What do hungry ducks, angry wives, and erectile dysfunction have in common? More than you would ever think.
In some parts of Thailand, there's an expression: "I better get home or the ducks will have something to eat!" You see, the mere mention of the ducks – especially when you've been out with your buddies tossing back some Mekhong whiskey – is enough to cause your manhood to grab its testicle suitcases and waddle over to Cambodia.
The thing is, in Thailand, a lot of peasants live in homes that are elevated on pilings. Underneath the pilings live the assorted pigs, chickens, and ducks that the family depends on for food.
The scary part starts when a foolish man comes home late and drunk, so late and so drunk that his wife can't help but think he's been out steaming someone else's dumplings. The occasional wife gets so pissed off that she slices off the offending penis with a kitchen knife.
Then she takes the bloody thing and chucks it out the window to the ground below where it's often eaten by the ducks... unless the horrified man can gather his wits and what's left of his penis and fire-pole down a piling to win the most important race of his life.
So that's why "I better get home or the ducks will have something to eat" is a common saying in Thailand.
Because of this propensity of some Thai wives to exact this particular kind of revenge, Thailand is now home to the best practitioners of penis surgery in the world. As good as these microsurgeons are, these reattached penises aren't as good as factory originals. They're obviously shorter, but they're also kind of numb, and they don't rise to the occasion.
It's easy to understand erectile dysfunction caused by a kitchen knife, but there are, of course, many kinds of impotence. Despite the introduction of Viagra and other impotence drugs, many men are non-responders.
Often, these men have no recourse but to have surgery, and one of the world's most experienced of these urological surgeons is Geng-Long Hsu of Taiwan. Dr. Hsu has been fixing penises of all kinds for most of his professional life.
Hsu is extremely well versed in all aspects of the penis. He even knows about penis direction. Hsu says, "Most men are communists! Lean to left. Second most common: bow down, like Japanese gentleman! Number three, to the right! Four, up! Like elephant!"
He uses this vast knowledge to restore malfunctioning or injured penises.
Aside from repairing bizarrely injured penises, Hsu is renowned for a particular type of surgical treatment for erectile dysfunction. Even though the procedure has fallen out of favor with the majority of urosurgeons, Hsu continues to use it.
What Hsu does seems sort of counterintuitive in that he actually ties off and removes certain veins of the penis. This is counterintuitive because, as most of us know, erections are all about blood and not, as they believed in the Middle Ages, pressurized air.
The blood lies in cylindrical chambers known as the corpora cavernosa, and these tissues are filled with smooth muscle tissue made sponge-like with thousands of tiny hollow spaces. When this smooth muscle relaxes — as it does when signaled by enzyme-produced nitric oxide gas — it expands with blood.
When the pressure inside gets to a certain point, it literally squeezes shut the veins caught in between the aforementioned corpora cavernosa and the tunica, thus preventing blood from flowing out so that the Thor's-hammer-like erection can be maintained.
The common cock ring mimics this effect. The trouble is, cock rings sometimes get stuck. In fact, cock-ring emergencies are so common in San Francisco that they use the designation "C-Ring" on their fire department communications, and everybody knows what they're talking about. They even have their own circular saw specifically modified for this purpose.
Anyhow, if a man is impotent, it's often because the erectile tissue isn't expanding vigorously enough to constrict those aforementioned veins and the blood seeps out until it is, according to Hsu, "Like a tire! Flat!"
Part of the problem is that aging causes the loss of elasticity, and some of the muscle cells in the erectile chambers are gradually replaced by connective tissue fibers that are too rigid to allow for ample turgidity.
If the tissue is too rigid, it won't expand fully and force those blood vessels to close. Regardless, Dr. Hsu prefers stripping some of these larger veins so that the rate at which blood flows out of the penis slows, thus allowing the patient to maintain an erection, despite lack of elasticity.
While most urologists have abandoned the procedure because of gradually diminishing returns among patients who've had it done, Hsu claims to have a patient satisfaction rate of about 90%. Unfortunately, unless other docs can replicate his results, Dr. Hsu will pretty much remain the sole practitioner of this method.
Despite men like Dr. Hsu who use surgical intervention to cure impotence, the reason for the problem has, at least for the last 80 years or so, thought to have been psychological. Limp penises were caused by neuroses, unresolved conflict with parents, or weird obsessions. If you needed to un-shrink, you went to the shrink.
Of course, impotence became medicalized in 1998 when Pfizer introduced Viagra. Later, as we began to understand more about the relationship between nitric oxide and erections, we found natural supplements like punicaligan, pycnogenol, and other polyphenols that could mimic, albeit to a lesser degree, the powers of Viagra and other similar drugs.
Granted, there were those who still had problems because they really did have deep-rooted psychological problems or, as mentioned earlier, the penis had merely aged and developed fibrotic tissue.
Regardless, impotence has come a long way since the Middle Ages when it was thought to be caused by a demon or a witch. In the late 1700s, blame shifted to men themselves. 1760 saw the publication of a book called Onaism; Or, A Treatise upon the Disorders Produced by Masturbation. Read throughout Europe and America, the book spread the belief that sperm was a vital source of life energy and bad things happened when you squandered it.
Masturbation and casual sex – especially with women considered unattractive – led to all kinds of medical problems like blindness, heart trouble, insanity, stupidity, acne, clammy hands, acrid belches, "a flow of fetid matter from the fundament," stooped shoulders, flabby muscles, and of course, impotence. The cure, of course, was simply to stop beating off.
Entrepreneurs saw an opportunity to cash in on the problem, so the U.S. Patent Office was besieged by anti-masturbation devices, some even consisting of adjustable rings lined with spikes. Any nocturnal erections would be punished by extreme pain. Other devices gave the user an electric shock or, more mercifully, merely started to tug on the pubic hairs when an erection reared its trepidatious head.
This type of thinking carried over well into the 20th century, perhaps culminating in the 1916 publication of Practical Treatise on the Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment of Sexual Impotence and Other Sexual Disorders in Men and Women.
The author, American physician William Robinson, was big on preventing premature awakening of sexual desires in the young, strongly urging parents "to keep their boys away from sensuous musical comedies and obscene vaudeville acts."
Another party poop, a Dr. Crommelinck, even urged men to avoid touching their genitals at any time – even while urinating – lest they got excited. He advised, "Urinate quickly, do not shake your penis, even if it means having several drops of urine drip into your pants." This no doubt gave birth to the old lavatory chestnut, "Shake it more than twice and you're playing with it."
Luckily, the medical world is now a little more accepting of masturbation, and the true reasons for impotence have been pinned down to mostly treatable conditions.
Still, it makes you wonder if all this hand wringing is more trouble than it's worth. In many ways, having a penis is like owning an exotic sports car you can barely afford, a sports car that consumes 95% of your thoughts and your energy.
We wonder if we'd be happier, if life would be simpler, if we just got rid of the damn things.
Yeah, maybe, but we know full well we'd soon be at Dr. Hsu's clinic, begging for him to slap that baby back on and, while we're thinking about it, to give us a few spares from that collection just in case we run into a jealous Thai woman with a kitchen knife.
Much of the info in this article came from a great book by Mary Roach titled, Bonk, The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex.
T Nation earns from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate. Read more about our policy.