Burt Reynolds Helped Bring Awareness to Male Impotence First

The latest news about Burt Reynolds revolves around his regret of losing romantic partner Sally Field, his Smokey and The Bandit partner in the 70s, whom he continued a relationship with until the early 1980s, when he said he "made mistakes" and let her go, as reported by the Inquistir. Once known as one of the most handsome and masculine men in American movie culture, Reynolds has long been a celebrated poster-boy of bravado and testosterone. Despite his own admitted regrets which he has discussed prior to the public release of his life memoir, due to be available November 17, Reynolds has had a lot of fun and a lot of laughs, and had enough self-confidence to bring a face to a topic that was rarely discussed in the 1970s: male impotence, now known as erectile dysfunction.

Burt Reynolds is not broke.
Burt Reynolds in the 1970s. Silver Screen Collection/ Getty Images

Today, erectile dysfunction is a household term, with commercials for Viagra and Cialis, medications which treat male erectile dysfunction, seen on many television channels at any time of the day. There's been a public outreach to discuss what was once a deeply shameful thing: the inability of a male to perform in the bedroom. Perhaps partly due to big pharma and their financial goals, there is a lot more known about erectile dysfunction and how it is treated, as well as the facts that surround it: a whopping 50 percent of males experience some degree of erectile dysfunction by their 40s, whether it is inability to achieve an erection, maintain an erection, or both. The world is a lot more willing to discuss any sexual issue today, but back in 1972 this wasn't the norm.

However, Burt Reynolds decided to help bring awareness to the topic of male impotence at the height of his career, according to Esquire. When Jack Nicholson backed out of a cover article for the magazine, an article on male impotence was the next up for headline billing. Esquire decided to ask the most "masculine man" in the United States to pose for the cover and feature story, and to their delight, he said yes. According to Reynolds, it was an interesting and lighthearted event that he didn't mind at all.

"I was working on a picture called ​White Lightning​when I was approached by a guy from Esquire who said they wanted to do this cover with me. I got the joke right away and said yes. We went into the back of this photography shop in town, and they had it all lit up. It was summer in Arkansas, where it's about 112 degrees inside, so at least it wasn't in the cold! We had a few laughs—and I think I had a few drinks. I like the photographer, Dan Wynn, a lot. I think the best thing you can do when your masculinity is being brought up so constantly is just to have fun with it. And fortunately, the public really reacted well to it. Johnny Carson and I were very close, and he was always kidding me about it. But I always had fun with him. I mean, every place that I went on, that kind of a show or a talk show, or any publicity that I was doing for a picture, they brought it up. It was fun. I'd worked with Jon Voight on ​Deliverance​ that year, and he and I have remained very close friends. We always have a million laughs. And he's somebody that kids me about all that stuff. I keep telling him that they would have asked him to do the cover, but he wasn't masculine enough!"
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[Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Spike TV]While he hasn't yet discussed whether he personally was effected by male impotence, he surely seems willing to discuss everything about his personal life, as fans express concern that lately he's been looking very frail at public appearances. Reynolds, an icon of sexuality and masculinity, is aging, but remains an important part of the history of American male allure.

[Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images]