Many believe erectile dysfunction (ED), also known as impotence, is becoming more prevalent in young men. A recent study of 2,000 British men found that 50% of those in their 30s reported difficulties in getting and maintaining an erection. But Nicole Prause, a neuroscientist who specialises in sexual behaviour, says there is little scientific and statistical evidence of a growth in the prevalence of ED. “When you look representatively, there has not been an increase in erectile dysfunction. I see stats all the time reading, ‘It’s increased 1,000% in young men.’ But there’s no paper that says that.”
What does seem to have increased is young men’s performance anxiety. More men believe themselves to have ED, when they are actually anxious about their sexual performance. Under enormous social pressure to be smooth sexual performers, they are mistakenly self-diagnosing with ED after a few failed attempts to have sex. “If you look at the rise of easily accessible pornography, people have an expectation that men are going to be great performers,” says Raymond Francis, a psychotherapist at the Apex Practice, in London.