You can always rely on a friend, so they say, and hence many healthy young men never stop to think that an erection isn’t a natural occur­rence for everyone. In medical jargon we refer to erectile dysfunction – ed for short: in fact, the word ‘impotence’ is no longer used. Typical erection problems occur when the penis does not become (sufficiently) erect, or when an erection does not last long enough for satisfying sex. Descriptions like ‘not hard enough’, ‘not long enough’ and ‘satisfying’ are of course highly subjective.

Many men have occasionally have found that their erection is not always equally strong, or sometimes even fails to materialize. ‘Problems’ requiring treatment arise only when symptoms persist for a longer period. ed can adversely affect one’s experience of sex, can damage one’s sense of self-worth and put pressure on a relationship. Many men experience not achieving an erection as a sign of inadequacy. As a result an erection problem can play into the hands of one’s fear of failure, creating a vicious circle. Sometimes there is also embarrassment about seeking help, since it is estimated that only 15 per cent of men with ed consult a doctor. There are conflicting reports from researchers about the frequency with which erection problems occur. At any rate they are much more widespread than most people think.

It is clear that as one gets older the chance of ed increases. One’s sexual appetite may flag somewhat with age, arousal is no longer so intense, the blood vessels are no longer so supple, other physical ailments appear and older men often take medication that adversely affects their erection.