Erectile Dysfunction as Portrayed in Media

Erectile Dysfunction as Portrayed in Media


Dr. Fred Edwards, MBBS, FRACGP

Over the decades, media outlets have increasingly turned their attention to portraying complex and often stigmatised topics with greater sensitivity and depth. One such topic that has received attention is erectile dysfunction (ED), a condition that, while common, is often misrepresented or trivialised in popular culture. 

Through various forms of media such as movies, television shows, western animation, and even manga/anime, creators have endeavoured to shed light on the real challenges faced by individuals dealing with ED. These portrayals not only educate audiences but also contribute to a more nuanced understanding of sexual health and well-being. 

Let’s check out some examples across different types of media to see how ED has been approached with seriousness and respect, highlighting the impact of such portrayals on audience perception and awareness. 

ED as Portrayed in Movies 

There are several movies that featured men struggling with erectile dysfunction. Here’s a brief description on some of them. 

Shakespeare in Love (1998) – The main character has been suffering from erectile dysfunction along with a bad case of writer's block. This is like how career-related frustrations and stress can occur alongside erectile dysfunction. After he meets Viola, both his ED and writer’s block go away. 

A Beautiful Mind (2001) – The protagonist John Forbes Nash suffer from erectile dysfunction as a side effect of taking medications. This results in Nash having intimacy issues with his wife, and the primary reason why he stopped taking medicine. 

ED as Portrayed in TV Shows 

House of the Dragon (2022) – Daemon Targaryen is sometimes unable to maintain an erection, as his ability to perform is based on his emotional state. This is similar to some real-life cases where emotional turmoil can prevent a man from having an erection. It is also a representation of how some cases of erectile dysfunction tend to come and go, instead of being an ever-present chronic problem. 

Sex and the City (1998) – Season 3 featured Trey McDougal, Charlotte York’s husband who is struggling from erectile dysfunction. The show also portrays the relationship issues that ED can cause, as well as how partners may react to living with a man with ED. 

ED as Portrayed in Western Animation 

Kevin Spencer (1999) – The Protagonist’s father, Perry Spencer, suffer from erectile dysfunction from time to time because of his alcoholism. This is a representation of how bad lifestyle habits and substance abuse are risk factors for erectile dysfunction. 

South Park (1997) – Autumn, Mr. Hankey’s wife, frequently uses his inability to perform as an insult. While played for laughs, this is close to reality. After all, ED is a common reason for conflict in a relationship, with divorce being a possible consequence. This also depicts (rather humorously) how some individuals can be toxic towards a partner struggling with ED. 

ED as Portrayed in Anime 

Jobless Reincarnation (2012) – Main character Rudeus Greyrat has a severe case of ED caused by the trauma of being abandoned. His ED became a major subplot during the second season, and it took a combination of support from his new partner and an aphrodisiac. The entire ordeal is not played for laughs and was a major source of depression for the main character. 

Cells at Work: Code Black (2018) – The show depicts the plight of the human body as seen from within. One story arc tackles the host body’s erectile dysfunction. In order to achieve (temporary) erection, the host had to take anti-ED medication. Unfortunately, it is implied that the host has grown dependent on the drug, and this has taken a toll on other parts of his body. 

ED as Portrayed in Literature 

The Sum of All Fears (1991) – Main character Jack Ryan suffers erectile dysfunction to some degree. This is a result of alcoholism combined with stress from his job as the CIA’s deputy director. Like in real life, even non-sexual sources of stress can also increase the risk of erectile dysfunction. 

Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928) – This novel has yet another depiction of ED affecting the man’s partner. In this case, ED is one of the reasons why the titular character is cheating on her husband. The couple has also grown emotionally distant, giving the main character even more reason to cheat on him. 


There are many cases where erectile dysfunction is used as a comedic punchline. However, it’s good to know that there are works out there that portray erectile dysfunction in a more sympathetic light. Because ED is a common men’s health issue, these depictions play a vital role in educating the public. 

The more people grow aware of ED, the easier it will be for men to come forward and seek help. More importantly, these depictions can help men acknowledge their fight against ED as a valid condition that can be treated. 

Do you think you have ED? Click here to take a self-assessment and see if you qualify for our personalised treatment program. Our team of experts will be more than happy to help you manage your ED.

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