Erectile Function and Sexual Satisfaction: The Importance of Asking About Sexual Desire

Carlo Andrea Bravi, Amy Tin, Francesco Montorsi, John P. Mulhall, James A. Eastham, Andrew J. Vickers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Erectile function, libido, and sexual bother are incompletely correlated: a man may or may not be satisfied for a given level of erectile function; similarly, 2 men may have the same erectile function and different levels of sexual desire. Aim: To explore the relationship between erectile function, sexual satisfaction and sexual desire. Methods: We examined the Spearman correlation among erectile function (International Index of Erectile Function [IIEF-6]), sexual desire, and sexual bother in 3,944 questionnaires completed by patients after radical prostatectomy as part of routine care. IIEF-6 scores were adjusted if a patient indicated that the reason for not having intercourse was other than lack of ability of confidence (eg, lack of partner). Main Outcome Measure: Patient-reported outcome instruments. Results: Median age at surgery and preoperative IIEF-6 were 63 years and 26, respectively. Among questionnaires completed after surgery, there was moderate correlation among the IIEF-6 score and both sexual desire (Spearman rho: 0.41) and sexual bother (Spearman rho: 0.30). In men who reported high or moderate bother relating to sexual function, there was a narrow distribution of erectile function scores, with most men reporting poor function (median IIEF-6: 6, interquartile range 3, 11). For men who reported small or no problem with sexual function, the distribution of erectile function scores was wide, and particularly bimodal as a function of sexual desire. Among patients with high desire, the correlation between sexual bother and erectile function was 0.61 (ie, the poorer is your function, the greater you are bothered), whereas it was -0.081 among patients with low desire, meaning that some men are not bothered by poor erections. Clinical Implications: We provided useful insights to help physicians during sexual counselling after surgery for prostate cancer. Strength & Limitations: The study included a large number of patients and provides evidence for implementation of patient-reported outcome insturments. Limitations include the retrospective nature of our data. Conclusion: Sexual desire helps explain the moderate correlation between erectile function and sexual bother. Sexual desire and bother questions should be incorporated in patient-reported outcome instruments for male sexual function. Bravi CA, Tin A, Montorsi F, et al. Erectile Function and Sexual Satisfaction: The Importance of Asking About Sexual Desire. J Sex Med 2020;17:349–352.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)349-352
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Sexual Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020


  • Erectile Dysfunction
  • IIEF Questionnaire
  • Patient-Reported Outcome Instruments
  • Radical Prostatectomy
  • Sexual Function

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology
  • Urology


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