Male Sexual Health: Past and Present

By: aseya


Preoccupation with the male genitalia and virility is not a new social behavior. Ancient civilizations had already placed a high value on the phallus not only for sexual reasons but also for the preservation of peace and order. The phallus was a very important symbol in the Roman Empire, specifically in the city of Pompeii. Pompeii is famous for being the Roman city that was literally buried in lava, mud, and rocks when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 B.C. Accidentally discovered in 1748, the city was found beneath meters of ash and pumice. People who resided in that city were found stone-like and lying in different poses that showed their panic and despair that fateful day when the volcano took away their lives and property.

But another interesting find in the ruins was a fresco inside the Villa dei Vetii. The fresco showed Priapus weighing his penis against a sack of money. In Greek mythology, Priapus was a fertility god who was also considered the protector of livestock, plant life, and yes, even the male genitals. Called Mutinus Mutunus in Roman mythology, the said minor god was the son of Aphrodite and Adonis. The fresco boasted how Priapus' privates outweighed the bag full of coins. In fact, sculptures and images of Priapus were placed by farmers in the field supposedly to ensure the abundance of the harvest. For the Romans, his status also served as a scarecrow. The erect penis was not only propped to scare off the birds but burglars as well. These statues usually had inscriptions that contained the threat of sodomy on anyone caught stealing in the field or house where the said stone figures were set-up. During those times, rape was a common punishment for criminal offenders.

Archaeologists and sociologists believe that for many men during those ancient days, a properly functioning penis was crucial to having self-esteem. Proficiency and endurance in sexual activity were considered “manly” attributes, and are still viewed as such by most 21st century men. But what is really interesting in the archaeological ruins of Pompeii is how the penis as a symbol was highly regarded, even revered, by the Roman people.

Today, we can hardly see pictures or statues of men that show the disproportionately sized penis. In ancient Rome, it was important enough to commission an artist to paint such a scene inside one's villa. Still, the preoccupation with the male genitals and sexual performance is still a “silent concern” for most men. Lack of sexual ability, or more accurately, the inability to achieve an erection is a major male concern. It is estimated that at least 30 million American men have been diagnosed with erectile dysfunction. As a sexual health problem, male impotence is defined as the total inability to achieve an erection; an inconsistent ability to achieve an erection; or a tendency to sustain an erection for only brief moments.

Sexual health is more than just an issue of prevention and control of sexually transmitted disease. More appropriately, it is concerned with the physical, emotional and even relational conditions of people. Specifically, male sexual health is focused on a man's ability to have an erection, which is crucial to performing the sexual act. Intimacy in marriage or in deeper, physical relations between a man and a woman is normally attached to the issue of having the “capacity to perform.” While professional definitions of sexual health goes beyond anatomical and coital discussions, most ordinary men and women attribute the term to acts “in the bedroom.” Surely, men will do well to elevate the discussion of male sexual health above sexual trivia, positions, and performance. Aside from the obvious need to be informed about the dangers of sexually transmitted disease, men should also be educated about the women's sexuality and women's needs. Unlike men, the sexual functions of women are influenced by a number of factors, and not the normal rise in libido.

To access reliable and professional advice regarding sexuality and sexual health, both men and women should consider an appointment with a professional counselor or doctor at the nearest sexual health clinic. It is a known fact, especially in poor countries, that what goes around as knowledge about sexual health is nothing short of a myth. Often, young boys and girls rely on the peer group to get information about sexual health, or about sex itself.

But for men, whether they live in a poor country or in a developed nation, sexual problems must still be addressed by going to a sexual health clinic. Erectile dysfunction is not just a physical problem. It is also linked to emotional and psychological distress. While men who suffer from erectile dysfunction still have the ability to father a child, they do encounter challenges in sustaining their relationships and even their own self-esteem. By getting professional help, men with erectile dysfunction can benefit from science-based information and even medications such as Sildenafil (usually sold under the brand name Viagra), Vardenafil, and Finasteride.

Indeed, getting information on how to attain good sexual health need not be as difficult as excavating Pompeii. Male sexual health is not about achieving the legendary size of Priapus or have circus-like abilities for the most intimate human act. Sexual health is, above all, about maintaining physical health, safety in intimacy, and sustaining good relationships with those we love.

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