In Boston, Banishing Blame And Shame

Impotence. What an assignment. Millions of men suffer it, but most won't discuss it with a brother, let alone, I feared, a female reporter. For women, health talk starts at puberty and never stops. My generation grew up with "Our Bodies, Ourselves," the '70s self-help book that demystified the female body. We bonded over annual gynecological exams, stirrups and all. But men have long kept their health woes closeted--especially when that most prized organ is involved.

Enter Dr. Irwin Goldstein, a renowned impotence specialist who's taking penises public. In his busy Boston clinic, "erectile dysfunction" is treated as a hydraulic screw-up, not a psychological impairment. "We can fix this," he tells patients who for years thought the problem was all in their, uh, head. Blame and shame are banned from the office.

With the doc's prodding, patients not only invited me into the depths of their despair but waved me into their exam rooms, too. I cringe as Goldstein sank a needle into the side of one man's penis (no worse than a "mosquito bite," I was assured). I watched another pump up an implant and achieve his first erection in two years. His ebullience was, well, palpable. "God bless you," he said to Goldstein.