A human being whose standard operating procedure (SOP) has never malfunctioned in the sexual area is a lucky (and rare) one, indeed.
The fact is, anyone can experience a sexual problem, and many of us do from time to time. Fortunately, it’s usually temporary, very temporary, and in no time at all we resume SOP. Reassured.
It’s very important to remember this — especially for men, who seem to be much more vulnerable in their ability to function sexually. Please note, I deliberately avoided writing “perform” sexually. The road to sexual health begins with not thinking of sex as a performance. Lose that word, erase it from your vocabulary with respect to your sexual life. The words we use can have a powerful effect on how we feel, and function. In my practice, patients are told from day one never to say ‘sex’ and ‘performance’ in the same sentence.
It is interesting, and reassuring, that women usually do not think that they couldn’t perform sexually, if the big “O” didn’t happen for them. It’s not the end of their world. They know there is always the next time. Usually.
But the ingrained insecurity in millions of men feeling less masculine if they “can’t do it” is driving a thriving, growing industry.
The flavour of the year, of course, is Viagra (chemically known as Sildenafil). This little blue pill has taken the world by storm.
I recently returned from an international conference in Europe. A whole week of sex talk by doctors, scientists, therapists and educators from all corners of the world. The company that makes Viagra was there, and so were numerous doctors they brought in, often from far away. A major problem with doctors is that many don’t feel comfortable raising the question, “how is your sex life?” out of the blue. And patients visiting their doctor often feel uncomfortable asking for help in this area for fear of embarrassing their doctor. Now you know the rationale behind those powerful black-and-white television ads showing a man at his doctor’s office for his annual check-up and neither the patient nor his physician are willing to talk about his sexual health problem.
Talking about what is shown on TV reminds me of a session at this conference where I showed one of my adult sex ed videos, “Enjoyable Lovemaking.” In the discussion afterward, two doctors said they could not show this in their country. One came from Indonesia, the other from Saudi Arabia. Clearly, we still have some ways to go to achieve global freedom to receive sex education. Especially in the perilous age of AIDS, this should be a basic human right.
Certainly, ED is a reality. We, especially men, need to change our thinking. The Pfizer TV ads can help to do that. But men also need to recognize that erectile dysfunction is not always a ‘stand alone’ problem. It can be the first presenting symptom of atherosclerosis, or heart disease, among others.
Further, men need to know that the little blue pill taken orally is not always the best or only solution to ED. There are a variety of methods modern sex therapy can offer to help relieve this problem and restore natural functioning and sexual contentment.
Unfortunately, most doctors are still unaware of many of these methods, as their own training rarely prepared them. Thus, here again it is up to you, as an educated health care utilizer, to request of your doctor, alternatives to often expensive medication. If he can’t help you, then ask for a referral to a sex therapist, or search one out on your own. Most Yellow Pages now can be quite helpful, as could a phone call to your local hospital or medical association. Remember to check the credentials of the sex therapist you go to, and if you don’t feel comfortable with them, go somewhere else. Trust your instincts. By the way, the impression I receive, more and more, is that urologists prefer not to deal with sexual problems.
Just to give you a glimpse into the future (it’s usually good to know what is coming down the pike), at the same conference another company was beating the drums for its new product, not yet released in North America. It is touted as more convenient than Sildenafil, as it acts much faster, about 20 minutes after taking it sublingually, versus the usual one hour for Viagra, a pill that is swallowed.
Beyond these, research is actively exploring further possibilities. It is fair to say that human sexuality is now under the microscope. Probably, other doors will open relatively shortly, and our knowledge-based approach to helping people with sexual difficulties will continue to grow dramatically. (No pun intended.)
As a final note: Please realize that these novel medications produce erections only if you feel desire. They do not create desire. They are not aphrodisiacs, and they will not solve sexual problems in a relationship, where a man does not want to have sex with his partner. This is seen as a desire disorder problem, and while help can also be obtained for this condition, usually from a therapist experienced with these kinds of problems, the solution is not in pill form. At least not yet. And from my point of view, that’s a good thing.
– Dr. Frank Sommers, July 2001