Is sex even considered a taboo in the Netherlands? Aren’t we increasingly open about sex?

“You partially think it is less of a taboo because of the way it is depicted by the media. People do talk about sex a lot, but they tend to focus on the positive aspects. When things are not going so well, they tend to keep them to themselves. Men with erectile dysfunction will not often discuss this among themselves. When they talk about sex, they want to act tough and brag.”

What about students? They are known for a willingness to experiment and sometimes test limits.

“There are taboos among students, as well. We fairly regularly see young women, aged 25 or under, who suffer pain while having intercourse and who have never discussed this with anyone but their partner. Their girlfriends are not aware they are having this issue. Men tend to see us because of their symptoms a bit later in life.”

How come people find it so hard to discuss such matters?

“There are several reasons. Some people will say, ‘I never discuss personal matters with others.’ Or they will think, I’m young and fit – things are not supposed to be like this. And they are afraid others will look at them funny.

“But it’s not just a taboo among students. Even health professionals are often afraid to ask their patients how their sex life is, even though anyone with half a brain can imagine that it must be affected by their illness or medical condition. Cancer is an example of a situation where this is quite problematic. The doctor feels it is inappropriate to ask a cancer patient how he is doing sex-wise, while the patient thinks, I’m lucky even to be alive. But meanwhile, it does pray on the patient’s mind.”

The announcement of the lecture says that you will discuss social stigma. Can you give us some examples of that?

“Stigma is a bit of a big word, but young people have this idea that they should be having sex as often as possible and that they should be willing to experiment a lot. If they are not doing that, and if they run into any problems, something must clearly be wrong with them. The media are partly to blame for this. The way the media depict it, sex is something only engaged in by young and beautiful people who never encounter any issues. I hardly ever see TV shows about sex-related problems or about the sex lives of elderly or disabled people.”

For more information, click here. The lecture (in Dutch) is part of a three-part series about taboos, organised by SG Erasmus and MFVR, the Faculty of Medicine’s study society. The first lecture will be given in Lecture Room 1 at Hoboken (Erasmus MC) between 12.30 and 1.30pm on 8 May. The second and third lectures will be about expensive medication and alternative medicine.