As the years go by most men notice that they sometimes have trouble in achieving an erection or maintaining it for long enough. Some con­clude that this means they are finished as sexual beings, that they have reached the ‘penopause’. Understandable, if one knows that many of them were brought up with the idea that sex is actually something like ‘fertilizing’, or at least being capable of it. The machine has to be in good order, or ‘there’s no point’, as they put it.

Obviously every person reacts differently to growing older. Some cease to perform much physical activity somewhere between the ages of twenty and 30. For the present generation of heart surgeons it’s noth­ing special to have to insert artificial coronary arteries in someone in their thirties. Others withdraw into a shell for years and then once they turn fifty emerge with great zest. Often it ends in disappointment. There are those who continue swimming, playing badminton or something similar as they have always done – perhaps not as fast at 50 as at twenty, but still keeping active. The same applies more or less to sexual activities. With the passing of the years all men have to rein themselves in a little, but not all at the same age and/or with the same conse­quences. Some men drop their sexual activities early, sometimes com­pletely, sometimes in part. Others stay active until some illness more or less takes them by surprise and they have to keep themselves in check.

Some men associate sex with the battle against death. Because their organ refuses to ‘stand up and fight’ any longer, they are frightened of losing the battle. These men particularly are relieved when they hear from the lips of a specialist that the penis always becomes less rigid with the passing of time, and that it’s more or less normal that their penis should let them down occasionally. They then usually forego artificial therapies. Their marriage no longer desperately needs con­summating: the important thing was to know whether or not death was round the corner.

The physical manifestations of the penopause are often accompa­nied by brooding: the man starts reflecting on the life he has led up to then. What have I achieved of all the things I once dreamed of? I shall have to stay married to this woman till death do us part. Until my dying day I will never again see anything else but the same furniture, the same house, the same street. And until I retire I shall have to go on slogging away day after day at that stupid job of mine! The man at this stage is regularly ambushed by these kinds of reflections. He begins to wonder what the future has to offer him. Though he is still fertile, it is possible for a man to think that his potency is declining. In that case the occa­sional lovemaking session may go wrong.

Men should worry less about the fact that as they get older their penis occasionally goes on strike. But that’s precisely the point. Often when it happens out of the blue the man starts worrying seriously, which in turn provokes fear of failure. Guilt ensues and the man con­cerned eventually comes to find lovemaking torture.