When it comes to the penis and its attendant components, both sexes are plagued by ignorance. I am always amazed by how little my patients know about their own penises. Middle-aged men are constantly asking me questions that they should have been able to answer as teenagers. They are not only underinformed but also misinformed.
One reason for this reluctance to discuss male sexuality openly is our puritanical heritage. The very word penis still has a peculiar shock value. When many people hear it they giggle, blush, or avert their eyes.
The other reason men remain ignorant about the penis is that most physicians are undereducated in the area of men’s sexual health. Just as with every other organ, doctors learn the penis’s basic anatomy and the biological details of what takes place when it performs its various functions.
But doctors (and patients) are taught little about the concept of the penis mystique. The penis mystique is that curious realm where the hard data of biology meets the unpredictable and mysterious realm of the mind and emotions.
Doctors should be able to competently answer these questions:
- What makes the penis work and what makes it not work?
- Why does the penis seem to have a mind of its own?
- Why does the penis get hard some times and not others?
- Why are some sexual experiences more satisfying than others, even though the exact same reflex action occurs with every orgasm?
- What is normal and what is not?
Men wonder about all of these things, but they are usually too embarrassed to inquire about them. And if they do ask their doctors, they usually get inadequate answers. The truth is that we do not know enough about these issues scientifically.
The psychic realm of the penis is being ignored in medical education, except in psychiatry classes, where the discussion is confined to abnormalities. This is a major problem. If men cannot turn to doctors for this vital information, whom can they ask?
Doctors talk about the penis only when a patient brings the subject up because he has a problem. Even in the context of a general physical examination, physicians will take at most a cursory look at the genitals for signs of gross abnormalities.
In most cases, most physicians do not even ask questions about the patient’s sex life, which could provide clues to physical disorders. This reality for men is in stark contrast to the rigorous yearly exams that most women undergo with their gynecologists.
The fact that doctors do not examine men on a regular basis is a major contributing factor to the widespread ignorance I have witnessed in men with regard to awareness of their bodies in general and their genitals specifically.
If you do not have a doctor who examines your genitals, or if your doctor is someone with whom you are not comfortable discussing your sexual well-being, then you should try to find one who understands that your sexual organs are not merely machines that perform biological services.
A good doctor comprehends that the penis is not just a functional body part but also a psychological and spiritual agent designed to bring you pleasure. Your doctor should be someone with whom you feel comfortable sharing the intimate details of your life. If this is not the case, then the time may be right for a visit to your local urologist.
Knowledge of the penis is so central to a man’s being–so natural, so normal, and so vital–that we must bring it out of the closet and into the light of day. If we do not, the damaging trend of penis ignorance will continue to grow.
Dudley S. Danoff, MD, FACS is the attending urologic surgeon and founder/president of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Tower Urology Group in Los Angeles, California. He is the author of Penis Power: The Ultimate Guide To Male Sexual Health (Del Monaco Press, 2011) and Superpotency (Warner Books).
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