The International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF) is a widely used, multi-dimensional self-report instrument for the evaluation of male sexual function. It is has been recommended as a primary endpoint for clinical trials of erectile dysfunction (ED) and for diagnostic evaluation of ED severity. The IIEF was developed in conjunction with the clinical trial program for sildenafil, and has since been adopted as the 'gold standard' measure for efficacy assessment in clinical trials of ED. It has been linguistically validated in 32 languages and used as a primary endpoint in more than 50 clinical trials. This review summarizes early stages in the psychometric validation of the instrument, its subsequent adoption in randomized clinical trials with sildenafil and other ED therapies, and its use in classifying ED severity and prevalence. The IIEF meets psychometric criteria for test reliability and validity, has a high degree of sensitivity and specificity, and correlates well with other measures of treatment outcome. It has demonstrated consistent and robust treatment responsiveness in studies in USA, Europe and Asia, as well as in a wide range of etiological subgroups. Although only one direct comparator trial has been performed to date, the IIEF is also sensitive to therapeutic effects with treatment agents other than sildenafil. A severity classification for ED has recently been developed, in addition to a brief screening version of the instrument. This review includes the strengths as well as limitations of the IIEF, along with some potential areas for future research.