Photo: Penelope Whitehouse


Erectile dysfunction is apparently a more urgent problem than PMS

Five times more studies on erectile dysfunction are commissioned than studies on PMS. It's just another example of men's health being considered more vital than women's 

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By Caroline O'Donoghue on

Because I'm a woman, and because women are historically the most pissed-upon gender, sometimes I have to remind myself that men, en masse, have very real problems, too. Male suicide is a devastating problem. Young men being warehoused in prisons for crimes they were driven to commit through poverty is a problem. And erectile dysfunction is a problem. I'm sure most women reading this have been with a man who has suffered from it at least once and you've probably witnessed what an enormous effect it can have on someone's psyche. How quickly a simple biological failing can turn into a downward spiral of "I have failed as a man, a partner and as a human". It's an issue. 

And, while I am in absolutely no place to tell anyone what "issues" are more important than other issues, I will say this: I have known exactly zero men who have had to call in sick because of erectile dysfunction. I do not know any men who have vomited with the physical pain of erectile dysfunction. I am yet to hear of any young men who have collapsed in their school uniforms because of their erectile dysfunction. 

Which brings me to the latest order of the day, which is the news that researchers conduct up to five times more studies on erectile dysfunction (ED) than on PMS. This is despite the fact that only 19 per cent of men actually suffer from ED, whereas 90 per cent of women suffer from PMS. Of these women, 40 per cent do not respond to any form of treatment available for their symptoms, while up to eight per cent have "premenstrual dysphoric disorder" – a disorder so unmanageable a sizeable chunk of sufferers attempt suicide. 

 I have known exactly zero men who have had to call in sick because of erectile dysfunction

But you don't need to hear this from me. You've woken up with period pains so bad that you've called in sick, even if your official excuse was "food poisoning". Because the unpleasantness of women's periods is so widely documented, so easily parodied by a woman clutching a hot-water bottle and screaming for chocolate, that it is easy to push aside the real trauma women are forced to go through. I'm not even talking about women like me, who will occasionally find it hard to get out of bed – I mean the women who capital-S Suffer from their periods; the women who are hospitalised, operated on, forced to miss days of work. It's these women I feel outraged for – the women who would pay good money for a real solution, but who don't have the products they need because... because dicks matter more. 

The fact that five times – five times! – more research studies are approved for ED feels like a startling and fundamental misunderstanding of how severe these two problems are. I'm not as naive as to suggest that a bunch of bro-scientists are standing around high-fiving their grant approval on a new Viagra that tastes like bubblegum, while two sad Lady Scientists weep into their test tubes over their lost cure for period cramps. I know that penises aren't literally taking cash out of my ovaries, grasping tentacle arms. But what I do know is that, as a society, male health problems are taken infinitely more seriously than women's. If you don't believe me, consider this: you know that "male pill" you keep hearing about? Wondering where it's got to? Well, the clinical trials reported that men experienced acne, weight gain and "mood changes" after trying the male pill, and they've gone back to the drawing board with it. Repeat: they didn't want to put men through a contraception that gave them acne, weight gain and mood changes, because of how traumatic it would be for them.

Gosh, people on the pill getting acne, weight gain and mood changes? I can't think where I've seen that before. 


Photo: Penelope Whitehouse
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