Her closeness to his buddies can trigger male sex problems

Aug 26, 2011 By Susan S. Lang

An older man whose female partner is chummy with his pals is more likely to suffer from sexual dysfunction than men who keep their confidantes to themselves, reports a new Cornell study. However, this link disappeared among the oldest men in the study.

Benjamin Cornwell, assistant professor of sociology, and co-author Edward Laumann of the University of Chicago, analyzed data on 3,005 adults aged 57 to 85 from the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project. About one-quarter of in the survey reported that their female partners had more frequent contact with their male buddies than they did -- a phenomenon the researchers dub "partner betweenness."

These men, the authors report in the July issue of the (117:1), were 92 percent more likely to report than other men; of men in the sample, 36 percent reported some trouble getting and/or maintaining an erection during the past year.

The findings, said Cornwell, show "that some men's erectile difficulties stem from the psychological and/or relational consequences of partner betweenness."

In other words, it is the men's positions in their social networks vis-à-vis their that may be at the root of the problem, he said. Cornwell suspects that the was a result of the men feeling that partner betweenness compromised their "pre-eminent" position in their own social network, which rattled the mens' gender identity, resulting in a feeling of less control, independence and autonomy. These feelings, he said, could negatively impact sexual health.

This association, however, disappears among the oldest men in the sample, he said, suggesting that a woman's chumminess with a man's confidantes "ceases to represent a threat to men's gender identities at older ages."

The study is one of the first to look at how social networks might impact erectile dysfunction, said Cornwell, admitting that it is indeed counterintuitive that such a private, personal problem as erectile dysfunction would have roots in public social relationships.

While the study focused on older men, Cornwell said that "a key question is whether younger men today define masculinity in the same way that men from, say, the baby boomer generation do."

Cornwell said he plans to continue exploring the effect of social networks on personal health. "I am confident," he said, "that with more comprehensive data … you would find strong associations between network position and psychological well-being. This could be a new paradigm for social psychology."

The National Social Life, Health and Aging Project is supported by the National Institutes of Health, which also provided partial funding for this research.

Explore further: Smartphone app used by experimenters to learn more about aspects of morality

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Men defy stereotypes in defining masculinity

Aug 26, 2008

Contrary to stereotypes about sexual performance and masculinity, men interviewed in a large international study reported that being seen as honorable, self-reliant and respected was more important to their idea of masculinity ...

Men defy stereotypes in defining masculinity

Aug 26, 2008

Contrary to stereotypes about sexual performance and masculinity, men interviewed in a large international study reported that being seen as honorable, self-reliant and respected was more important to their ...

Prevent smoking to reduce risk of erectile dysfunction

Jul 27, 2007

Men who smoke cigarettes run an increased risk of experiencing erectile dysfunction, and the more cigarettes smoked, the greater the risk, according to a study by Tulane University researchers published in the American Journal ...

Recommended for you

Religious acceptance of homosexuals on the rise

Sep 12, 2014

The willingness of religious congregations to welcome homosexuals as members—and place them in leadership positions—is on the rise, according to a new Duke University study.

Childhood mentors have positive impact on career success

Sep 11, 2014

New research from North Carolina State University finds that young people who have had mentors are more likely to find work early in their careers that gives them more responsibility and autonomy – ultimately ...

User comments : 0