This Is Your D*ck on COVID-19: Reaching Stubbornly Unvaxxed Men

[NB: Note the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

New Yorker’s contributor Jelani Cobb tweeted this weekend about improving vaccination rates:

Color me highly skeptical.

Anti-vaxx/COVID-hoax/Anti-Mask men have studiously ignored science throughout the pandemic, including 15 months of published research about the risk COVID poses to their ‘nads.

I wrote last September about the risks to men’s reproductive organs:

Autopsies of COVID-19 victims showed damage to testicles:

Yang M, et al. Pathological Findings in the Testes of COVID-19 Patients: Clinical Implications. Eur
Urol Focus (2020),

Based on findings, not only should kidney function and hormone levels be monitored but younger men should receive fertility counseling for family planning:

Wang, S., Zhou, X., Zhang, T. et al. The need for urogenital tract monitoring in COVID-19. Nat Rev Urol 17, 314–315 (2020). Published 20 April 2020 Issue Date June 2020

There have been many anecdotes of patients with sequelae lasting months after their initial illness. A large enough number exist for them to form groups in social media to compare notes about their experience. As the underlying SARS-CoV-2 virus is novel, we don’t have years of experience to look back upon for trends. We can’t yet predict whether there will be lifelong disability though many patients have reported development of diabetes, kidney dysfunction, heart disease, neurological impairment which have lasted months after they were technically deemed recovered. Studies on COVID-19’s long term effects have only recently begun and may last months to years.

Last fall we didn’t have anywhere near the amount of data we have now on COVID-19. The evidence accrued since the first published study from last April only confirmed many men infected by SARS-CoV-2 have suffered vascular damage to penile and testicular tissue. Though at least one study indicates semen may be an unlikely vector of infection carrying little active viral material, biopsies of living and deceased patients show damage to testicles which may result in lower sperm counts.

In other words, not only may men who’ve had COVID not be able to get it up, they may have difficulty impregnating their partner.

And we don’t yet know with certainty what percentage of men will have permanent damage versus long- or short-term damage.

If COVID damages blood vessels in men’s reproductive organs the same way it does in other organs and limbs, erectile dysfunction medications like Viagara and Cialis may not work as well (or at all) because functioning blood vessels are needed to distribute the medication throughout tissues, so to say.

Are women also experiencing damage to their reproductive organs? At least one study from last summer suggested SARS-C0V-2 could affect the endometrial cells in women’s uteruses posing a risk to pregnancies.

But here’s a key difference in the amount of COVID damage risk between women and men: men have more ACE2 receptors because of their testosterone. The study on women’s uteruses suggests ACE2 levels will vary with progesterone levels during a woman’s cycle and phase of pregnancy — they won’t have the same level of risk all the time.

There have been more studies examining the risk to men’s reproductive organs since last September:

Achua, Justin K et al. “Histopathology and Ultrastructural Findings of Fatal COVID-19 Infections on Testis.” The world journal of men’s health vol. 39,1 (2021): 65-74. doi:10.5534/wjmh.200170
[Published online 2020 Nov 3]

Abdel-Moneim, Adel. “COVID-19 Pandemic and Male Fertility: Clinical Manifestations and Pathogenic Mechanisms.” Biochemistry. Biokhimiia vol. 86,4 (2021): 389-396. doi:10.1134/S0006297921040015
[Published 2021 Mar 19]

Kresch, Eliyahu et al. “COVID-19 Endothelial Dysfunction Can Cause Erectile Dysfunction: Histopathological, Immunohistochemical, and Ultrastructural Study of the Human Penis.” The world journal of men’s health vol. 39,3 (2021): 466-469. doi:10.5534/wjmh.210055
[Published online 2021 May 7]

Moghimi, Negin et al. “COVID-19 disrupts spermatogenesis through the oxidative stress pathway following induction of apoptosis.” Apoptosis : an international journal on programmed cell death, 1–16. 2 Jun. 2021, doi:10.1007/s10495-021-01680-2

There are more studies out there, and there have been articles in media outlets about these studies along with a corresponding uptick in social media after each article.

But men don’t seem to be paying attention to these studies or reports, let alone personal anecdotes which surely must be emerging in their social circles.

Nor have men paid close attention to COVID’S gender disparity:

COVID-19 doesn’t strike the sexes equally. Globally, for every 10 COVID-19 intensive care unit admissions among women, there are 18 for men; for every 10 women who die of COVID-19, 15 men die. …

What the heck is it going to take to get men vaccinated if they don’t care about their reproductive health and sexual wellbeing, or even their greater risk of death and disability from COVID?

Perhaps if COVID looked more like a gun, men would be more willing to go out and arm themselves against it.

36 replies
  1. Rayne says:

    You’d think the opportunity for straight single men to hit on a captive audience of straight single women waiting in line for the vaccine would appeal to them but no — women have outnumbered men in line for months now.


    The ratio of elderly straight single women to elderly straight single men in a decade or two is going to be scary.

    ADDER: If it’s bad now, it’s not going to get better.

  2. Eureka says:

    One way in may be through the moms of young men who want grandchildren/ partners who want kids — this learned from my interactions with a friend with a particular concern, and seeing how the counter-propaganda efforts fail to address this cohort. [While mildly convoluted to unwind how people encounter propaganda and make it their own, folks attach so easily…]

    Plus — and never to be discounted — recall the saw about women as the primary accessors of healthcare for their families. Appeal to them and where they’re at.

    My friend revealed a longstanding concern that *the vaccine* might do something bad to her son’s fertility. She comes to me with science/medicine questions and trusts what I say but most in her position don’t have such a friend to phone. Among other things, I discussed with her the research related to _COVID’s_ (potential) impacts on male repro function (the whole ‘but what we _do_ know is…’ thing).

    This was awhile back and let me see the propaganda-works and counter-efforts through her eyes, and I found the latter wanting in just such a way that intersects with your post, Rayne.

    The whole “vaccine harms fertility” machine has been focused on female repro anatomy/particulars; nevertheless this friend and others like her transfer their ‘caught’ worry to males, too.

    The problem is that the counter-propaganda is focused, in lockstep, on the female side as well — while having universalist titles like “The COVID vaccines have no adverse impact on fertility”. Such articles/threads typically pivot from ~’not only is the vaccine safe, but here’s how we know the disease might hurt you…’

    I’ve yet to see a single one of these pieces — which someone like my friend might click — that says anything about men/male risks, period, much less from the disease itself.

    So one move that would reach the hesitant would be to include this male fertility COVID-risk content in those universally titled “Vaccine doesn’t harm fertility” articles. Folks catch wind of misc propaganda and personalize it to their own situations, while the counter efforts at times hew too closely to mirroring the script (**sighing** when will we ever roll out of a rigid reactive mode). I know from experience that some moms/wives would respond by marshaling their family members to a vaccine clinic.

    • Rayne says:

      This: “One way in may be through the moms of young men who want grandchildren/ partners who want kids…” might work better if women speakers use rapport to encourage other women to influence men to vaccines. Men are more likely to respond to a man telling them in a report style their sexual health and reproductive chances are at risk.

      And then there’s ye old=fashioned sex-sells angle — attractive women telling men they need them to maintain their vitality with a protective vaccine. *cough*

      I think we need to do something else altogether when it comes to defanging the disinfo about the vaccines; I suspect it’s being pushed to microtargeted audiences based on the much lower percentage of Black men getting vaccinated, and how sensitive they are to having their reproductive rights suppressed by whites. This needs an equally targeted approach.

      • elcajon64 says:

        “Men are more likely to respond to a man telling them in a report style their sexual health and reproductive chances are at risk.”

        This worked easily with my kids (two young men, 18 & 20). It was the same delivery I used when they were given their HPV shots years ago. Of course they had less choice then, but I was able to discuss the rationale behind getting them vaccinated.

        The three of us have a pretty pro-science household, but they also have large pool of doofus bros for friends.

      • Eureka says:

        Yes public health efforts will always have to be multiple, targeted, iterative — I was suggesting one spot where educators could easily adjust their ongoing talk and hit a willing, waiting audience. [And to be clear I wasn’t seeing this as women then confronting men about their fertility directly because all the reasons (but for parent-child re the future in some cases) but the typical ways women gather info and make things happen.] It would be easy here for writers to tack in a reminder pointing to the rapport you cite as well (~ be sure your girlfriends know about this), if the context itself didn’t suggest it, like via an article in certain women’s magazines/spaces which carry that conspiratorial tone.

        Some of the most successful efforts I’ve seen at reaching Black men are barbershop-based and via block parties. The block parties take a lot of interagency coordination and planning (to have the vaccine on site and EMS on standby, for ex.) but the atmosphere of food and peers and ready availability works.

        Back to men generally and in their complexities: I was also dreaming of a great study that the NFL would never allow (access to the fine-grained data) as a microcosm of how tiers of influential social networks impact vaccine acceptance. Long story short, some of this is traceable back to origo and could give insight to inform more efficient counter-propaganda efforts incl. microtargeting (which then becomes amplified by people in one’s life).

        • Rayne says:

          I think the source for fine-grained data is the problematic Facebook. They’re the biggest source next to right-wing media outlets; how are different audiences being targeted? What are the key overlaps between networks. I sure hope CDC’s communications team gets a handle on this soon.

  3. Katherine M Williams says:

    “What the heck is it going to take to get men vaccinated?”

    Fox news publicizing the horrible effects of COVID19 infection.

  4. Earthworm says:

    Makes one consider Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis.
    Which is fine if one is a misanthrope but, as noted, not so good if one wants grandchildren.

    • Rayne says:

      I’ve long had a theory we have been too successful with vaccines which nearly ended childhood illnesses. Of course in infancy we have no idea which children will become authoritarian sycophants so we can’t pick and choose; we give every child we can a chance to survive to adulthood. But the really stupid — and I mean those who are easily persuaded by groupthink — survived to adulthood. Now Nature leveled up and is culling the herd.

      If you don’t care about your dick, you’re failing the test for characteristics of sentient living things. Nature swings the scythe.

        • Tom says:

          The other day I bought a box of wood screws. It had a warning label, “Do not put product in mouth”. So we’ve reached the point where people have to be cautioned not to try munching on a box of #6 2 1/2″ steel screws while watching the Olympics.

          • P J Evans says:

            Some metals are hazardous when stuck in the mouth, and people do put stuff in their mouth and then fall.

          • Swaze says:

            Ha, ha. You should see the collection of swallowed and inhaled objects at the Moller Museum in Philadelphia. I don’t believe that you don’t carry fasteners in your mouth. I mean, brads or pins or even screws, come on now. Nobody is telling you not to eat screws.

  5. joel fisher says:

    They didn’t care about friends and family, much less the larger human community, but here is something they might care about. As the nihilists in “The Big Lebowski” said, “Ve vill cut uff yar Johnson!”

    • Rayne says:

      Only 10% of my state have had a diagnosed case of COVID. If the R2 holds, there may be another 10-20% which have had an undiagnosed case. Same state is at +60% vaccinated. We don’t know the overlap between vaccinated and previously infected. My extremely rough guess is that 20% of men in my state are at risk — the unvaccinated ones — so it may still be extremely important.

      We need to face the idea we’re looking at a crash in birth rates over the next 10-20 years.

        • Rayne says:

          Except we aren’t prepared to downsize our culture in a way which works with a crash. Only need to look at cities like Flint and Detroit to see where population has crashed due to white flight as an example. What happens when an entire society loses population?

          We also need a candid discussion about the people who are dying. Jared Kushner set a targeted passive genocide in motion last year when he fucked with aid to blue states, denying populations with higher percentages of non-whites what they needed to protect themselves. Is it okay to have a population crash which takes out more non-whites?

          • Molly Pitcher says:

            There is a shortage of truckers impacting every part of the business world. There are not enough workers for the factories. This is after losing 600,000 people. Likewise the Former Guy’s throttling of the influx of foreign seasonal workers has created terrible labor shortages all over the country.

            As much as Darwinian filtering of the population sounds appealing, we need lots of people to keep the wheels of commerce rolling. Or we have to find a way to convince the underemployed white guys to take up work in meat processing plants and lettuce fields.

            • Rayne says:

              We’re going to have to ramp up to autonomous trucking along with increased use of rail to carry more freight. We’re going to have to allow more immigrants into the country; the climate emergency will cause more refugees anyhow.

              And we may have to reduce consumption of labor intensive products like meat — when the price bears the real cost the market should shift. We may also find lab-produced meat less labor intensive and more climate friendly anyhow.

  6. gmoke says:

    Headline I saw today read that COVID may reduce intelligence, too.

    Not sure that will be an inducement to get vaxed for those whose intelligence has already been reduced by anti-vax propaganda.

    • Duke says:

      Are you not listening to them? Seriously, these folks believe their intellectual attributes rise above mere experts. They know they are the real people with the real intelligence and those educated folk are just deceived by concentrating on applicable facts. Do you understand they feel university campuses are concentration camps?

      • FLwolverine says:

        This is certainly true for my anti-vaxx (but solidly Democratic; go figure) family member. She thinks she is smarter than the rest of us. She talks about “following the science” but she boosts her and her kids’ immune systems with food and supplements and inoculations in lieu of vaccines, relies on herd immunity (although she told me once it doesn’t exist), and rants that the rest of us just don’t understand how valid the objections are about the long term effects of the COVID vaccine that are being raised by (someone) who is now being silenced because reasons. Fortunately I think her kids will insist on being vaccinated so they can play soccer.

        • Rayne says:

          Crackpot reasoning when kids are becoming permanently disabled by COVID — and that was before the Delta variant. There’s been a huge and growing influx of children in ICU wards across the country because of Delta.

          • Lawnboy says:

            As fate would have it , our guests from the west is a Respiratory Specialist and said she is getting return patients only one month after release! They are having big ongoing problems and will never be the same.
            Delta is showing up now in her hospital ( of course 14 days after a public event) …. ya need lungs to play soccer.

      • gmoke says:

        I always underestimate the Dunning-Kruger effect which leads me to believe that I don’t suffer from it too much. But then I could be underestimating again.

  7. RWood says:


    We have a virus with an R-0 of 8-9, comparable to Chicken Pox.
    We have a vaccine with a proven 96-98% protection.
    We have a population that is divided into Vaccinated and Vaccine Denier.
    The new Darwin variant is exploding in the unvaccinated population and only affecting the unvaccinated in very small percentages.

    And now you’re saying that the virus prevents the deniers from breeding?

    I hear what you’re saying Rayne, and I understand why you are saying it. But that’s going to be a tough sell.

    Most of the medical workers I know, and that’s a 3-digit number, have had it with the deniers. I can sum up their attitude toward them in two words: “Fuck um.”

    Imagine what it takes to get someone who has devoted their lives to saving others to say that? That’s where we are.

    • Rayne says:

      Why am I still bucking for more people to get vaccinated?

      Because they are costing us OUR health care workers.

      I lost two family members within the last year; while neither were deaths due to COVID, they were excess deaths due to COVID. I don’t fucking want to lose any more family or friends to people’s stupidity.

      And don’t get me started on every unvaccinated person’s potential as a fucking reservoir for the next deadlier variant.

      • RWood says:

        I agree. They may be setting us all up for a future virus that’s even worse, but the medical workers I know are all burnt out. They have talked and talked and done everything they could and now they are throwing up their hands. One I spoke to recently said she use to spend the entire ride to the hospital giving a lecture on covid only to be told she was a sheep and the pt insisting they have “something else”. The deniers have deaf ears. They are unreachable.

        Eventually, even the front-line medical soldiers get to the point where they say nothing. She told me she no longer gives her lecture. She just silently transports them to the hospital and lets them see it first-hand. Even then the pt will often insist it’s not covid.

        So when you say the virus prevents them from breeding, the soldiers count that as a positive. The deniers are forcing our front-line soldiers to take on the utilitarian view. Something that goes against their very being.

        I see a shortage of these soldiers on the horizon. Covid and the deniers are going to drive them away from the profession.

  8. Nord Dakota says:

    I know a lot of my millenial son’s friends, one of whom has become weird as she reaches 30–belief in the pedophilia ring (but not in DJT resurrection), libertarian, prepper (works for a gold and silver buying/selling business, believes currency is collapsing) although there are some areas where our views overlap.

    So she posted today about resisting vaccination (she also does not believe in measles vaccine) and I asked if she will wear a mask around people who may not be able to be vaccinated or have poorly responding immune systems. Nope, it’s all individual responsibility and it’s up to each person to take care of themselves.

    So, asking her to affirm that it’s ok for her to breathe her viral laden droplets in the store, at the movies, at McDonald’s, I asked if she felt the same way about TB or any flavor of Hepatitis (really, if I secretly licked that dollar bill, it’s up to you to wear a hazmat suit when handling money). Awaiting her response.

    BTW many of that group of millenials, including my son, are in fact vaccinated. Another who is not is a somewhat paranoid Afghan Marine vet who sleeps with a loaded handgun.

    • Rayne says:

      The libertarian-prepper friend is a baby killer. Her approach to vaccines would take our society back to the days when nearly 50% of children died before they reached adulthood because of childhood illnesses. She’s here and able to spout her ignorant crap — and likely free of disfigurement and disability common with disease like smallpox and polio — because she didn’t die of more than a dozen viral diseases, a perfect example of the too-successful mandatory vaccine policies we’ve had in modern society.

  9. Ian says:

    I have gotten to the point where my reply to an unvaccinated individual is “Oh don’t worry, lots of people are scared of needles, they are really good at distracting you when they poke you!”

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