Sunday, May 13, 2007

Pg. 69: Angus McLaren's "Impotence"

At the Page 69 Test: Angus McLaren's Impotence: A Cultural History.

About the book, from the publisher:
As anyone who has watched television in recent years can attest, we live in the age of Viagra. From Bob Dole to Mike Ditka to late-night comedians, our culture has been engaged in one long, frank, and very public talk about impotence — and our newfound pharmaceutical solutions. But as Angus McLaren shows us in Impotence, the first cultural history of the subject, the failure of men to rise to the occasion has been a recurrent topic since the dawn of human culture.

Drawing on a dazzling range of sources from across centuries, McLaren demonstrates how male sexuality was constructed around the idea of potency, from times past when it was essential for the purpose of siring children, to today, when successful sex is viewed as a component of a healthy emotional life. Along the way, Impotence enlightens and fascinates with tales of sexual failure and its remedies — for example, had Ditka lived in ancient Mesopotamia, he might have recited spells while eating roots and plants rather than pills — and explanations, which over the years have included witchcraft, shell-shock, masturbation, feminism, and the Oedipal complex. McLaren also explores the surprising political and social effects of impotence, from the revolutionary unrest fueled by Louis XVI’s failure to consummate his marriage to the boost given the fledgling American republic by George Washington’s failure to found a dynasty. Each age, McLaren shows, turns impotence to its own purposes, using it to help define what is normal and healthy for men, their relationships, and society.

From marriage manuals to metrosexuals, from Renaissance Italy to Hollywood movies, Impotence is a serious but highly entertaining examination of a problem that humanity has simultaneously regarded as life’s greatest tragedy and its greatest joke.
Among the praise for Impotence:
An "erudite, entertaining, and insightful study of what's now been medicalized as 'erectile dysfunction.'"
--Nick Gillespie, editor-in-chief, Reason

“In this fascinating book, Angus McLaren gives us the first cultural history of impotence, exploring the many discussions, rumors, and controversies played out on the public stage throughout the centuries — from the days of Plato up to the present. This is a terrific book. ”
--Dr. Ruth Westheimer

“Men have been complaining about failed erections ever since Ovid, but as McLaren shows, their significance, and with it our conceptions of masculinity, have changed over the centuries…. This [is a] lively history.”
--Publishers Weekly

"Once seen mainly as a function of siring children, [male sexual potency] is now regarded as an important component of a healthy emotional state. McLaren offers a dynamic survey of masculinity, perceptions of impotence, and the never-ending search for help with male sexual dysfunction. He starts with the Greek and Roman view of male potency, then moves to the understanding of impotence during the early Christian era, the Age of Reason, the 19th century, the Freudian era, and the rise of modern medical research as exemplified by the famous Kinsey and Masters and Johnson studies. The author ends with a timely, thoughtful analysis of the contemporary approach, driven by major drug companies."
--Library Journal
Angus McLaren is a professor of history at the University of Victoria. His many other scholarly works include: Sexual Blackmail: A Modern History (Harvard University Press, 2002); Our Own Master Race: Eugenics in Canada, 1885-1945 ( Oxford University Press, 1997); A Prescription for Murder: The Victorian Serial Killings of Dr. Thomas Neill Cream (University of Chicago Press, 1993); The Trials of Masculinity: Studies in the Policing of Sexual Boundaries, 1870-1930 (University of Chicago Press, 1997); and Twentieth-Century Sexuality: A History (Blackwell, 1999).

Visit the publisher's page for Impotence and read excerpts from Impotence and view a 1920s advertisement for the The Vital Power Vacuum Massager.

The Page 69 Test: Impotence.

--Marshal Zeringue