by Major M. P. Vora, M.B.B.S., D.V.D., I.M.S. (R)

The Home Doctor

A practical guide to good health

Vol. No. III, No. 9 of January 1965

Pages 37 to 41


Male potency is very fastidious. It has a delicate mechanism which is likely to be easily disturbed. It varies from man to man depending on physical health, age, partner and psychologic make-up. Usually it is maintained by emotional balance and vigorous general health. It is not uncommon for male potency to disappear suddenly and apparently without reason, though he may be perfectly healthy in body. Occasionally physical or organic factors may be involved but on the whole and in general, psychic or emotional factors are far more often associated than physical ones. In the vast majority of men, loss of potency stems from some unconscious restraint which blocks their normal sexual urges.


Sexual impotence means that the male is unable to attain sufficient erection and to consummate the union by ejaculation at the appropriate time. Many factors may affect man’s potency. Among the organic causes certain diseases such as prolonged illness, infectious diseases, nervous diseases, spinal or pituitary tumors, drugs used for high blood pressure, diabetes etc., may be cited. However, only a very small proportion of impotency (less than 10 per cent) can be attributed to such organic or physical causes which are easily recognized by doctors. Such cases do not usually have penile erection in the night and rarely complain about impotence or lack of libido as men with psychogenic impotence often do. In a large majority (more than 90 per cent) it is due to psychic or emotional disorders. Hence one has to think of emotional factors in the bulk of cases.


Sexual potency in the male is intimately related to a general feeling of adequacy and marital happiness. The provision of a comfortable, happy and pleasing home plays an important part. A tactless wife who nags her husband constantly, who is sarcastic, overcritical, and argumentative or who belittles her husband is bound to be neglected sexually by her husband. Her continued devaluation of her husband will be reflected in his sexual ability as well as in other successes or achievements of his life. With such an attitude she is sure to induce “hostile impotence” in her husband. An unpleasant incident such as the wife’s scathing remarks, sudden interruption in the couple’s private life by a child or loud noise in the vicinity of the bedroom or halitosis (malodorous breath) due to oral condition may induce situational impotency’ and thereby diminish his desire for love life. Unknowingly a wife can be directly responsible for his poor performance. Her caustic remark may make a sensitive man feel simply ‘castrated’. A wife who is in the habit of tearing down her mate’s ability, courage or skill is sure to provoke his hostility, which in turn damps his desire for her. Some wives are victims of the Victorian myth that sex is shameful and are frigid themselves and do not enjoy being women. They try to fulfill their obligations in marriage out of a sense of duty. Such an attitude on her part may have a profound effect on his potency. Sex without love is dwarfed activity and mockery. With love, sex can be poetry, ecstasy of the spirit and the richest fulfillment of emotions of two human beings. Sometimes a prudish wife’s refusal to participate in certain sexual foreplay, thinking it erroneously to be a perversion, may be responsible for the man’s impotence. Actually authorities on sex agree that these preliminaries are generally a normal part of sex life. It is therefore, not right for her to hesitate or refuse to accept some new type of stimulation he may introduce. With the maturation of marriage, sexual variations between husband and wife can bring an added satisfaction. Then there are some passive men who feel that their wives owe them love. Such men are frigid or unmoved until their wives take the initiation in the marriage act. Addition to alcohol increases sexual desire but often decreases sexual potency.


With the passage of time, decline in sexual performance is not uncommon, especially in relation to a man’s wife. It is quite possible that he may feel bored after being with the same partner night after night. His libido becomes virtually dormant unless his wife is able to vary her sexual approach to her mate and bring some novelty to their union. A wife, who neglects her looks or appearances and allows herself to become less attractive, will unknowingly lend support to the unwelcome situation. She must not allow herself to be a poor partner. Sight as a visual stimulant of sex has a definite and constant place in the couple’s relationship. This is especially true in the later years of married life. Coquetry and exposing coyly some attractive part of her body may be a tantalizing sight for her husband. If and when she adopts such measures, he may gain his manhood.


More common is the anxiety, about the past episodes like masturbation, fear of failure, depression or faulty attitude towards sex. Men who constantly worry or grumble at one thing or another have no energy left for sex. This is called “neurotic impotence”. Fear of failure may induce in him even psychosomatic illness, such as heart or stomach pain, which he may subconsciously develop to excuse his sexual inability. A man’s immature attachment to his mother or a conflict arising in his mind out of prudish considerations may lead him to think that he is committing incest or a sin and create an emotional block. Naturally with a woman he loves and respects, he finds himself impotent; however he can be successful in an illicit affair with a woman for whom he has no regard or respect. Occasionally unconscious homosexual tendencies in a man may cause indifference to sexual performance even with a very beautiful woman.


Sexual failure can induce anxiety in a man who is not aware of the fact that a failure to consummate union or inability to sustain an erection can temporarily occur at any age to any man however strong and healthy he may be. It is certainly not an indication of impending permanent impotence. The tactful wife shows tenderness, affection, and understanding and encourages her husband by assuring him that it is merely a temporary inconvenience which will disappear in the future. In fact her attitude towards such a failure can often have a strong influence in creating the necessary confidence that will increase and prolong her husband’s interest in her. An assurance that she has full confidence in his ability to share a full life with her even though he may not have been successful in every aspect of life is essential to build up his ego and potency. On the contrary, ridicule at partial or complete failure in a union is certainly harmful. She may bring on thereby an emotional reaction that can prolong or perpetuate his impotence. Hence she should express her love and tenderness especially on such occasions.


It should be remembered that sexual fulfillment at every time is not the sole goal of intimacy between the husband and wife and that frequency is not a measure of satisfaction. Even within the same marriage, sex is not always the same thing. In sexual maturity, it is the quality rather than quantity that brings fulfillment in life. It is not how ‘often’ that union is found, but how ‘well’ the situation satisfies the physical and emotional needs of the couple. It is man’s own assurance and fulfillment and his ability to share physical and emotional reactions with his wife that determine his ability to maintain his potency throughout life. Sex relations alone are a very weak foundation on which to build a successful marriage. Sexual satisfaction and pleasure can be achieved to the highest degree in many different ways, according to the nature and the tastes of each individual and each couple.


There is hardly any marriage which does not involve disparity of sexual tension. Married partners have to act with genuine understanding and affection to adjust them. Once, the feeling of shame, inadequacy and strain are removed, it is bound to lead to warm, mutual, all-pervasive, lasting emotions of satisfaction and fulfillment. It should be realized that a women does not desperately need the release of sexual tension or climax nor suffer from its absence. Many women never achieve climax but greatly enjoy an act of sexual intercourse which gives them profound sensual and psychological satisfaction-the warmth of close embrace, the feeling of belonging and the pleasure of giving pleasure. The measure of sexual satisfaction for these women lies in an emotional complex of affection, tenderness, intimacy and deep feminine joy of serving her mate.


What can be the remedy for the condition? Doctors feel that prescribing drugs will do little or no good to improve the condition in the majority. The use of hormone gives poor results. So-called sex stimulants, pills or applications, are of no value. Aphrodisiacs (sex stimulants) when prescribed unwisely may be injurious and certainly do not have any effect on the underlying psychogenic cause. Foods like oysters, raw eggs, onions, garlic and brinjals are often talked of as provocating sexual desire but it is simple nonsense. So also neither massages nor would electrotherapy guarantee better performance. Since it is always the state of mind which is at the root, psychogenic help to overcome the emotional block is the most dependable remedy. Such a procedure will be surely effective in reviving a man’s virility. Can a wife help her husband to reclaim and rehabilitate his manhood? Yes, surely a good deal of success will depend on her sincere co-operation. Yet many wives bear some of the guilt in weakening of their husband’s sexual powers. Every wife ought to realize her important role in strengthening and prolonging her husband’s sexual desire and ability. First she must not belittle him or indulge in jokes at his expense. She must learn not to feel rejected or hurt by his lack of desire. She must build up his ego and at the same time her ability to arouse him. While being sympathetic, understanding, and affectionate and encouraging, she should try to improve her own appearances. At the right time she should take the initiation and start love-making herself instead of waiting for her husband to make the first proposal. Her active participation will make him to overcome his sexual fears and also to promote sexual courage within him. A wife who is very shy or reluctant to show that she is capable of intense passion is seldom attractive to a man; she should be careful in her timing. An occasion when he is tired or worried must not be picked up. Even if she indicates that she is in a receptive mood, it will help him to release his sexual vitality, for an average man may not like to force himself on his wife. To avoid any misunderstanding, it is always wise for the couple to communicate freely and frankly and to agree in advance on the time and frequency for lovemaking and to establish standards which are realistic and mutually satisfactory. Genuine efforts on the part of each are likely to be more successful in creating mutual pleasure which is appreciated by both and not accepted as a routine. It is of great importance that the partners permit each other the greatest freedom in techniques and types of sexual actions as long as such actions are mutually satisfying. That, “variety is the spice of life” holds good in matters of sex too. “Age cannot wither her nor custom fail her infinite variety” (Shakespeare).


Despite all the difficulties, millions of couples have managed to get on well sexually by practicing the age-old human virtues of sympathy, understanding, tolerance, and affection. With these feminine virtues and if necessary one or two sessions with a marriage counselor or psychiatrist, psychic impotence of the husband will disappear and full sexual powers will be regained. Determined to overcome emotional difficulties, he should be able to find peace of mind and body in the fulfillment of the marital act and enjoy the richness of his role as a husband.