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Impotence: A Cultural History Hardcover – 8 May 2007

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; annotated edition edition (8 May 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226500764
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226500768
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.5 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 768,649 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

  "McLaren follows up his earlier studies on human fertility with this lively academic study of male impotence. Using an array of relatively obscure historical, sociological, and medical research sources, McLaren shows how the concept of male sexual potency has changed; once seen mainly as a function of siring children, it is now regarded as an important component of a healthy emotional state. McLaren offers a dynamic survey of masculinity, perceptions of impotence, and the never-ending search for help with male sexual dysfunction. He starts with the Greek and Roman view of male potency, then moves to the understanding of impotence during the early Christian era, the Age of Reason, the 19th century, the Freudian era, and the rise of modern medical research as exemplified by the famous Kinsey and Masters and Johnson studies. The author ends with a timely, thoughtful analysis of the contemporary approach, driven by the major drug companies. Not a clinical guide to managing male sexual dysfunction, this work is instead a more complete cultural history of impotence than is found in any medically oriented approach to the topic. Highly recommended for all medical school libraries and academic libraries supporting the helping professions."--Library Journal 

" Although impotence has again become an acceptable topic of conversation, we forget that this subject has enjoyed a long, colorful history. In this fascinating book, Angus McLaren gives us the first cultural history of the topic, exploring the many discussions, rumors, and controversies played out on the public stage throughout the centuries-- from the days of Plato up to the present. This is a terrific book." -- Dr. Ruth Westheimer


" Diverting, enchanting and often hilarious. . . . We in the West live now in what may well be the most highly and explicitly sexualised culture in human history; not surprisingly, sex has never been more publicly contested. . . . McLaren provides not just a scholarly and witty grand "tour d' horizon" of two and a half millenniums of thinking and writing about impotency but, in the process, reminds us that, when it comes to sex, it really is all in the mind. I only wish the book had been twice as long." -- Michael Bywater, "Sunday Times"


 
"McLaren follows up his earlier studies on human fertility with this lively academic study of male impotence. Using an array of relatively obscure historical, sociological, and medical research sources, McLaren shows how the concept of male sexual potency has changed; once seen mainly as a function of siring children, it is now regarded as an important component of a healthy emotional state. McLaren offers a dynamic survey of masculinity, perceptions of impotence, and the never-ending search for help with male sexual dysfunction. He starts with the Greek and Roman view of male potency, then moves to the understanding of impotence during the early Christian era, the Age of Reason, the 19th century, the Freudian era, and the rise of modern medical research as exemplified by the famous Kinsey and Masters and Johnson studies. The author ends with a timely, thoughtful analysis of the contemporary approach, driven by the major drug companies. Not a clinical guide to managing male sexual dysfunction, this work is instead a more complete cultural history of impotence than is found in any medically oriented approach to the topic. Highly recommended for all medical school libraries and academic libraries supporting the helping professions."--Library Journal
 


" Although impotence has again become an acceptable topic of conversation, we forget that this subject has enjoyed a long, colorful history. In this fascinating book, Angus McLaren gives us the first cultural history of the topic, exploring the many discussions, rumors, and controversies played out on the public stage throughout the centuries -- from the days of Plato up to the present. This is a terrific book. " -- Dr. Ruth Westheimer


" Diverting, enchanting and often hilarious. . . . We in the West live now in what may well be the most highly and explicitly sexualised culture in human history; not surprisingly, sex has never been more publicly contested. . . . McLaren provides not just a scholarly and witty grand tour d ' horizon of two and a half millenniums of thinking and writing about impotency but, in the process, reminds us that, when it comes to sex, it really is all in the mind. I only wish the book had been twice as long. " -- Michael Bywater, Sunday Times


& nbsp;
"McLaren follows up his earlier studies on human fertility with this lively academic study of male impotence. Using an array of relatively obscure historical, sociological, and medical research sources, McLaren shows how the concept of male sexual potency has changed; once seen mainly as a function of siring children, it is now regarded as an important component of a healthy emotional state. McLaren offers a dynamic survey of masculinity, perceptions of impotence, and the never-ending search for help with male sexual dysfunction. He starts with the Greek and Roman view of male potency, then moves to the understanding of impotence during the early Christian era, the Age of Reason, the 19th century, the Freudian era, and the rise of modern medical research as exemplified by the famous Kinsey and Masters and Johnson studies. The author ends with a timely, thoughtful analysis of the contemporary approach, driven by the major drug companies. Not a clinical guide to managing male sexual dysfunction, this work is instead a more complete cultural history of impotence than is found in any medically oriented approach to the topic. Highly recommended for all medical school libraries and academic libraries supporting the helping professions."--Library Journal
& nbsp;




"McLaren follows up his earlier studies on human fertility with this lively academic study of male impotence. Using an array of relatively obscure historical, sociological, and medical research sources, McLaren shows how the concept of male sexual potency has changed; once seen mainly as a function of siring children, it is now regarded as an important component of a healthy emotional state. McLaren offers a dynamic survey of masculinity, perceptions of impotence, and the never-ending search for help with male sexual dysfunction. He starts with the Greek and Roman view of male potency, then moves to the understanding of impotence during the early Christian era, the Age of Reason, the 19th century, the Freudian era, and the rise of modern medical research as exemplified by the famous Kinsey and Masters and Johnson studies. The author ends with a timely, thoughtful analysis of the contemporary approach, driven by the major drug companies. Not a clinical guide to managing male sexual dysfunction, this work is instead a more complete cultural history of impotence than is found in any medically oriented approach to the topic. Highly recommended for all medical school libraries and academic libraries supporting the helping professions."--Library Journal



0;Although impotence has again become an acceptable topic of conversation, we forget that this subject has enjoyed a long, colorful history. In this fascinating book, Angus McLaren gives us the first cultural history of the topic, exploring the many discussions, rumors, and controversies played out on the public stage throughout the centuries2;from the days of Plato up to the present. This is a terrific book.1;2;Dr. Ruth Westheimer
-- Dr. Ruth Westheimer

0;Diverting, enchanting and often hilarious. . . . We in the West live now in what may well be the most highly and explicitly sexualised culture in human history; not surprisingly, sex has never been more publicly contested. . . . McLaren provides not just a scholarly and witty grand "tour d7;horizon" of two and a half millenniums of thinking and writing about impotency but, in the process, reminds us that, when it comes to sex, it really is all in the mind. I only wish the book had been twice as long.1;2;Michael Bywater, "Sunday Times"
-- Michael Bywater "Sunday Times"

"A fascinating book, but probably not a good idea for Father''s Day."--History

"This important, thought-provoking work should be read by scholars and students in gender and sexuality studies, psychology, sociology, anthropology, and history. Essential."-Choice

"Men have been complaining about failed erections ever since Ovid, but as University of Victoria historian McLaren shows, their significance, and with it our conceptions of masculinity, have changed over the centuries. In the medieval world, for example, the primary concern was with whether a man was capable of consummating his marriage; it would take centuries for the physical and psychological causes to take center stage. And though everything from excessive masturbation to coitus interruptus was put forth as an explanation, just about every era, from the ancient Greeks to modern antifeminists, has found some way to put the blame on women. (In the 19th century, doctors claimed men could be put off not just by women who were reluctant but those who were too eager.) After considering the early 20th-century ''quack'' remedies of gland injections and vacuum pumps, McLaren devotes his final chapter to the cultural changes wrought by Viagra and other drugs created to treat ''erectile dysfunction.'' Far from eliminating the fear of impotence, he suggests such medications may actually lead to more anxiety, as pharmaceutical companies attempt to convince men that sexual activity is vital to their well-being. Perhaps one day McLaren will write about those problems with the wide-ranging verve of this lively history."-Publishers Weekly

"McLaren follows up his earlier studies on human fertility with this lively academic study of male impotence. Using an array of relatively obscure historical, sociological, and medical research sources, McLaren shows how the concept of male sexual potency has changed. . . . Not a clinical guide to managing male sexual dysfunction, this work is instead a more complete cultural history of impotence than is found in any medically oriented approach to the topic. Highly recommended for all medical school libraries and academic libraries supporting the helping professions."--Library Journal

"Erudite, cogent, and timely, Impotence earns a place on the list of excellent books on sexuality." -- E. James Lieberman "PsycCritiques"

"Although impotence has again become an acceptable topic of conversation, we forget that this subject has enjoyed a long, colorful history. In this fascinating book, Angus McLaren gives us the first cultural history of the topic, exploring the many discussions, rumors, and controversies played out on the public stage throughout the centuries--from the days of Plato up to the present. This is a terrific book."--Dr. Ruth Westheimer
--Dr. Ruth Westheimer

"There is much in this book to interest both the general reader and the specialist medical practitioner."--Yvonne M. Marshall "New England Journal of Medicine "

"Erudite, cogent, and timely, "Impotence" earns a place on the list of excellent books on sexuality."--E. James Lieberman "PsycCritiques "

"McLaren''s chapter on Alfred Kinsey and the sex therapists Masters and Johnson is absolutely superb--as is his final chapter on the production and aggressive marketing of Viagra. This is contemporary history-writing at its best."--Camille Paglia, "Chronicle of Higher Education"--Camille Paglia "Chronicle of Higher Education "

"An excellent contribution to the history of sexuality, masculinity, and gender; it should be a welcome addition to libraries and history seminars across North America."--Michelle K. Rhoades "Canadian Journal of History "

"In discussing impotence from Roman times (when a hard man was good to find, regardless of the object of his affections) to the Middle Ages (when Church officials would order suspect husbands to perform in front of clergy) to our current era of little blue pills (whose furious rise in sales has already started to decline), McLaren has written a pathbreaking history of masculinity."--Nick Gillespie"New York Post" (04/22/2007)

"Diverting, enchanting and often hilarious. . . . We in the West live now in what may well be the most highly and explicitly sexualised culture in human history; not surprisingly, sex has never been more publicly contested. . . . McLaren provides not just a scholarly and witty grand "tour d'horizon" of two and a half millenniums of thinking and writing about impotency but, in the process, reminds us that, when it comes to sex, it really is all in the mind. I only wish the book had been twice as long."

--Michael Bywater "Sunday Times "

Diverting, enchanting and often hilarious. . . . We in the West live now in what may well be the most highly and explicitly sexualised culture in human history; not surprisingly, sex has never been more publicly contested. . . . McLaren provides not just a scholarly and witty grand "tour d horizon" of two and a half millenniums of thinking and writing about impotency but, in the process, reminds us that, when it comes to sex, it really is all in the mind. I only wish the book had been twice as long.
--Michael Bywater "Sunday Times ""

"McLaren's chapter on Alfred Kinsey and the sex therapists Masters and Johnson is absolutely superb as is his final chapter on the production and aggressive marketing of Viagra. This is contemporary history-writing at its best."--Camille Paglia "Chronicle of Higher Education ""

About the Author

Angus McLaren is professor of history at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, and the author of several books, including The Trials of Masculinity: Studies in the Policing of Sexual Boundaries, 1870 - 1930 and Sexual Blackmail: A Modern History, the former published by the University of Chicago Press.

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By Roman Clodia TOP 500 REVIEWER on 7 Dec. 2013
Format: Hardcover
McLaren is a history professor so I expected something more scholarly than what this book actually delivers. He, quite rightly, says up-front that impotence, like every other concept, has a history of its own - but what he gives us here is a ramble through fiction, poetry, medical treatises and other assorted writings with little analysis, consolidation or nuance.

Most of the contents seem to be taken from other people's research so that there's little that is original or new. This summarising approach tends, overwhelmingly, to the generalised and broad. The whole of Greek and Roman culture from Homer to the late empire, so about 1500 years, is condensed to a single homogenous chapter. The Renaissance starts at the seventeenth-century so that the fifteenth-sixteenth centuries are erased more or less. More importantly, references aren't always given for his assertions, so that it's difficult to use this as a pointer to the relevant source material.

So this is quite an entertaining read as it romps from Circe's attempt to render Odysseus impotent in Homer, to the medicalization of masculinity via Viagra. But anyone looking for a more scholarly cultural history of impotence and masculine sexual 'failure' will need to look elsewhere.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x903536a8) out of 5 stars 2 reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9051cc9c) out of 5 stars A Historical Review of a Longstanding Problem 26 Jun. 2007
By Rob Hardy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
"Impotence in an age that believed in witchcraft was quite different from impotence in an age that believed in science." So writes Angus McLaren in _Impotence: A Cultural History_ (University of Chicago Press). What's even more important than the differences, however, is that all cultures have fretted about not having sufficient lead in their pencils. We have _the_ solution now, a wonderful pill, although like all the others, it is a solution linked with its own problems. McLaren's extensive history may be about impotence, but winds up being a history of all sorts of sexual ideas, like understanding of conception, superstitions about masturbation, women's emancipation, and more. This is literally a vital topic, and in some ways it is dismaying that we have a long history of surrounding it with silly and illogical worries. That merely shows, however, that the subject is an important one, and McLaren's entertaining book puts it into proper historical perspective.

Everything always seems to start with the ancient Greeks, who started the long tradition of blaming someone else for the problem. A Roman man would fret if neither women nor boys prompted an erection, and not having an erection, not being able to penetrate, was a shame in itself. It had nothing to do with failing to please a partner, for a desire to please a partner was itself felt to be effeminate. The medieval church felt that a marriage was only a marriage if it were properly consummated, and as a result, there was the irony of nominally celibate churchmen having to debate and adjudicate the finer points of coitus. If a wife or her family claimed that a husband had not fulfilled his part of the bargain, he might have to show that he had the power to do so. Sometimes prostitutes would be hired so that the clerics might witness the resultant erection. The performance anxiety must have led to many false positives. The problem has always been perceived as a real one, and so solutions were always there to be tried, even if they were not real solutions. Impotence then as now has been a boon for quacks. In the 1700s Dr. Brodum offered his Nervous Cordial and Botanical Syrup to get men ready for the rigors of the married state. Victorian doctors tried to cure the ailment, but they had little to offer to distinguish themselves from the quacks. They had advice on morals; don't have sex too often, and for goodness sake, don't masturbate. It would be nice to think that the twentieth century and its scientific and sexual revolutions would have solved things, but such is not the case. There were nutty therapies involving the implantation of goat or monkey glands. Viagra (and the subsequent Cialis and Levitra) were supposed to take all the worry out of sex, but nothing performs that function. McLaren reports that female partners of Viagra users aren't nearly as convinced that the drug is a boon as those who swallow the pills are, and anyway, only half of the men who try it ever get their prescriptions refilled.

It would be nice to shake some sense into people, to have them see that erections are not all there is to sex, and that there is plenty of sexual enjoyment to be had in lots of ways whether or not an erection can be counted upon. That's really the only sensible way to look at the issue, but McLaren's book demonstrates that we do not look at it sensibly. The best guess is that there will be even more advanced solutions to the problem a hundred years from now, and a hundred years from now, we will be fretting over the problem (or turning it into some new problem) just as every generation in history has.
2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x90d5f18c) out of 5 stars Pop culture conversation piece, OK. Scholarship? Not so much. 7 Dec. 2007
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As an everyman "hey, look at what people did in Ye Olden Times!" book, this is enjoyable and amusing. It is a perfect example of how to publish scholarship that will actually sell on a mass scale. As a "Cultural History," this book exemplifies the common complaints against *some* works in Cultural Studies and New Historicism.

For individuals interested in a vague overview of gender issues and sexuality through the ages, the book is fine (with a grain of salt). Its tendency to conflate hundreds of years of history into "one era" and "one viewpoint," to hand-pick items of literature that will prove a statement while ignoring several dozens of items that disprove it, to overlook some *major* elements in the field, and to play fast and loose with information makes the book risky to use for any real scholarship. Its attempt to be the Reader's Digest of the topic makes it and its dubious veracity virtually uncitable.
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