Men who feel that they’ve lost some of their masculine identity after prostate cancer treatment are more likely to feel distress about erectile dysfunction (ED), according to a study recently published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
Marital affection, as perceived by a man’s partner, also played a role in the link between diminished masculinity and sexual bother, the study found.
Sexual dysfunction is common after prostate cancer treatment. Many men experience ED, less intense orgasms, lower sex drive, and poor self-image. They may also have sex less frequently and find it difficult to adjust to these changes in their lives.
American researchers wanted to know how much a perceived loss of masculine identity affected sexual bother for these men and whether marital affection influenced this potential link.
The researchers worked with 75 couples. The men had been treated for localized prostate cancer. Participants completed questionnaires designed to assess erectile function, sexual bother, diminished masculine identity, and marital affection.
About 65% of the men had poor erectile function, as indicated by their scores on the International Index of Erectile Function.
About a third of them reported that their loss of masculinity was moderate to severe. Between 35% and 40% of the men said they felt like they’d lost a part of their manhood and almost 30% said that they felt as if they were no longer a whole man.
The researchers found that diminished masculinity after prostate cancer treatment greatly influenced sexual bother and pointed out the “bidirectional” nature of this connection. While diminished masculinity can contribute to sexual bother, “it is conceivable that elevated sexual bother may increase men’s sense of vulnerability and embarrassment, thus further challenging their masculine identity,” they wrote.
The researchers also found that this connection was stronger when the partner felt there was less marital affection, and noted the importance of men’s relationships as they recovered from prostate cancer treatment. “A close and communicative relationship can buffer distress and facilitate optimal adaptation in the face of illness.”
The authors suggest that their findings could help couples coping with ED after prostate cancer treatment. Partners who understand the link between diminished masculinity and sexual bother may be better able to reassure men and, in turn, reduce the degree of distress.
The Journal of Sexual Medicine
Zaider, Talia, PhD, et al.
“Loss of Masculine Identity, Marital Affection, and Sexual Bother in Men with Localized Prostate Cancer”
(Full-text. First published online: September 18, 2012)