Impotence: A Cultural History.
Article Type: Book review
Subject: Books (Book reviews)
Pub Date: 05/01/2010
Publication: Name: Reproductive Health Matters Publisher: Reproductive Health Matters Audience: General Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Family and marriage; Health; Women's issues/gender studies Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2010 Reproductive Health Matters ISSN: 0968-8080
Issue: Date: May, 2010 Source Volume: 18 Source Issue: 35
Topic: NamedWork: Impotence: A Cultural History (Nonfiction work)
Persons: Reviewee: McLaren, Angus
Accession Number: 236247793
Full Text: Angus McLaren, 2007

The impotence of men has been a recurrent topic since the dawn of human culture. Drawing on a range of sources from across centuries, McLaren demonstrates how male sexuality was constructed around the idea of potency, from times past when it was essential for the purpose of "siring" children, to today, when successful sex is viewed as a component of a healthy emotional life. The book describes experiences of sexual failure and its remedies--for example, had Ditka lived in ancient Mesopotamia, he might have recited spells while eating roots and plants rather than take pills. Explanations for impotence over the years have included witchcraft, shell-shock, masturbation, feminism, and the Oedipal complex. McLaren explores the political and social effects of impotence, from the revolutionary unrest fuelled by Louis XVI's failure to consummate his marriage, to the boost given the fledgling American republic by George Washington's failure to found a dynasty. Each age, McLaren shows, turns impotence to its own purposes, using it to help define what is normal and healthy for men, their relationships, and society.

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