When former Senator and Presidential Candidate Bob Dole went on TV to talk about ‘erectile dysfunction (aka impotence), it was a landmark moment for the American male. Men with erectile dysfunction never talked about their difficulties. Public disclosure and awareness had been an unwritten prohibition. Sexual dysfunction, especially male dysfunction, was a deep dark secret and the cardinal rule with deep dark secrets is they fester and create problems. Senator Dole’s appearance did set a precedent for men to talk openly and publicly about their sexuality. Heretofore, our highly elected government officials gained public attention by acting out just how well their ‘erectiles’ functioned!
While one might question his personal judgment, we can still applaud Senator Dole as a pace-setter, helping men to be more open about their sexual difficulties in a world where men are defined to project their sexual potency and attractiveness. Since that time sex-driven commercials have thrived.
Now we not only have Viagra and Cialis ads galore, we also have ads for testosterone patches in which ‘the problem’ is transformed from a shameful deficit depicting inadequacy to a ‘homey’ little insufficiency, “we call it ‘Low T’.” Now that sounds harmless, right? After all anyone could have a low something. And many ‘low’ things are good, right? Low cholesterol is better than high cholesterol! Low blood pressure is better than high blood pressure…, right? So ‘low T’ can’t be all that bad! Hey we can even talk about it on TV! Big masculine men can talk about ‘low T’ and how simple it is to fix while they play baseball or gaze into the eyes of their flirtatious female counterpart.
Perhaps former Senator and Presidential candidate Dole did us all a favor by de-stigmatizing this issue in a society where male competence is equated with sexual prowess = personal power = personal success. ‘Low T’ (aka ‘erectile dysfunction,’ aka impotence) can in fact lead to numerous social and personal problems ranging from domestic violence to depression and multiple addictive behaviors. It has destroyed many relationships, contributed to an increase in our national divorce rate and sometimes has led to extreme behaviors as men strive to alter their ‘erectile’ behavior via the nearest pill, teeny-bopper or erotic asphyxiation.
So as we suffer through ad after ad about sexual anything we should remember that social change does not come easily and is often facilitated by the unexpected.