By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
There have been various different attitudes towards sexual dysfunction over the centuries. Erectile dysfunction, in particular, has been written about in detail since medieval times.
Some of the earliest treatment approaches to sexual dysfunction were developed by Muslim physicians and pharmacists in medieval times. These physicians would prescribe both single drug therapies and combination regimens to treat erectile dysfunction. They also designed topical or locally applied medication preparations and developed drugs that could be applied via the urethra.
Some examples of key Muslim figures who were well known for this between the 9th and 16th centuries include Muhammad ibn Zakarīya Rāzi, Thabit bin Qurra, Ibn Al-Jazzar, Avicenna Averroes, Ibn al-Baitar, and Ibn al-Nafis. In particular, Avicenna was known for writing the book “The Canon of Medicine” and Ibn al-Nafis for writing the “The Comprehensive Book on Medicine.”
Traditional Chinese treatment approaches to sexual dysfunction included acupuncture, acupressure and the use of herbs.
As far as modern medicine is concerned, the study of sexual dysfunction dates back to the 1970s when the book Human Sexual Inadequacy was published by Masters and Johnson. The book was the final product of more than ten years of work carried out at the Reproductive Biology Research Foundation in St. Louis and involved 790 cases. The foundations for the book were laid out in a previous work by Master and Johnson called Human Sexual Response, which was published in 1966.
Prior to this, the main figure associated with treatment approaches to sexual dysfunction was Sigmund Freud. It was generally believed that sexual dysfunction originated in psychopathological factors and, overall, attitudes were pessimistic over the possibility of such disorders ever resolving. The approach to sexual disorders was mainly psychopathological and the various different forms of sexual dysfunction and their underlying causes were poorly distinguished.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc
Last Updated: Sep 10, 2014