Sexual desire, erectile dysfunction and the biomedicalization of sex in older heterosexual men


  • Susan Gledhill MHA PhD RN/RM,

    Sessional Academic
    1. School of Nursing, Midwifery and Paramedicine, Australian Catholic University, Banyo, Queensland, Australia
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  • Robert D. Schweitzer B.SocSci MA (ClinPsy) PhD

    Associate Professor
    1. School of Psychology and Counselling, Queensland University of Technology, Kelvin Grove, Queensland, Australia
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Correspondence to R.D. Schweitzer:




To examine sexual desire in older age and the use of pharmaceuticals for sexual enhancement in the context of erectile dysfunction.


The ability of the older person to fulfil sexual desire has not been well supported in Western society.


The paper draws on themes that emerged during a phenomenological study of sexual desire in older age.


Narratives were collected between 2008–2010 from in-depth interviews with six men and two women aged 65–84 years who were part of a larger Australian study of sexual desire in older age.


Emergent themes reveal that for some older people, the biomedicalization of sex can be a disappointing experience.


The findings illuminate the need for nurses who are at the front line of health care, health policy makers and educators, to consider sexual desire experienced in older age in the context of sexual health and healthy ageing. This study will contribute to a growing body of knowledge about sexual desire in older age.