka has been completely unable to get it up with Rosie Palms ever since his stepbrother Yui caught him in the act and expressed his contemptuous disapproval. He's been trying to fix it ever since, but it isn't until Yui confesses to him that he hasn't been able to get it up either after Asuka unknowingly made him jizz in his pants and then initiates sex with him (mainly because he believes they're going to die soon) that Asuka's impotence is cured.
- Takezaki in Sensitive Pornograph. His girlfriend is not pleased. He gets slapped good.
- Tomoe from Kamisama Kiss heads to the Red Light District after Nanami heads to a summit. However, it is implied that he does this because he is lonely while she is gone. So he merely gets drunk and falls asleep without having sex with any of the girls.
- In Kanokon, Kota Oyamada had this problem at one time. His girlfriend(s?) were worked up trying to fix this. Apparently, it was a problem with pent up youki that didn't come out from... the pipe and was instead released as sort of an aura outside. The ironic part? That aura down right seduced every female around him.
- Happened three times in City Hunter. The first time Ryo had been stung by a killer bee, and the initial antidote to the poison had this side effect (other versions of the antidote had rather interesting side effects). The second time a Phantom Thief hypnotizes Ryo into impotence to neutralize his "Mokkori Power" (aka his will to fight and win), giving Ryo a really hard time until he got horny enough to break out of the block. The third time it happened to the Phantom Thief: he had tried to hypnotize Ryo into eternal impotence, but Ryo was carrying a mirror, and the idiot hypnotized himself.
- Rudeus in Mushoku Tensei has a more extreme version of this after Eris leaves after sleeping with him. His "illness" not only means he can't perform with two separate women but also that he didn't have an erection at all for three years. He only overcomes it thanks to Sylphy, booze, and generous use of an aphrodisiac. This is not played for comedy, as it originates from an emotionally traumatic event and only compounds his feelings of inadequacy.
- In So, I Can't Play H!, Lisara has to periodically drain Ryousuke's energy to stay in the human world. He learns that every time this happens, he has to wait a while before he can get it up. This is what upsets him the most, not the pain or potentially dying.
- In the Seraph of the End Light Novel The Story of Vampire Mikaela, the Templars repeatedly make jokes about this towards each other.
- One interpretation of the Viscount's broken sword in Marriage A-la-Mode is as a symbol of sexual impotence; while the lace nightcap being sniffed by one of the family dogs indicates that he has just returned from a brothel, it appears he was unable to perform, probably as a result of his case of syphilis. (The damp patch on the front of his wife's skirt and her contented expression suggest that her own extramarital tryst had a more satisfactory ending.)
- Happens in The Rise of Arsenal #3 when Roy Harper, who's strung out on drugs and grieving for his daughter, can't get it up to have hate sex with Cheshire. He then goes out to beat up some druggies with a dead cat. At least one fan has since gone on to coin the nickname of The Inability To Rise Of Arsenal for the series in the wake of this incident.
- Marvyn from Donjon angrily lists all the reasons he doesn't want the power of Immortality. One of them is that he "didn't have an erection since the planet stopped spinning."
- Dan Dreiberg aka Nite Owl of Watchmen suffers from this as he's trying to romance Laurie/Silk Spectre. He overcomes this after some back-into-superhero-costume experience.
- Also a staple in Red Ears.
- The Spider-Man villain Overdrive becomes impotent for a while after using his powers. On the flip side, if he has sex, he has to wait a while before he can use his powers.
- Roark Junior, the truly vile title character of the Sin City story "That Yellow Bastard", loves to hear his young victims scream. It's the only way he can get aroused, and the only way he can even get it up.
- In Spider-Man/Black Cat: The Evil That Men Do, one of the things that drives Francis Klum into villainy is the fact that the sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of his older brother has left him with persistent impotence.
- In a What If? dual-issue where Spider-Man marries Black Cat instead of Mary Jane Watson, Felicia suffers from this on their wedding night, the implication being that she doesn't find Peter sexually attractive at all. It isn't until they return to New York City and start fighting crime again that her libido returns, leaving Peter torn about his decision to wed her in the first place. She finally accepts Peter for who he is while dying, having murdered Vulture for him in misguided revenge (Toomes had discovered Spider-Man's secret identity and immediately launched an attack on Aunt May's house).
- One two-parter in Justice Society of America Classified opens with Rex Tyler, the Golden-Age Hourman, experiencing some trouble keeping up with his wife. She suggests that maybe instead of Miraclo, he should try some "little blue pills".
- At the end of their mini-series in Convergence, Stephanie Brown and seeming perma-virgin Tim Drake very nearly consummate their relationship with some Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex... only to find both are too tired and sore from their earlier battle with Gorilla Grodd to go through with it. They settle for just falling asleep cuddling instead.
- The Bolt Chronicles: Bolt is unable to perform sexually in The Wind after eating uncooked bread dough, which releases copious amounts of alcohol into his stomach.
- This issue is one of the central problems plaguing Shining Armor in Cadence in a Minor. Being raped by deception by a Changeling has left him with multiple symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder of which impotence is just one.
- The central conflict of Cup of Tea is that Phoenix can't get aroused with Edgeworth trying to deal with it. While Phoenix is still a good lover despite this, it bothers Edgeworth that he can't reciprocate. Turns out Phoenix has a pretty good reason.
- Shining Armor experiences this problem after the birth of his and Cadance's daughter in Diaries of a Madman, resulting in him seeking advice from Navarone.
- While not played completely straight, Hellsing Ultimate Abridged has Alucard and Anderson poised to kill the shit out of each other when Seras comes along with a bunch of octogenarians.
- Alucard: Hahh... welp, my boner's gone.
Anderson: Aye. Kind of a mood killer.
- I Am NOT Going Through Puberty Again!: Due to being trapped in the bodies of their prepubescent selves, Naruto and Sasuke are effectively impotent, much to the amusement and annoyance of their wives.
- Odd Obsession: Kenji, who looks to be at least a quarter-century older than his thirty-ish and very attractive wife, can't get it up anymore. He takes rather extreme and ill-advised measures to change that. Measures like taking pictures of his wife in the nude while she's passed out drunk, and pushing her into an affair with much younger, handsome Dr. Kimora.
- In The Private Life of Don Juan, Don Juan is feeling his age, complaining about his aches and pains and how he can't always get it up. He confesses to his doctor that "Nowadays when I sit down to a quiet game with a lady, I'm no longer sure of holding the cards."
- In the 1982 remake of Cat People, Paul picks up a blonde in a cemetery and experiences this problem. He's seen crying that he was always afraid "it" would happen again; she comforts him that she knows how to take care of guys like him. And then "it" turns out to be something that happens when he does get it up (namely, turning into a black leopard and eating the nearest human).
- Space Jam: In a Getting Crap Past the Radar moment, a shrink asks Patrick Ewing if he is having this problem during the Basketball Jones segment. He angrily responds with a 'No!'
- A Beautiful Mind - Tragically so. Thank goodness he gets better.
- Happens to a supporting character in the film Mannequin.
- Happens in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, although with a justification:
Peter: Maybe the problem is that you broke my heart into a million pieces and so my cock doesn't want to be around you anymore! Okay? EVER!
- Happened to the protagonist of 40 Days and 40 Nights partway through coitus. He tried faking an orgasm, but, well...
- Spoofed in Top Secret!. Thanks to a subverted Sexy Discretion Shot, Hillary seems to be consoling Nick for failing to get it up, but then it turns out that she's reading a romance novel out loud. Then they get serious about the lovemaking.
- Murder in the First: Not at all played for laughs when it happens to Henri Young (as played by Kevin Bacon).
- The clear implication of Dr. Strangelove is that General Ripper's descent into madness began when he became impotent, which he blamed on Communists contaminating his precious bodily fluids by putting fluoride in our water.
- Plays as a key point in The Departed as Colin's girlfriend, "Little Miss Freud," gives him the above speech, more or less. That doesn't stop her from getting some much-deserved lovin' and a bun in the oven from Billy.
- In the original movie of M*A*S*H, camp dentist Painless Pole Waldowski (known to all as the "best-equipped man" in the Army Medical Corps) becomes suicidal after he finds himself unable to rise to the occasion. He comes to Hawkeye asking for some pill that will make it quick and painless (the suicide), but instead is given a weak sleeping pill and provided with a friendly nurse who is shipping home the next day. He's back to himself by morning and the nurse is seen smiling uncontrollably as her chopper departs.
- In Death Becomes Her Madeline accuses Ernest of this. He doesn't deny it, just tells her to shut up. Since he's a middle-aged alcoholic and she's turned into a shallow hateful woman he no longer loves, this is pretty well justified.
- Clyde in Bonnie and Clyde, which might be Truth in Television.
- In Revenge of the Nerds, Jerk Jock Stan is shown at least twice having "problems" (even when getting a handjob from his girlfriend Betty); this eventually leads to Betty's HeelFace Turn when the nerdy Lewis rapes her while disguised as Stan.
- In Being There, the President suffers from this, as a literal reflection of his corresponding "impotence" as a political leader.
- Dr. Herbert Bock, George C. Scott's character in The Hospital, claims he's been "impotent for years," then goes into a rant where he declares, "Impotence is beautiful, baby!" The impotence Bock speaks of, however, goes beyond the physical. He goes on:
"When I say impotent, I don't mean merely limp. Disagreeable as it may be for a woman, a man may lust for other things, something less transient than an erection, some sense of permanent worth. That's what medicine was to me, my reason for being. When I was 34, Miss Drummond, I presented a paper before the annual convention of the Society of Clinical Investigation that pioneered the whole goddamn field of lmmunology. A breakthrough! I'm in all the textbooks. I happen to be an eminent man, Miss Drummond. You know something else? I don't give a goddamn. When I say impotent I mean I've lost even my desire to work. That's a hell of a lot more primal passion than sex. I've lost my reason for being. My purpose. The only thing I ever truly loved. It is all rubbish, isn't it? Transplants, antibodies, we manufacture genes, we can produce birth ectogenetically, we can practically clone people like carrots, and half the kids in this ghetto haven't even been inoculated for polio! We have established the most enormous medical entity ever conceived and people are sicker than ever! We cure nothing! We heal nothing! The whole goddamn wretched world is strangulating in front of our eyes. That's what I mean when I say impotent."
- In Animal House:
"Greg, honey, is it supposed to be this soft?"
- Happens to Frank in Far From Heaven when he tries to have sex with his wife Cathy — he's drunk, but there are other problems as well. She tries to comfort him by saying she doesn't care and that he's "all man", but it doesn't quite help.
- The '60s British comedy The Family Way concerns a newly-married couple who are forced by economic necessity to share a flat with the husband's parents, which leads to the young man's failure to consummate the union.
- Airplane II: The Sequel makes fun of this by having impotence as the Berserk Button of suicidal passenger Joe Saluchi.
- Marcus of Bad Boys II suffers this as a result of getting Shot in the Ass by Mike during the first shootout of the movie. He only gets better after accidentally ingesting some X (the drug whose traffic the two are trying to fight) during a trip to the morgue, leading to one of the most hilarious scenes in the movie.
- In Victor/Victoria, King Marchand finds himself distracted by thoughts of "Victor" and suffers from this while trying to have sex with his girlfriend Norma.
- This is a major plot point in Love and Other Drugs, which is about a Viagra salesman.
- Alpha Dog: Johnny Truelove can't get it up in a scene with his girlfriend near the end, because he's terrified of getting caught for Zack's murder.
- Tonny in Pusher 2 hires two prostitutes for a celebratory orgy after getting out of prison, but is completely unable to perform. This is just one of an entire film's worth of indignities that he suffers.
- The Australian film The Boys has the Villain Protagonist get aggressive towards his girlfriend because he is unable to get erect after returning from jail.
- Brandon from Shame is another tragic example. Usually performing very well with Anything That Moves, he can't get it up with the woman he's emotionally invested in.
- In The Real Blonde, a soap opera star cannot perform after seducing a coveted "real blonde." After she humiliates him, and he gets his revenge, he goes back to a fake blonde.
- In the 2006 Sweeney Todd film Sweeney, due to his Tragic Backstory (read: MadonnaWhore Complex resulting from the death of his mother) has, shall we say, issues with his sexuality.
- Played for Drama in Cast a Giant Shadow. A woman mentions that her husband suffers from impotence. It's implied to be a result of trauma from the Holocaust (he is a survivor).
- The titular character in You Don't Mess with the Zohan experiences this while trying to pleasure yet another elderly female client and is surprised and embarrassed. The client tells him it's fine. They really only come in to get their hair done. The screwing is just a bonus. Later, he realizes it could be because he's falling for his boss and doesn't want to be with anyone else.
- In Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, the titular super groovy super spy suffers this problem. While shagging it up with an enemy spy named Ivana Humpalot, Austin's mojo (literally his libido/sex drive) is drained out of his body back in 1969, causing him to immediately go limp in 1999. In order to save himself from perpetual erectile dysfunction, he, therefore, has to boogie on back to the Swingin' Sixties. While there, he gains a new encouragement to retrieve his mojo when he meets sexy CIA agent Felicity Shagwell. The groovy hippie chick's desire to compete in the bedroom Olympics with the International Man of Mystery only increases his desire to cure his impotence and retrieve his precious mojo from Dr. Evil so he can finally take Felicity to bed.
- In Kick-Ass 2, The Motherfucker is humiliated when he attempts to rape Night Bitch but can't get it up.
The Motherfucker: You're done banging superheroes, baby. It's time to see what evil dick feels like.
After a few unsuccessful tries by The Motherfucker to get it up:
Night Bitch: I guess evil dick feels limp.
- Mike in Birdman has a hard time getting hard outside of the stage, which Lesley brings up after nearly getting raped onstage by him for the sake of method acting. Mike also shows reluctance towards Sam's attraction to him at first and states this as the reason.
- Parodied in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, where Ace apologetically tells his girlfriend, "That's never happened to me before. I must be tired" — after having Destructo-Nookie with her three times. He only takes 15 seconds to be ready again.
- Begbie for most of T2 Trainspotting.
- Red Sparrow: Invoked. After fighting off a rape attempt, Dominika is told to service her would-be rapist in front of her SVR class, with the Arc Words "find out what he needs and give it to him". She instead strips off in a sexually dominant fashion and acts as if she expects him to service her, and as a consequence, he can't get it up. Dominika then tells the class that what he needs is to feel power over her.
- In Bank Shot, Ballentine explains to El that the food in prison was spiked with saltpeter, and asks her if she knows what that does. El kisses him and, when he fails to become aroused, he explains that that is what saltpeter does.
- In Some Like It Hot, Joe tells Sugar that he's never been able to get it up no matter how many beautiful women his parents tried to set him up with. He's lying but Sugar insists on seducing him to cure his impotence, which is exactly what he was hoping for.
- Shakespeare in Love: Shakespeare's been suffering from impotence in conjunction with his writer's block. After he meets Viola, both end.
- The Assignment (2016): After his involuntary surgery, Frank tries to have sex with his girlfriend (having been made physically female). However, he isn't able to feel anything, and consults a doctor who says sensation won't come back for around six months.
- A woman notices her elderly husband chatting up a young woman at a party. She goes up behind him and says "Dear, do leave the poor girl alone, imagine her disappointment if she happened to say yes!"
- A farmer goes to the pharmacist and confesses that he's been having trouble getting it up. The pharmacist sells him a bottle of pills, and the farmer leaves. The next day, the farmer is back, looking absolutely furious.
"Goddamit doc, them pills of yours are a total crock! I got back home, showed it to the wife, and nothing! I tried with one hand, then two, my wife used both hands and her mouth, my wife's sister did the same, we tried working it over from both ends with pipe wrenches for half an hour, stuck it in a door, a clamp, and keyhole, whacked it with a cleaver, the neighbor's boy tried pouring battery acid on it, even got the dog to bite down on it so we could try twisting it around, and nothing doing! We tried EVERYTHING, and we STILL!"
The farmer slams the object of his discontent on the pharmacist's counter.
"Can't get this damn bottle open!"
- Not entirely a comedy trope. In the oft-banned novel Lady Chatterley's Lover, one of Lady Chatterley's reasons for her affair with the gardener is because her husband is impotent due to an injury from World War I. The marriage is also lacking adequate emotional intimacy, which is at least as important. The book is a cross between straight drama and an erotic romance novel—few laughs to be had at all.
- Partly responsible for the death of Jack's first wife in the novel Tales of Burning Love. It Makes Sense in Context. Sort of.
- The Frog King: Harry Driscoll occasionally has performance anxiety when he's cheating on his girlfriend with his mistress.
- Happens to the protagonist of the Hard boiled Wonderland section of Haruki Murakami's novel Hardboiled Wonderland And The End Of The World, when he attempts to have sex with a librarian who lent him some books about unicorns.
- Stephen King uses this in two novels:
- In Rage, the protagonist recalls a time when he tried to have sex with a girl at a party and this happened to him.
- In Apt Pupil, where Todd Bowden has a girlfriend, because he wants to look normal. However, by this time, he is a misogynistic, hateful monster, and he's only able to perform when he's thinking of rape and abuse; eventually not even then.
- Perhaps not coincidentally, King once confessed in a Playboy interview to suffering periodically from this in Real Life.
- In The Lies of Locke Lamora, Locke suffers this when his friends tell him You Need to Get Laid and he tries to hire a prostitute because he's still pining over Sabetha to the point that no other woman will do.
- Done without a trace of comedy in Biting the Sun, to the point of the impotent character committing (temporary) suicide over it.
- In Cetaganda, Barrayan noble Ivan Vorpatril gets himself into a threesome with two Cetagandan ghem-ladies during a diplomatic mission, and finds out that his host had slipped him an anti-aphrodisiac in his drink earlier, resulting in great personal embarrassment until he finds a way around his little problem, involving the aforementioned "other ways to get the job done" and some bluffing about Barrayan sexual mores worthy of his craftier cousin Miles. His performance is so impressive that he ends up becoming a Sex God among the ghem-ladies in spite of his drug-induced setback.
- A very popular trope in libertine poetry of the English Restoration.
- Jake in The Sun Also Rises, due to an injury sustained in World War I.
- In Last Watch an Uzbek Other named Afandi (who is over 300 years old but a very weak mage) curses Edgar to have this happen to him the next 77 times he lies with a woman. Anton notes that this is a very Eastern thing to do.
- The impotence of the main character of Ousmane Sembène's novel Xala is used a metaphor to satirise the similarly impotent, inept and corrupt élites of post-colonial Africa.
- Skinny Dip by Carl Hiaasen:
For the first time in their relationship—in any relationship—Chaz had heard that most hollow and dreaded of consolations: "Don't worry, it happens to everybody."... Even digitally remastered, "Bad to the Bone" could not rally Chaz's bone to its usual badness.
- Encolpius, the main character of The Satyricon, Nero's Arbiter of Elegance, suffers from impotence for a large part of the story. It's a punishment inflicted for disturbing the rites of Priapus, the personification of erections.
- Jack Ryan has this problem in The Sum of All Fears, as a combination of job stress and drinking too much.
- In Blood Rites, novice porno actor Bobby reacts badly to Harry's joke about being hired as a stunt man for Arturo's latest skin flick. Jake explains that it's because "stunt man" in the porn industry means an understudy penis, used in cases when this trope strikes the intended actor.
- This turns out to be a plot point in Harry's Game by Gerald Seymour. The protagonist realises an IRA suspect was involved in the assassination he's investigating because Harry hears he couldn't 'perform' with his girlfriend the night before, implying he was nervous about what was going to happen tomorrow.
- Played for Drama in Judge Dee, where one particularly depraved murderer was obsessed by his impotence. He was known to have eight wives, and the judge wishes he could forget what they told him about their lives with him.
- Also taken seriously in The Merlin Trilogy where Uther's self-image and self-confidence are almost fatally undermined by his erectile failure.
- One Of Us Is Lying: In the sequel, One of Us is Next, this is the secret that is revealed about Knox when Maeve ignores her Truth or Dare text, resulting in Knox being humiliated and not speaking to Maeve for a while. When it happened, they simply took it as proof they were Better as Friends. At the end, he and Phoebe kiss, resulting in an embarrassing situation that at least lets him point out that all systems are go this time.
- The eunuch Bagoas in The Persian Boy reflects on how his former lover/owner King Darius reacted to this trope as opposed to how his present lover, Alexander the Great, takes occasional impotence. Darius would become upset and send for a sexual expert like Bagoas to 'make things right'. Alexander just takes it as a sign he needs a good nights sleep.
- In the novel Psycho, Norman Bates mentions feeling impotent whenever he's with a woman. It's no wonder that the knife he uses to kill Mary Crane is a substitute for his penis.
- Rai Kirah: Virility is so important to Prince Aleksander's Proud Warrior Race that when he's unable to perform, he panics and assumes he's been cursed. His informal magical advisor Seyonne is privately amused, but can't tell him he's just overexerted himself, so recommends a bogus "purification ritual" that will give him enough time to regain his stamina.
- In Shadow of the Conqueror, old age has rendered Daylen impotent by the time the story begins. He's especially pleased with his new, youthful body for not having this problem ... only to quickly become frustrated by the opposite extreme, instead.
- In one of Isaac Asimov's George and Azazel stories, "Galatea", Azazel brought a statue of a man to life, but apparently, George didn't explain the concept of erection to him.
- Miracle Creek: While Matt and Janine are trying to conceive, sex becomes such a scheduled, goal-oriented activity that one night Matt finds that he can't get it up anymore.
- In Wings, Brian starts dating one of his old teachers. Yet she was a grade school teacher (or junior high), so Brian had trouble seeing her as more than a crush, and when they were about to have sex, he had what he called, "an incomplete." In another episode, Joe and Helen go on their first date in years, but between Brian's putting a subliminal "stuttering" suggestion in Joe's head and Helen's inability to see Joe as anything other than a childhood pal, the loins sleep.
- Elliot and Maya had an accidental wedding in Just Shoot Me!, and when he tries to ignore it (the circumstances were weird) and sleep with a model, he can't.
- Happens to Chandler in Friends ("In high school, I failed Biology and tonight Biology failed me."). When he goes to Joey for advice, Joey confides that it happened to him once. "What did you do?" asks Chandler. "We did it anyway." Chandler is also involved in another conversation about this phenomenon:
Rachel (to Ross): "It's not that common, it doesn't happen to every guy, and it is a big deal!"Chandler: I KNEW IT!
- Scrubs has the episode "My Monster," in which J.D. finds out on a date with The Gift Shop Girl that his "peep was on the fritz." Another episode subverts this trope. It opens with Turk and Carla about to get it on, then the camera moves to the side...then back, to see them both laying in bed looking distraught, and Turk says, "That's never happened to me before." Later, as each is talking about what went wrong to their friends, it's revealed that Turk was fine, but Carla couldn't have an orgasm.
- One episode of That '70s Show had this happen to Kelso. When confessing the problem to his friends:
- Coupling: Patrick has this happen to him when Sally decides it's time they became more than friends, leading to much discussion about "the Melty Man," and the following exchange as a Darth Vader parody.
You! You killed my erection!"No, Patrick... I am your erection!"
- This happens to Geoffrey in Season 3 of Slings & Arrows.
- Veronica Mars did this with Mac and Beaver. At the time, it was a Woobie moment for Beaver, since the scene strongly suggested that Beaver was subconsciously cockblocked by his brother, Dick (who lived up to the pun). Let's just say when we find out the real reason, it's significantly less Woobie-ish.
- Night Court had The Casanova Dan Fielding dosed with saltpeter right before a "big date," and a discussion about his inability to perform:
Harry (sympathetically): Don't worry, it happens to everybody.Dan: Did it ever happen to you?Harry : Hell no!(Later repeated with Bull, then Mac, instead of Harry.)
- Similarly on Amen, Reuben suffers this shortly after marrying Thelma—the combined stress of his work as a minister, a new marriage, and living up to Thelma's expectations. After confiding in Frye and Rolly, they both vehemently deny ever having the same problem.
- Done metaphorically with Spike's inhibitor chip in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He tries and fails to bite Willow, and the conversation they have afterward could word for word be about impotence (well, except "bite," obviously). Until she realises "What the hell, I'm talking to a guy who just tried to murder me" and knocks him out.
- Sure enough, in Season 6 when Spike discovers his inhibitor chip doesn't work on Buffy, his reaction is not to bite Buffy but to spend the entire night having house-crashingly rough sex with her.
- Drop the Dead Donkey. Elderly hedonist anchorman Henry confesses to Dave (in confidence) that this happened the night before. Naturally this spreads over the office like wildfire, and when his despised co-anchor Sally quips in response to Henry's computer going down "Maybe it's your floppy" Henry bursts out with "YES, ALL RIGHT, I'M IMPOTENT!" right in front of a television crew who've come to do a This-Is-Your-Life style interview with him.
- Herman's Head used this with Herman somehow hooking up with a supermodel, but couldn't perform because he was intimidated by her status (he gets over it).
- A Saturday Night Live skit had a commercial actor being subjected to relentless verbal abuse regarding this while filming an ad for an erectile dysfunction medication. Adding to his humiliation, his girlfriend is brought to the set to complain about it too. The poor guy finally breaks down in tears after the fed-up woman leaves, at which point, it's revealed that the commercial he's filming is for. . . Tootsie Rolls?
Announcer: "When life's screwed up like this, reach for a Tootsie Roll!"
- Used as an ongoing plot point with Charlotte's first husband Trey in Sex and the City, one of the few cases where it is an ongoing issue rather than a one-episode gag. Also when Samantha has sex with a party guest when she sees that her boyfriend Richard won't commit to monogamy, he goes soft inside her and while he's blabbering that this has never happened before, this is the first time that she actually doesn't care that it happened.
- In the M*A*S*H episode "Some 38th Parallels," Hawkeye experiences "The Big Couldn't" with a nurse:
Hawkeye: She looks a little like my mother. Maybe Oedipus wrecked it for me.BJ: Look, it's perfectly understandable. You've been going full tilt since you got here, and your nerves are brittle enough to use for kindling.Hawkeye: Tension.BJ: The war.Hawkeye: Happens to everyone.BJ: Right.Hawkeye: Ever happen to you?BJ: Never.Hawkeye: Fink.
- A more dramatic example happens in "U.N., the Night and the Music" when Margaret falls for a UN observer from Sweden who was wounded down there.
- Happens to Roy in The IT Crowd when he finally is about to get into one of the girls from the fourth floor...'s pants. However he can't get the images of half-naked nerds and old women out of his head, it's a long story.
- Happens to Chuck in Gossip Girl. Since he has feelings for Blair, he cannot get it up for any other girl.
- The Seinfeld episode "The Mango" has mango fruit be the cure for George and Jerry.
- Burt has this long-term at the start of Soap because he feels guilty over murdering his wife's first husband. They eventually see a psychiatrist to help him and he confesses about the murder; the doctor says that, given the circumstances, it was actually self-defensive. This relieves Burt of his guilt and he's cured.
- Gaz has problems for a few episodes in Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps.
Gaz: My penis died, Donna. I'm important.Donna: You're impotent.Gaz: What?Donna: You're not important, you're impotent.Gaz: That's it, rub it in!
- From the Blackadder II episode "Chains":
Prince Ludwig the Indestructible: Oh, on the contrary. We have met many times, although you knew me by another name. Do you recall a mysterious black marketeer and smuggler called Otto with whom you used to dine and plot and play the biscuit game at the Old Pizzle in Dover?Edmund Blackadder: My God!Ludwig: Yes! I was... the waitress!Blackadder: I don't believe it! You? Big Sally?Ludwig: (falsetto) 'Will you have another piece of pie, My Lord?'Blackadder: ...but I went to bed with you, didn't I?Ludwig: For my country, I am willing to make any sacrifice.Blackadder: Yes, but I'm not! I must have been paralytic!Ludwig: Indeed you were, Mr. Floppy...Blackadder: Yes, alright, alright. Now, would you mind—Ludwig: (falsetto) 'Such a disappointment for a girl...'Blackadder: Yes, alright, you've had your little joke.Ludwig: (falsetto) 'It really doesn't matter — we'll try again in a few minutes. Have a look through these naughty parchments.'
- One of Naomi's former partners in Skins had this problem. Seventeen times.
Naomi: I was getting tennis elbow!
- Of course, that may be because Naomi's heart wasn't really in it - she was trying to convince herself that she wasn't in love with Emily...
- Happens to Simon in The Inbetweeners when he attempts to have sex with Tara. However, this was down to taking Jay's rather poor advice of having a "tactical wank" very shortly beforehand. He does manage to get it up again, but not before he has totally scared her off and is subsequently dumped.
- A chronic problem with Charlie "Lucky" Luciano in Boardwalk Empire (probably because of syphilis). He gets better with Gillian, however.
- Was the problem facing Rose and her boyfriend in The Golden Girls episode "The Impotence of Being Ernest."
- There was an episode of 'Charmed where this happens to Piper whenever she wants to have sex with Leo.
- This happened because she was afraid of the elders watching.
- Soaps like to trot this one out whenever any of their male characters is temporarily paralyzed — the man will inevitably express his fear that he won't be able to perform again, even if he does regain the use of his legs. It's also been done in more dramatic fashion:
- On The Young and the Restless, when Olivia's husband Nathan couldn't perform (which needless to say, put a crimp into their plans to have another baby), he blamed it on stress from work, and then eventually, cruelly blamed it on her nagging and pressuring him. It turned out he was cheating on her and therefore too exhausted from having serviced his mistress all afternoon to come home and make love to his wife.
- General Hospital: When Bobbie attempted to seduce her husband Tony in order to solidify their reconciliation following her adultery, his impotence made it abundantly clear that despite what he was saying, he hadn't forgiven her.
- In episode 5 of Spartacus: Blood and Sand, Lucretia tries to sleep with Crixus, but he can't get it up. He says it's because he's nervous about his big gladiator match the next day, but the real reason is that he doesn't have feelings for her anymore and he's in love with Naevia. A few minutes later, he has sex with Naevia.
- Takes a much, much grimmer turn on Criminal Minds, where one serial killer was an ex-swinger who'd become impotent due to complications from prostate surgery. Quite a lot of Killers Of The Week are implied to have similar problems.
- Becomes a major plot point for most of season 3 on Downton Abbey. With Matthew rendered paraplegic and unable to function due to a War wound, there is no one to carry on the inheritance and the whole fiasco was set to start again. But he got better long enough to have a son by Mary, before dying in a car wreck.
- In Peep Show, Jeremy has fallen on hard times and has resorted to sperm donation for income. However, he just can't get it up in the cold, clinical public toilets they provide for him, and he is forced to try and get it up over an image of the Queen from a fiver in his wallet.
- Don Draper, generally the alpha male of Mad Men, suffers a bout while on a Valentine's Day date with Betty at a hotel. She goes out of her way to flirt with an auto mechanic soon after.
- ER's Mark Greene has a bout of this after being beaten up.
- Inverted on "The Puppy Episode" of Ellen, where after the titular character literally jumps on the guy she's dating in an attempt to seduce him, the scene fades back in to find her apologizing and claiming, "This has never happened to me before". (Her lack of response is because despite genuinely liking him, she's not sexually attracted to him—she's just beginning to realize that she's a lesbian).
- On Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, as Horace and Myra prepare to consummate their marriage, only to be disrupted by the shivaree (a 1870s custom common in the West that consisted of family and friends noisily serenading the newlyweds). The next morning, an irritated Horace snaps at Loren, Jake, and the Reverend, telling them "thanks to you, I lost the mood." We get the standard "it happens to every guy" speech from the Reverend, who assures him, "All men lose the mood sometimes", but true to form, they all — including the Reverend — vehemently deny ever doing so themselves.
- Bill Henrickson struggles with this throughout Big Love, in particular at the beginning of the series, due to both the considerable mental and physical stress that he's constantly under (running two stores and preparing to open a third, running and maintaining three separate households, trying to be a good husband to all three of his wives, financial troubles, etc)
- Happens to Alec Baldwin (with girlfriend Jan Hooks) in a sketch during a Saturday Night Live hosting gig. Fortunately, Mike Myers' Middle-Aged Man suddenly appears in the couple's bedroom to console and counsel Alec.
- In the Grimm episode "Believer", Eve shapeshifts in Renard in order to investigate him and his shady campaign manager. Said campaign manager happens to also be Renard's lover and Ready for Lovemaking. Eve tries to go along with it but finds herself unable to operate the unfamiliar equipment.
- The Family: Hank is unable to perform when he brings a woman home and she starts to perform fellatio, due to the chemical castration meds he takes.
- Parodied on a Conan O'Brien sketch, when a man is lamenting this. He gets the "it happens to every guy" speech—from the three women he's in bed with, pointing out that it was inevitable after an entire day of lovemaking.
- True Blood: Jason runs into this when he has the chance for a threesome with two beautiful women; the only problem is he's still traumatized from killing someone a few days ago.
- The Handmaid's Tale: Fred can't get it up for the second "ritual", possibly because he's become closer to Offred.
- In the short-lived spy series Under Cover, Flynn convinces a Jerkass colleague that the reason he's being constantly questioned by an agency psychiatrist is that they believe he's impotent (actually because he keeps lying to make himself appear in a good light). Hilarity Ensues with a dream sequence where he's being grilled by the Director (played by G.W. Bailey of Police Academy fame) on his poor "performance".
- In Spin City, Mike has a brief "hydraulics problem" after Manhattan Magazine names him "the sexiest man in Manhattan" and the Mayor tells him that "once you're in the public spotlight, you can't get out".
- A whole episode of Mama's Family centers around Vint's temporary inability to get it up, which his wife Naomi calls in to talk to Joyce Brothers about when she's featured on a local talk show. Naturally, everyone in town sees it, and hilarity ensues. According to Dorothy Lyman, the episode was supposed to include a scene that didn't make it past the censors, wherein a limp piece of asparagus reminds Naomi of her and Vint's problem, causing her to cry.
- During an episode of Cold Case, the detectives note that the Serial Killer they're questioning didn't rape any of his victims.
Scotty: "So what is it? You can't pitch a tent, Johnny? Is that your problem?"
- Ugly Betty: In "The Bahamas Triangle", Daniel suffers from this when trying to sleep with a woman, due to still grieving the death of Molly. He manages to get it up for Amanda at the end of the episode and they get into a Friends with Benefits relationship for a while.
- In the nineties Fox sitcom Roc this happens to the title character in one episode. His wife Eleanor tries to comfort him, but her ebonics accent makes it come out wrong.
Eleanor: "Now honey, what happened last night is not that impo'tant (Roc storms out of the room) I mean imPORtant! IMPORTANT!"
- Mindless Self Indulgence (who'da thunk it?) have a song about this, named appropriately "Get It Up." In the middle is a short section of dialogue:
"Uh, Jesus... eh, I-I never had this problem before, it's just a... hold on a second, give it a minute, alright, just give it a minute. Uh... do something sexy! I don't care, do something sexy, just... whatever you do don't talk about your fucking boyfriend while we're having sex, how 'bout that?"
- Elastica's 'Stutter' is from the point of view of a woman having to deal with her boyfriend's failure to rise to the occasion.
- Pet Shop Boys' "Casanova in Hell" deals with this, complete with a reverse Something Else Also Rises—a descending swoop of cello strings when it's revealed Casanova can no longer get it up.
- Art Brut's "Rusted Guns of Milan."
"I know I can, I know I can, I'm fine when I am with my own hand."
- "My Pencil Won't Write No More" by '30s delta bluesman Bo Carter.
- "The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apt." by Father John Misty.
Oh my God, I swear this never happens
Lately, I can't stop the wheels from spinning
I feel so unconvincing
And I fumble with your buttons
- Brazilian presenter\media mogul Silvio Santos has a Double Entendre march that can be translated as "Grandpa's Kite Doesn't Rise Anymore".
- Put Down That Stubbie by Austen Tayshus is a parody of Australian band Midnight Oil's hit Put Down That Weapon, with the singer warning that Aussies will go extinct if they keep boozing, thanks to the amber fluid's notorious effect on the sex drive.
- The Hangarounds' "Losing My Erection", a parody of R.E.M.'s "Losing My Religion".
- Kid Creole And The Coconuts' "Mister Softee" has the man making excuses for not being able to get it up, and the woman mocking him for it.
- This was the premise for the infamous "Viagra on a Pole" match between Billy Kidman and Shane Douglas on a 2000 episode of WCW Monday Nitro. Both Kidman and Douglas made sex tapes featuring Torrie Wilson; Kidman managed to have sex with Torrie, but Douglas couldn't get it up, and he was embarrassed by it.
- A Little Night Music "We have sinned, and it was a complete disaster!"
- This happening sets in motion the plot of the farce A Flea in Her Ear. Because a guy becomes impotent, his wife mistakenly suspects he is cheating on her.
- Older Than Steam: The Porter's scene in Macbeth is chock full of this.
- A major plot point (and indeed, the inspiration for) Me and My Dick.
- Happened in an early story arc of Least I Could Do, before Rayne became, ahem, omnipotent. Solved with the simple and sensible expedient of Viagra.
- In one strip of Sexy Losers, Indiana Jones survive the usual shootouts and adventures, only to say, "Today I am not a man" when he's with a woman and things don't quite work. This is borderline NSFW, but safer than most strips from that series.
- Appears in Ghastly's Ghastly Comic between Nort and Kiki, much to her dismay.
- It's revealed that Kagerou's Red had this problem before he died.
- This was Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill's character in NFL Quarterbacks On Facebook; his beautiful wife, Lauren Tannehill, revealed that Ryan was impotent when she tried to have sex with him.
- From an OAFE review of an Alien with loose joints: "If Giger's Alien is based on a penis, this toy is the 'that's okay, it happens to a lot of guys' version."
- In Survival of the Fittest version 4, Dustin Royal suffers this embarrassment when attempting to have sex with Maria Graham. Comedic, but also a relief, given he was taking advantage of Maria's highly distressed state at the time to make a move on her.
- In the Family Guy episode "Big Man on Hippocampus," Peter gets amnesia, and acts like a bachelor. Lois eventually leaves him, and almost has sex with Quagmire; however, when she says she trusts him, he gets impotent from guilt and tries to "resuscitate" himself with increasingly drastic measures.
- This also happens to Peter in the episode "Peter Problems", after he gets fired for gross negligence. This problem goes away after he gets his job back.
- Parodied by Robot Chicken:
Ken: I'm sorry, this has never happened to me before.Barbie: Not having a penis has never happened to you before?!
- Happened to Gerald and Sheila on South Park; unfortunately, Kyle overheard their argument about the issue, decided he wanted to help them make up, and things sort of snowballed from there.
"I need to give my dad a "nerection"""I'm getting a nerection as we speak!"