A typical history of an acute episode of alcohol consumption as an etiological factor in the onset of secondary impotence is classic in its structural content. The clinical picture is one of acute psychic trauma on a circumstantial basis, rather than the chronic psychosocial strain of years of steady attrition to the male ego as described in the case history for the premature ejaculator.
There has been a specific history of onset of symptoms of secondary impotence as a direct result of episodes of acute alcoholic intake in 35 men from a total of 213 men referred with a complaint of secondary impotence.
The onset of secondary impotence in an acute alcoholic episode is so well known that it almost beggars description. A composite example is that of a relatively “successful” male aged 35-55, college graduate, working in an area which gears productive demand more to mental than physical effort.
The perfect environmental situation for onset of secondary impotence is any occupational hazard where demands for high levels of psychosocial performance are irrevocably a part of the nine-to-five day and frequently carry over into an evening of professional socializing.
Mr. A is a man with a habit of alcohol before dinner, frequently a few glasses of wine with his meals, and possibly a whisky. Alcohol intake at lunch is an integral part of his business as well.
In short, consumption of alcohol has become a part of his life.
This man and his wife leave home one night for a party and alcohol is available in large quantity. Somewhere in the late evening, the party comes to an end. Mr. A has had entirely becomes tipsy and so his wife drives them home for safety’s consideration.
His wife retires to the bedroom, and with a sense of vague irritation, a combination of a sense of personal rejection and a residual of her social embarrassment, prepares for bed. Mr. A has stumble but with the aid of a strong banister and even stronger nightcap, manages to arrive at the bedroom door. Suddenly he felt that his wife is indeed fortunate tonight, for he is prepared sexually satisfied her.
It never occurs to him that all she wants to do is go to bed and avoid a quarrel at all costs. He jumped into the bed, moves to meet his imagined commitment, and nothing happens. He has simply had too much alcohol.
Dismayed and confused both by the fact that no erection develops and that his wife obviously has little or no interest in his gratuitous sexual contribution, he pauses to resolve this complex problem and immediately falls into deep, anesthetized slumber.
Next day, he is further traumatized by the symptoms of an acute hangover. He surfaces later in the day with the concept that things are not as they should be. The climate seems rather cool around the house. He can remember little of the prior evening’s festivities except his deeply imbedded conviction that things did not go well in the bedroom. He is not sure that all was bad but he also is quite convinced that all was not good.
Obviously he cannot discuss his problem with his wife, she probably would not speak to him at this time. So he putters and mutters throughout the evening and goes to bed early to escape. He sleeps restlessly only to face the new day with a vague sense of alarm, a passing sense of frustration, and a sure sense that all is not well in the household this Monday morning.
He pondered about it over a drink or two at lunch and another, and while contending with traffic on the way home from work, decides to check out this evening the little matter of sexual dysfunction, which he may or may not have imagined.
Sexual dysfunction within 48 hours!
If the history of this reaction sequence is taken accurately, it will be established that Mr. A does not check out the problem of sexual dysfunction within 48 hours of onset, as he had decided to do on his way home from work. He arrives home, finds the atmosphere still markedly frigid, makes more than his usual show of affection to the children, retires to the security of the cocktail hour, and goes to supper and to bed totally lacking in any communicative approach to his frustrated, irritated marital partner.
Tuesday morning, while brushing his teeth, Mr. A has a flash of concern about what may have gone wrong with his sexual functioning after the party night. He decides unequivocally to check the situation out tonight.
Instead of thinking of the problem occasionally, his concern for “checking this out” becomes of paramount importance. On the way to work and during the day, he does not think about what really did go wrong sexually because he does not know. Rather he worries constantly about what could have gone wrong.
Needless to say, there is resurgence of concern for sexual performance during the afternoon hours, regardless of how busy his schedule is.
Mr. A leaves the office in relatively good spirits, but thoroughly aware that “tonight’s the night.” He does have vague levels of concern, which suggest that a little relaxation is in order; so he stops at his favorite tavern for a couple of drinks and arrives home with a rosy glow to find not only a forgiving, but an anticipatory, wife, ready for the reestablishment of both verbal and sexual communication that a drink ‘or two together before dinner can bring.
Probably for the first time in his life, he approaches his bedroom on Tuesday night in a self-conscious “I’ll show her” attitude. Again there has been a little too much to drink-not as much as on Saturday night, but still a little too much.
And, of course, he does show her. He is so consumed with his conscious concern for effective sexual function (the onset of his fears of performance) that, aided by the depressant effect of a modest level of alcoholic intake (modest by his standards), he simply cannot “get the job done.”
When there is little or no immediate erective reaction during the usual sexual preliminaries, he tries desperately to force the situation-in turn, anticipating an erection, then wildly conscious of its abscence, and finally demanding that it occur. He is consciously trying to will sexual success, while subjectively watching for tumescence. So, of course, no erection.
While in an immediate state of panic, as lie sweats and strains for the weaponry of male sexual functioning, he simultaneously must contend with the added distraction of a frightened wife trying to console him in his failure and to assure him that the next night will be better for both of them.
Both approaches are equally traumatic from his point of view. He hates both her sympathy and blind support which only serve to underscore his “failure,” and reads into his wife’s assurances that probably he can do better “tomorrow” a suggestion that no longer can he be counted on to get the job done sexually when it matters “today.”
A horrible thought occurs to Mr. A. He may be developing some form of sexual incompetence. He has been faced with two examples of sexual dysfunction. He is not sure what happened the first time, but he is only too aware this night that nothing has happened. He has failed, miserably and completely, to conduct himself as a man.
He cannot attain or maintain an erection.
Further, Mr. A knows that his wife is equally distressed because she is frantically striving to gloss over this marital catastrophe. She has immediately cast herself in the role of the soothing, considerate partner who says, “Don’t worry dear, it could happen to anyone,” or “You’ve never done this before, so don’t worry about it, dear.”
In the small hours of the morning, physically exhausted and emotionally spent from contending with the emotional bath her husband’s sexual failure has occasioned, she changes her tune to “You’ve certainly been working too hard, you need a vacation,” or “How long has it been since you have had a physical checkup?” (Any of a hundred similar wifely remarks supposed to soothe, maintain, or support are interpreted by the panicked man as tacit admission of the tragedy they must face together: the progressive loss of his sexual functioning.)
From the moment of second erective failure,
72 hours after the first erection failure, this man may be impotent.
In no sense does this mean that in the future he will never achieve an erection quality sufficient for intromission.
Occasionally he may do so and most men do. It does mean, however, that any suggestion of wifely sexual demand either immediate in its specific physical intensity or pointing coyly to future sexual expectations may produce pressures of performances quite sufficient to reduce Mr. A to and maintain him in a totally no erective state.
In brief, fears of sexual performance have assumed full control of his psychosocial system.
Mr. A thinks about the situation constantly. He occasionally asks friends of similar age group how things are going, because, of course, any male so beleaguered with fears of sexual failure is infinitely desirous of blaming his lack of effective function on anything other than himself, and the aging process is a constantly available cultural scapegoat.
He finds himself in the position of the woman with a lifetime history of non orgasmic return who contends openly with concerns for the effectiveness of her own sexual performance and secretly faces the fear that in truth she is not a woman. In proper sequence he does as she has done so many times.
He develops ways and means to avoid sexual encounter.
He sits fascinated by a third-rate movie on television in order to avoid going to bed at the usual time with a wife who might possibly be interested in sexual expression. He fends off her sexual approaches and jumps at anything that avoids confrontation as a drowning man would at a straw.
His wife immediately notices his disinclination to meet the frequency of their semi established routine of sexual exposure. In due course she begins to wonder whether he has lost interest in her, if there is anyone else, or whether there is truth in his most recent assertion that he couldn’t care less about sex.
For reassurance that she is still physically attractive, the concerned wife begins to push for more frequent sexual encounters, the one approach that the self-pressured male dreads above all else.
Obviously, neither marital partner ever communicates his or her fears of performance or the depth of their concerns for the sexual dysfunction that has become of paramount importance in their lives. The subject either is not discussed, or, if mentioned even obliquely, is hastily buried in an avalanche of words or chilled by painfully obvious avoidance.
Within the next 3 months, Mr. A has to fail at erective attainment only another time or two before both husband and wife begin to panic.
She decides independently to avoid any continuity of sexual functioning, eliminate any expression of her sexual needs, and be available only should he express demand, because she also has developed fears of performance.
Her fears are not for herself, but for the effectiveness of her husband’s sexual functioning.
She goes to great lengths to negate anything that might be considered sexually stimulating, such as too-long kisses, handholding, body contact, caressing in any way. In so doing she makes each sexual encounter much more of a pressured performance and therefore, much less of a continuation of living sexually, but the thought never occur to her. All communication ceases.
Each individual keeps his own counsel or goes his own way. The mutual sexual stimulation in the continuity of physical exposure, in the simple physical touching, holding, or even verbalizing of affection, is almost totally withdrawn.
The lack of communication that starts in the bedroom rapidly spreads through all facets of marital exchange: children, finances, social orientation, mothers-in-law, whatever.
In short :
Sexual dysfunction in the marital bed, created initially by an acute stage of alcoholic ingestion, supplemented at the next outing by ah “I’ll show her” attitude and possibly a little too much to drink can destroy the very foundation of a marriage of 10 to 30 years duration.
As the male panics, the wife only adds to his insecurity by her inappropriate verbalization, intended to support and comfort but interpreted by her emotionally unstable husband as immeasurably destructive in subjective content.
The dramatic onset of secondary impotence following an in stance of excessive alcohol intake is only another example of the human male’s extreme sensitivity to fears of sexual performance.
In this particular situation, of course, the onset of fears of performance was of brief but dynamic duration as opposed to those in the preceding example of the premature ejaculator whose fears of performance developed slowly, stimulated by continued exposure to his wife’s verbal denunciation of his sexual functioning.
Discussed above are examples of combinations of psychological and circumstantial factors that contribute the highest percentage of etiological input to the development of secondary impotence. Continuing through the listing of major influences there remain environmental, physiological, and iatrogenic factors.
In the final analysis:
Regardless of listing category, secondary impotence is triggered by combinations of these etiological factors rather than by any single category with the obvious exception of psychosocial influence. Once onset of erective failure has been recorded, regardless of trigger mechanism, involved, the individual male’s interpretation of or reaction to functional failure must be dealt with on a psychogenic basis.
The etiological factors recorded above are little more than categorical conveniences. From his initial heterosexual performance through the continuum of his sexual expression, every man constantly assumes a cultural challenge to his potency.
How he reacts to these challenges may be influenced directly by his psychosocial system, but of particular import is the individual susceptibility of the man involved to the specific pressures of the sexual challenge and to the influences of his background.
When considering etiological influences that may predispose toward impotence, it always should be borne in mind that most men exposed to parallel psychosexual pressures and similar environmental damage shrug off these handicaps and live as sexually functional males.
It is the factor of susceptibility to negative psychosocial input that determines the onset of impotence. These concepts apply to primarily as well as secondarily impotent men.
When considering environmental background as an etiological factor in secondary impotence, the home, the church, and the formative years are at center focus.
What factors in or out of the home during the formative years tend to initiate insecurity in male sexual functioning?
The preeminent factor in environmental background reflecting sexual insecurity is a dominant imbalance in parental relationships dominant, that is, as opposed to happen stance, farcical, or even fantasized battles for family control.
Secondary, but still of major import is the factor of homosexuality, which is to be considered in the environmental category. In no sense does this placement connote professional opinion that homophile orientation is considered purely environmental in origin.
Since homosexual activity may have derogatory influence upon the effectiveness of heterosexual functioning, the subject must be presented in the etiological discussion. The disassociations developing from homophile orientation are considered in the environmental category only for listing convenience.