I'm feeling a little bit flummoxed because I've had not one but two rather hostile comments today - a new experience for me. So what better way to get re-centered than to read obscure medical articles? And what's more interesting than a sexual malady you've never heard about?
Well, at least I'd never heard of this one: "honeymoon impotence." It's what it sounds like, and then some. Not only is the wedding night a flop; couples may go for months and even years without consummating their marriage.
As you might expect, honeymoon impotence is mostly due to anxiety, though a Turkish study found blood flow problems in a little more than a quarter of men being treated for it.
According to an Egyptian specialist in sexual medicine, Hussein Ghanem, the condition is more common in countries where premarital strictures against virginity are rigidly upheld, particularly in predominantly Muslim societies:
It is estimated that 12% of visits to sexual dysfunction clinics in Egypt & Saudi Arabia are related to honeymoon impotence.It seems that rigidity in one area spawns a lack thereof in other realms.
Physicians attending patients with erectile dysfunction in certain conservative societies frequently face unique situations related to the culture and family attitudes. Newly wed couples in conservative societies probably have limited premarital sexual experiences. Although this makes the wedding night a very special event, yet men with fear of failure are under a significant amount of stress. Not only do they fear embarrassment with their wives but also possible humiliation with the bride's family.
It's too easy to target other people's religion, so I want to tread lightly here. I'm sure lots of men in more permissive cultures have nerves the first time, too, and some have trouble getting it up as a result. Others will finish too fast or just plain have no clue what they're doing. With premarital experience, most men will have those bugs ironed out long before their honeymoon.
But all those normal start-up glitches just add fuel to the idea that practice is a good thing.
Honeymoon impotence shows one more time that you can't spend a lifetime being taught that sex is evil - and then flip a switch on the wedding night and start embracing pleasure. Repression tends to linger and become part of people's identities and worldview; it can even become embodied in their very flesh.
Standard treatment for honeymoon impotence is Viagra, Cialis, and (ouch) penile injections. Dr. Ghanem's team reports good results for Cialis (tadalifil):
Thirty-four patients (76%) needed tadalafil for less than 1 month, five (11%) for up to 3 months, and two (4%) for more than 3 months. Four patients (9%) were unsuccessful.In contrast to the Turkish study I cited above, Ghanem's findings indicate that the problem is overwhelmingly psychogenic. Once men gather confidence, most of them are good to go.
But wouldn't it be better to treat society - to eliminate repression on a sociocultural level, long before young children start to absorb it? Especially when you consider that a man may be cured of his honeymoon impotence, only to find his wife has such severe vaginismus that sex is still impossible? Dr. Ghanem and his colleagues report that this is a non-trivial issue, one that requires psychotherapy and not just a quick pharmaceutical fix.
And might it be worth asking: How common is honeymoon impotence closer to home, in fundamentalist Christian marriages? Logically, you'd think Christian sexual repression would be no more benign than the Muslim variety. But I didn't find any information on this; Google only gives you 649 hits for "honeymoon impotence" and apart from a scattered study in Japan or Korea, virtually all of the material deals with the Islamic world, much of it authored by Dr. Ghanem. All I found was a WebMD article that states ED is common in the United States, too, among young men first becoming sexually active. But it's silent on the role of religion and repression.
I have a hard time believing this is overwhelmingly an Islamic issue. My guess is that honeymoon impotence exists among highly religious Americans, too, but we just don't name it.
Bridegroom Ken photographed by Flickr user Patrick Q, used under a Creative Commons agreement.