Good Health and Bad Medicine:
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Fatigue, Weakness, Poor Appetite And Tonics - Part 1
Fatigue, Weakness, Poor Appetite And Tonics - Part 2
Sexual Weakness, Impotence And Frigidity
Stimulants-coffee, Alcohol, Tobacco And 'pep' Pills
Arthritis And Rheumatism
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Sexual Weakness, Impotence And Frigidity
( Originally Published 1940 )
YEARS ago, when no holds were barred, advertisements of remedies for sexual weakness or sexual disorders were rampant in newspapers and magazines. Exhortations to re-store "virility," "manhood" and "masculine appeal," and to correct feminine "weakness," used to appear below the strong figures of handsome men and the full curves of glamorous women. These models of sexual salubrity allegedly got that way because they ate dried seaweed, or yeast cakes or drank an alcoholic emulsion of minced vegetables. Such crude advertisements are less common today, but many people still believe in the magic of today's more subtle suggestive names or pictures.
Sexual "weakness" in the male is an euphemism for sexual impotence. Impotence consists in impairment or failure of the ability to perform sexual intercourse in the presence of sexual desire. It is a fairly common symptom. Contrary to popular belief, it is not due to previous habits of masturbation. In fact, it is now known that masturbation has never caused any of the evils commonly attributed to it. It has certainly never caused impotence in. the male or frigidity in the female.
Nor is impotence due to disease of the male sexual organ, the penis; past attacks of gonorrhea also have nothing to do with it. Organic diseases of the sexual apparatus, whether from gonorrhea or any other disorder, may cause an obstruction of the tiny tubes leading from the testicles to the penis, but this obstruction does not prevent a man from having sexual relations. It does prevent the sex cells or sperms manufactured in the testicles from reaching the outside.
Impairment in the ability to manufacture or to discharge sperms is known as sterility. Sterility has nothing to do with the capacity for having intercourse. It simply means lack of capacity to procreate. A man may be sterile, yet potent. His ejaculatory fluid lacks a sufficient number of sperms, or the sperms may be of poor quality, but he may still retain the capacity to perform sexual intercourse normally.
Most cases of sterility are caused by organic disease of the genital tract. The great majority of cases of impotence, on the other hand, are due not to organic disease but to emotional or psychic disturbances. As a rule, the impotent man is not aware of any emotional or psychological disturbance to which he can attribute his poor sexual performance. Some men exhibit anxiety or shame or disgust during the act, indicating that emotions do play a prominent part in the act. But the psychic nature of impotence is more easily recognized by the fact that a man may be impotent with one woman and not with another, and that he may be potent with one woman under one circumstance and impotent with the same woman under another circumstance. Most decisive of all is the fact that impotence can be cured by a thorough treatment by a physician trained as a psychiatrist.
A quotation from a recently published book on emotional or psychic disorders will help make clear some of the factors in the development of impotence.
"It is a principle of biology that an animal has two reactions in the presence of dangeróto attack and destroy the dangerous object or to run away from it. The ameba is a good example of this. It either puts out a pseudopod and engulfs and destroys the object, or it retreats. Even if the ameba is extremely hungry, it may run away from a source of food supply if this source is dangerous or in a dangerous neighborhood. When we consider the question of impotence we see an analogous situation. No matter how tempting the object may be or how insistent the sexual desire, the individual behaves as if he were in the presence of a danger, as if the gratification of his desire would have severe consequences to him. Such a reaction would be understandable if the danger were real, but usually this is not so. Therefore, because the individual behaves as if there were external danger when there is none, we must search further for the cause of this behavior. This is found within him; i. e., he acts as if about to do a prohibited thing for which he dreads punishmentójust as he abstained thereafter from touching an object when, as a child, he had been punished for touching it."
In the adult male who is impotent, proper performance during intercourse is often inhibited because of a similar feeling of prohibition. But instead of recognizing the feeling of prohibition, as in childhood, the adult is not conscious that it exists. The feeling of prohibition arises from the deeply buried, unconscious part of the mental structure. Furthermore, the prohibition does not come from real, external parents, as in childhood, but from within the individual himself, from a sort of mental censor which says that intercourse is dangerous and therefore prohibited.
How and why did such a critical judge or censor develop? Mainly because of the individual's social and sexual education. This education, particularly during the impressionable years of childhood, developed certain principles in the child; principles which, though buried deep in the roots of the child's personality, gave the child and later the adult, the conviction that to "use his penis with a womanóall women or perhaps only certain womenówill result in some punishment; therefore no matter how great the desire, he refuses to allow himself this function."
It is unfortunate that impotence occurs so often under the socially and morally permissible conditions of marriage. Here, there is no social or moral code which prevents the act. But there is another code which does prevent the act. This code, acquired in childhood from faulty sex education and training, is part of the mental structure or personality. The adult is not conscious of its existence, but it is none the less active in determining the functioning of the individual. In sexual performances, it acts to inhibit or prevent satisfactory performance.
Inhibition of sexual performance in women is known as frigidity. Sexual intercourse may be attended by anxiety or by outright dread or disgust. Just as in the male, there is a powerful code buried deep in the personality, of which the woman is not aware, and which acts to prevent natural function. And as in the male, the overstrict, censorious and prohibiting code develops from disturbed or poor childhood training by the parents or teachers.
It is not possible to discuss why such poor training is prevalent, nor the social and psychological background of sexual and nervous disorders. Nor can we discuss here the essentials of sound training of children. It is sufficient in a book like this to point out the psychological basis for most disorders in sexual function, and therefore the fraud and deceit inherent in all remedies, without exception, advertised for the treatment or relief of sexual "weakness," impotence or frigidity.
If impotence or premature ejaculation or frigidity is a complaint, the first step should be a consultation with a physician to determine whether there is an organic cause for the difficulty. If there is none (and usually there isn't), a consultation with a psychiatrist would be desirable.