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Zador, N. (1992). Update 91: The Myth of the New Impotence—is the New Liberated Woman Destructive to Male Sexuality? Presenter: Helen Singer Kaplan, M.D.. Am. J. Psychoanal., 52(2):187-188.

(1992). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 52(2):187-188

Update 91: The Myth of the New Impotence—is the New Liberated Woman Destructive to Male Sexuality? Presenter: Helen Singer Kaplan, M.D.

Noka Zador, CSW

“Of course not,” was the position taken by Helen Singer Kaplan, who asserted that the notion that sexually responsive and uninhibited women can cause impotence in men is a myth based on the archaic, sexist view that “sex was something a man did to a woman.” In her examination of the impact of the sexual revolution on male sexuality, Kaplan found no scientific or clinical evidence to support the concerns (first encountered in the 1970s) that an increase in women's sexual freedom was causing an increase in impotence among their male partners.

The sexually liberated woman is not a threat to male sexuality. According to Kaplan, it is performance anxiety that is the real culprit. The exacerbation of performance anxiety, in both men and women, represents one of the negative side effects of the sexual revolution. While “the window of sexual opportunity and open sexuality” that existed during the decades between the Pill and the advent of AIDS was “wonderfully liberating,” it also intensified pressures to perform.

In studying the effects of performance anxiety impotence in men today, Kaplan has found that it is the traditional, sexually inhibited woman who embodies characteristics and attitudes antithetical to the liberated woman's approach to sex who is most likely to contribute to her partner's impotence. Inadequate sexual behavior, such as lack of responsiveness and an inability to enjoy or initiate sex, can foster feelings of rejection and inadequacy in a male partner. Conversely, sexual arousal, rather than reserve, “is an aphrodisiac for most men.” Furthermore, traditional “old-fashioned” women tend to place unreasonable demands on their partners, by making the firmness and staying power of his penis the sole source and measure of her own worth and attractiveness.

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