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The Shubh Mangal Savdhaan effect: More men with erectile dysfunction seek advice

According to Delhiites, fertility experts, and psychologists, movies such as Shubh Mangal Saavdhan and Vicky Donor are helping remove the stigma around sexual shortcomings in men.

sex and relationships Updated: Sep 11, 2017 16:57 IST
Abhinav Verma
Abhinav Verma
Hindustan Times
Bollywood movies such as Shubh Mangal Saavdhan (still above) and Vicky Donor are helping men open up about sexual health.
Bollywood movies such as Shubh Mangal Saavdhan (still above) and Vicky Donor are helping men open up about sexual health.(HT Photo)

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that Indian men are sensitive about their manliness, and also that a sterile man is seen as less than virile. Therefore, it helps when a Bollywood actor like Ayushmann Khurrana stars in films that deal with male sexual health issues such as erectile dysfunction and couples requiring a sperm donor in order to have children.

Ayushmann’s recent film Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, in which his character has erectile dysfunction, appears to have encouraged men suffering from this problem to seek medical advice. Before that, his debut film Vicky Donor (2012), in which he played a sperm donor, wiped out some of the stigma surrounding male sterility, as that film showed sterile men happily becoming fathers with the help of donors’ sperms.

“No doubt, movies like Vicky Donor and Shubh Mangal Saavdhan create awareness and normalise sensitive topics,” says Dr Arvind Vaid, a fertility expert. “Male sexual health has been a taboo subject. Vicky Donor was the catalyst for this change. Our society [now] realises the importance of having a discussion regarding men’s sexual health. After Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, the number of people coming to infertility clinics for erectile problems has increased.”

If there’s one point of criticism, it’s that the movie focuses on the problem and doesn’t provide any solution. “The movie should’ve also highlighted what a man should do when facing this predicament,” says Dr Vipin Tyagi, another fertility expert. “The social stigma attached to erectile dysfunction is slowly fading away and this movie is accelerating that process. In the week since the movie was released, we’ve already had a few cases.”

‘The social stigma attached to erectile dysfunction is slowly fading away and this movie is accelerating that process. In the week since the movie was released, we’ve already had a few cases’ — Dr Vipin Tyagi, fertility expert

As for why it’s such a big deal for men to discuss their sexual problems, psychologist Pulkit Sharma says, “From an evolutionary point of view, a man’s sense of his manliness, his identity, is deeply rooted in his sexuality. If a man can’t get it up, the ego is hurt. In most cases, if a man opens up to his friends, then he gets ridiculed, and if he opens up to his parents or partner, he feels inadequate and inferior. So [men] don’t know what to do or how to get help.”

For Delhi men, the answer to this conundrum lies in the slowly evolving definition of modern masculinity. “Throughout history, masculinity has been defined in a narrow juvenile manner, and almost entirely by sexual prowess. Men are hesitant to admit they can come up short,” says Karthikeya Ramesh, 28, advertising professional.

Another Delhi resident, Sharad (named changed), says, “Men are still shy when it comes to buying condoms. Just like our patriotism is defined by you getting up for the national anthem, our masculinity is defined by our ability to get it up. You have to give credit to movies such as these for producing sensible content addressing taboo issues.”