Beyond treating dysfunction in human sexual reproduction, medicine has acquired a normative role—alongside the law and religion—in commenting on sexual behavior. How physicians got that role, how well they function in validating norms of sexual conduct, and their actual and possible advisory roles are the subjects of the November issue. Contributors to the issue discuss, among other topics, the profession’s formal guide to sexual disorders—the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders—and propose ways in which physicians can improve how they talk with patients about sex-related concerns.
In the same way that we learn about normal variations in blood pressure, we need to learn about “normal” variations in sexual interests and practices. We want to avoid clueless questions or unintentionally inflammatory statements.