Men, medicine and masculinity

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By | Early Medicine, Events and Visits

The second seminar in the 2014-15 History of Pre-Modern Medicine academic seminar series, will take place on Tuesday 28 October.

Reclining male nude, penis dissected From: Tabulae anatomicae LXXIXX By: Placentinus Julius Casserius Published: 1632 Lib. VIIIPage 179 Tab XV Wellcome Images L0022377

Speaker: Dr Jennifer Evans (University of Hertfordshire)

‘Men, Medicine and Masculinity: male sexual health in the Long 17th Century’


Masculinity in early modern England, in part, rested upon the male body exhibiting potency, strength, and rationality. This could be achieved through the tone of voice, the growth of facial hair, the development of a muscular physique and the production of children. The health of the male body was therefore tied to ideas of manhood and masculinity. In this paper I am going to explore how men’s sexual health and reproductive problems were accommodated within these ideas. How did men understand their sexual health, did they experience shame about suffering from conditions that affected their reproductive organs, and how did they interact with medical practitioners and healers in these circumstances? Drawing on medical literature, correspondence and other early modern writings this paper will demonstrate that men’s responses to sexual health problems show concern, in some cases, about their masculinity and their reputation. For some diseases, particularly venereal disease, they were motivated in their search for treatments by shame, but, as we might perhaps expect, pain was central to narratives of male sexual health experience. This paper will also reveal that the stereotype of ambivalent and difficult male patients has a long history.

The seminar will take place in the Wellcome Trust, Gibbs Building, 215 Euston Road, NW1 2BE.  Doors open at 6pm prompt, seminars will start at 6.15pm. (Please note: this is a change of venue).

The seminar series is focused on pre-modern medicine, which we take to cover European and non-European history before the 20th century (antiquity, medieval and early modern history, some elements of 19th-century medicine).

Further details on the seminar series are available in a previous post.

Ross Macfarlane

Ross Macfarlane is the Research Engagement Officer at the Wellcome Library.

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