One day I was rung up by a psychologist to ask if I would teach a patient to inject himself in the penis. The case was as follows: a young Turkish man was due to leave for his homeland to collect his wife. They had only been married for a few weeks, but unfortunately his bride had been taken back home because the poor bridegroom had been unable to achieve an erection on their wedding night. His wife remained a virgin, bringing shame on her family. On the principle of ‘now or never’, the unfortunate man was taught how to inject himself: if things didn’t work spontaneously, he would have some chemical backup. He left with needles, syringes and a number of ampules of vasodilatory fluid. A few weeks later we heard that fortunately everything worked without injections, and that the patient had been able to display the bloody sheet proudly to the family.

In the story ‘Le moyen de Roger’ (Roger’s Method) French writer Guy de Maupassant (1850-1893) paints a very accurate psychological picture of an initially disastrous wedding night. A young Parisian couple, Roger and Gabrielle (who is a widow), plan to celebrate their wedding night quietly at the bridegroom’s apartment. Consumed by passion and desire, they soon withdraw to the bedroom, but Roger, the brand new bridegroom, finds it impossible to achieve an erection:

When I joined her in bed, I lacked confidence in myself, I admit it. I felt edgy, troubled, ill at ease.

I took my place beside her as a husband. She said noth­ing. She looked at me with a smile playing round her lips, vis­ibly anxious to make fun of me. This ironic attitude, at such a moment, finally disconcerted me and, I admit, robbed my arms and legs of their strength.

When Gabrielle realized my. . . embarrassment, she did nothing to reassure me, quite the contrary. She asked me, in an offhand way:

‘Are you as full of life as this every day?’

I couldn’t stop myself answering:

‘Do you know you’re insufferable?’

Then she started laughing again, but laughing in a quite immoderate, unseemly, exasperating way.

It’s true I cut a sorry figure, and must have looked very

silly.

From time to time, between two paroxysms of hilarity, she said, choking on her words.

‘Come on – that’s the spirit – put some energy into it – my – poor darling.’

Then she broke into such helpless laughter that she couldn’t stop giggling.

Rage and humiliation drive the young husband into the street. In despair he determines to put his manhood to the test, follows a prosti­tute to her room, and lo and behold, succeeds with no problem in doing what he had failed to do half an hour before. With a restored feeling of self-worth he returns to the hotel where he acquaints his wife, her­self a-tremble with trepidation and excitement, with the delights of love, this time with an erect penis.

In Japan wedding-night impotence is still a frequent occurrence, presumably prompted by the very different sexual mores of the coun­try. Wedding night impotence undoubtedly occurs in other countries too, but often for quite different reasons: many bridegrooms over­indulge on the big day, or even more often, are too tired.