"People with erectile dysfunction"

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Following up on yesterday's "Pregnant People" post, I thought I'd look at terminological developments for a condition associated with male as opposed to female birth sex and anatomy.

The first thing to note is that current discussions of erectile dysfunction use both "men" and "people", sometimes in the same article — thus Richard Fogoros, "Is Viagra (Sildenafil) Safe for Men With Heart Disease?", verywell health 12/10/2020:

Viagra (sildenafil) has been life-changing for many people with erectile dysfunction (ED), making it possible to have a robust and satisfying sex life. However, this drug and others belonging to a class of medications called phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors (PDE5 inhibitors), may not be safe for people with certain types of heart disease.

A second point is that "people" seems to be gaining on "men" in this context, though the numbers are overall on the low side.

Here are counts from the same NOW (News on the Web) corpus that I used in the "Pregnant people" post, for the "X with erectile dysfunction" frame:


  MEN     PEOPLE     %PEOPLE  
01/01/2010-12/31/2019 126 5 3.8%
01/01/2020-08/21/2021 27 2 6.9%

The "X with ED(s)" frame:


  MEN     PEOPLE     %PEOPLE  
01/01/2010-12/31/2019 86 25 22.5%
01/01/2020-08/21/2021 12 17 58.6%

And the sum of the full phrases and the initialisms:


  MEN     PEOPLE     %PEOPLE  
01/01/2010-12/31/2019 212 30 12.4%
01/01/2020-08/21/2021 39 19 32.8%

A final point is that neither Albert Mohler Jr. nor anyone else seems to be getting het up about this (though maybe I've missed it?).


  1. Seth said,

    August 21, 2021 @ 9:18 am

    To be fair, "pregnancy" plays an enormously greater role in terms of prominence of popular awareness and the overall concept of "woman", than "erectile dysfunction" does for "man". It's a bit disingenuous to imply that an idea of "only women can be pregnant" is of equal significance to "only men can have erectile dysfunction" (as in "getting het up about this").

    There's some very deep structural arguments going on here, and that at least should be recognized.

  2. Joe said,

    August 21, 2021 @ 12:39 pm

    To be fair, "pregnancy" plays an enormously greater role in terms of prominence of popular awareness and the overall concept of "woman"

    Yes, to Dr. Mohler and many others, women are child-bearers first and people second, whereas men are people first and penis-havers second. It's good to see the CDC treating everyone neutrally as people instead of that. At least on the pregnancy side; does the CDC have any recent statements about erectile dysfunction to compare? Sauce for the goose…

  3. pharma said,

    August 21, 2021 @ 4:15 pm

    Could you amend the counts by looking for "patients with ED"?

    Over the last decade many pharma companies have changed their language from talking about "[disease] patients" to "people with [disease]", because people who have a disease don't want to be defined by it.

    So the increase in "people with ED" could come from an increased switch from "patients" rather than from "men".

  4. Timothy George Rowe said,

    August 21, 2021 @ 5:16 pm

    It's worth remembering that sildenafil has uses beyond erectile dysfunction, so even those using a naive definition of "man" will sometimes find it necessary to refer to people in general when, for instance, discussing its safety.

  5. Andrew Usher said,

    August 21, 2021 @ 10:05 pm

    This one's actually easy to explain: first, there's no evidence that 'people' here is being used to make any point, nor that anyone have noticed it as such, so it's entirely unsurprising that no one would have gotten 'het up'. The attribution of motives by 'Joe' is really unfair, even if some of those people actually do believe that.

    Then, 'erectile dysfunction' feels like a euphemism or a technical term, and the phrasing 'people with …' makes it more so, and not likely to trigger any emotional response. In fact, I'm pretty sure that the term was invented or at least popularised by those pushing ED drugs; as we know, before the technical term was 'impotence' and that does have an adjectival form. In that case, it does work: 'impotent men' would be used, not 'impotent people' – the latter can't even have the intended meaning. Though 'impotent men' was not likely ever common parlance as 'pregnant women' is, it's a closer parallel.

    So it seems the difference is one of construction, and that here (unlike 'pregnant people') we simply do have a natural variation of language – on the one hand, the common 'people with [CONDITION]', and on the other, the obvious attribution of gender. Is this what Seth's final sentence was getting at?

    k_over_hbarc at yahoo.com

  6. Seth said,

    August 22, 2021 @ 3:13 pm

    @Andrew Usher – I was gesturing more at that this is not about minor grammatical arguments, i.e. language writ small, e.g. like misnegation, ambiguous phrasing, quirks of idiom. It's language writ large, how do we divide up the world, what's most salient, at levels which connect to some of the most fundamental parts of culture. Collapsing that all into something like "… terminological developments for a condition …" is draining out that crucial aspect in a way which is missing the forest for not even the trees, but a leaf on one of the trees.

  7. Andrew Usher said,

    August 24, 2021 @ 7:19 am

    You lost me, and I think you'd lose pretty much everyone, with that pseudo-philosophical turn. What ever does that have to do with your assertion that

    "pregnancy" plays an enormously greater role in terms of prominence of popular awareness and the overall concept of "woman", than "erectile dysfunction" does for "man".

    (which I think I agree with). I admit that you might have some useful meaning in mind, but I can't parse it.

  8. Andrew Usher said,

    August 25, 2021 @ 7:42 am


  9. EmilyPigeon said,

    August 25, 2021 @ 12:55 pm

    The phrase "het up" threw me off a bit because I'm mainly familiar with "het" as an abbreviation for "heterosexual" (it's used in reference to fanfics).

  10. Philip Taylor said,

    August 26, 2021 @ 2:28 am

    Well, Emily, that just goes to demonstrate what a diverse group we are — for me, "het up" is an everyday phrase, while "fanfics" are a complete mystery.

  11. Andrew Usher said,

    August 27, 2021 @ 5:39 pm

    'Het up' is far too dialectal for me to ever use – the nearest standard equivalent is 'fired up'. I have no encounter with the (mainly female) world of 'fanfics', either, but at least I get the idea; however, I would not, either, interpret 'het' as short for 'heterosexual' without proper context.

  12. Philip Taylor said,

    August 28, 2021 @ 5:01 am

    For me, Andrew (and, I suspect, for the majority of speakers of <Br.E>), "het up" is not a synonym for "fired up", at least as I understand the latter. "Don't get so het up — he's bound to come back soon" (when a dog is lost), but "he got very fired up when he realised that he was next in line for dismissal". The former would be an expression of worry, while the latter would be an expression of anger, resentment, etc.

  13. Andrew Usher said,

    August 28, 2021 @ 12:18 pm

    The meaning of Mark Liberman's use, though, was surely closer to the latter – the expression is likely not native to his dialect, either.

    For the first I suppose I'd say 'anxious' or use a different construction.

  14. Philip Taylor said,

    August 28, 2021 @ 3:26 pm

    I feel obliged to confess that it is only now, as a result of this thread and of (a) introspection, followed by (b) a visit to the OED for confirmation, that I finally realise that "het" is a variant of heated. I have used the word (in the fixed phrase "het up") for most of my 74 years without ever before having thought about its origins.

  15. Robert Coren said,

    August 29, 2021 @ 10:04 am

    For me (native speaker of US English, Northeastern variety), "fired up" is more likely to mean "excited, eager". That's certainly how it's used in a sports context, which is probably where I've encountered it most.

  16. Andrew Usher said,

    August 30, 2021 @ 7:49 am

    Yes, that is also my observation. I think I picked 'fired' because of its semantic closeness to 'heated'- is there any exact equivalent in standard American to what Philip says he means by 'het up'?

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