Sexuality & Culture

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 543–560 | Cite as

The Intimate World of Men’s Sexual Problems: Portuguese Men’s and Women’s Narratives Explicated Through a Mixed Methods Approach

  • Violeta AlarcãoEmail author
  • Luis Roxo
  • Ana Virgolino
  • Fernando Luís Machado
Original Paper


This study used a mixed methods approach to investigate the intimate world of men’s sexual problems in Portugal, and particularly erectile dysfunction, focusing on the interplay between individual, societal and relational factors. First, a community-based survey was designed, with 323 primary health care users, to investigate how sociocultural factors influence experiences and representations of sexual problems. Second, a qualitative study, involving in-depth interviews with a subsample of ten heterosexual men, complemented by five heterosexual women’s narratives, concerning men’s sexual problems, was carried out to understand the meaning of sexual problems from a lay perspective. Statistical analysis of quantitative data was carried out through logistic regressions to evaluate the sociodemographic predictors of lay representations of sexual problems. Qualitative data were analyzed using an empirically grounded typology. The role of individuals in the construction of sexual dysfunctions, particularly erectile dysfunction, was explored using sexual script theory. Key findings revealed the impact of sexual problems on daily life. Gender analysis results contributed to the understanding of how men and women challenge the definition of sexual problems as normal changes versus dysfunctional changes. Specific patterns of change in sexual experiences and sexual problems were identified in the Portuguese gendered society, which can possibly be applied to other nations and cultures.


Sexual problems Erectile dysfunction Sexual narratives Sexual scripts Gender relations Portugal 



We thank all the men and women who kindly participated in the study. We are grateful to the research team, especially Ana Beato, Ana Marques, Filipe Leão Miranda, Rui Simões, and Professor Galvão-Teles.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest. This research received no specific Grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Ethical standard

This study has been approved by the appropriate ethics committees (Lisbon Faculty of Medicine and Lisbon Regional Health Administration) and has therefore been performed in accordance with the ethical standards laid down in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments. Also, permission from the Portuguese Protection Data Authority was obtained. All persons gave their informed consent prior to their inclusion in the study. To preserve anonymity, participants were attributed a code number in the survey and only pseudo names were used in the writing of the research.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Violeta Alarcão
    • 1
    Email author
  • Luis Roxo
    • 1
  • Ana Virgolino
    • 1
  • Fernando Luís Machado
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of LisbonLisbonPortugal
  2. 2.Centre for Research and Studies in Sociology (CIES-IUL)University Institute of Lisbon, ISCTE-IULLisbonPortugal

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