Historical revolutions in sex therapy: a critical examination of men's sexual dysfunctions and their treatment

J Sex Marital Ther. 2013;39(1):21-39. doi: 10.1080/0092623X.2011.611218.


History, recent and ancient, presents innumerable methods intended to ensure or restore male sexual performance. Although these methods have regularly claimed to be "revolutionary," they have often been remarkably similar, and of questionably efficacy. This article provides a critical account of key historical trends in the treatment of male sexual dysfunctions in order to contextualize and critique the current treatment field. The author uses historical analysis to contextualize contemporary sex therapy techniques, arguing that even clinically verified contemporary revolutions, such as the advent of Viagra and similar drugs, may not present broadly efficacious standalone cures. Using critical historical analysis to illustrate the limitations of single-method treatments, the article argues for the value of comprehensive, biopsychosocial therapy methods. A common tendency--to seek a 'magic bullet' solution to sexual dysfunctions--is apparent throughout history, the author argues. While Viagra differs biomedically from historical treatments, it may appeal to the same logic, raising the question of whether it constitutes a truly revolutionary development in treatment. The article concludes with a set of recommendations regarding the implementation of biopsychosocial practice in sex therapy.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marital Therapy / history*
  • Medical History Taking
  • Men's Health / history
  • Neurologic Examination
  • Phosphodiesterase Inhibitors / history
  • Sexology / history*
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / history*
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / therapy
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / history*
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / therapy


  • Phosphodiesterase Inhibitors