Viagra Man, A Decade Later.
Thanks to Viagra, mankind now stands at a crossroads: either invest in that teenage erection – or in a broader, richer definition of manhood.
There are parental notification or consent laws on the books in 38 states. How are these robbing young people of their bodily autonomy? Listen to a new season of CHOICE/LESS now.
Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of articles on sexuality.
and aging, co-produced by the National Sexuality Resource Center and RH.
Reality Check. Check back in the coming weeks for more on seniors and.
If you want to get a good sense.
of where we stand as a society when it comes to aging, sexuality, and.
manhood, think about those erectile dysfunction ads. They feature men.
singing and dancing in the streets, others strumming "Viva Viagra"
on their guitars, and handsome straight couples in side-by-side tubs.
with twinkles in their eyes. Over ten years of Pfizer advertising Viagra,
the individual ad campaigns may have changed but the themes have stayed.
the same. Ideal sexuality is youthful ("18 again"), heterosexual,
penetrative, and erection-centered. Apparently, being a man, and a healthy.
happy successful one, depends on these things. Thanks to Viagra, mankind.
now stands at a crossroads: either invest in that teenage erection – or.
in a broader, richer definition of manhood.
There was great potential here.
to shift the way we, as a society, think about aging; the way we think.
about elder men (and their partners!) and sex. Just imagine an ad campaign.
(and a society!) that truly embraces aging, sexuality, and vulnerable.
masculinity. It would feature a wide range of variation when it comes.
to bodies and disabilities. Intimacy would be broadly defined, and men.
would learn how to be great lovers. Men would be comfortable discussing.
fears and anxieties associated with sexual performance. Viva Vulnerability!
Pfizer could still make billions. And we might all be happier and healthier,
or at least more realistic.
In fact, Pfizer came close.
to shifting our ideas about aging and sexuality way back in 1999, when.
Bob Dole became the company’s spokesperson for erectile dysfunction.
Here was a war veteran, an elder statesman, on TV, talking about this.
sexual dysfunction problem. This was a radical thing for a lot of reasons.
It was one of the first (if not the very first) direct-to-consumer ad.
for a pharmaceutical product broadcast for all Americans to see. Even.
more shockingly, this was an older man talking (indirectly) about sex.
Specifically, Dole was talking about not being able to get it up ,
and this occurred in the months following endless media attention to.
President Clinton’s seemingly opposite problem. The social ramifications.
of this ad campaign, along with the "Let the Dance Begin" campaign.
that followed it (featuring white-haired individuals dancing), were.
truly amazing: men of all ages going to doctors offices in droves.
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My grandfather was one of these.
men who asked his doctor for the pills. He was in his early eighties,
and dating, and he wanted his "manhood" back. A committed Democrat,
Gramps was nonetheless heartened to see another man around his age on.
television who had a similar dilemma. He was now open to pursuing new.
options for enhancing sexual intimacy. He might have benefitted from.
learning about how to communicate with a partner about his concerns.
and about sexuality in general.
However, what happened next.
was where the so-called "Viagra revolution" stalled. Men "asked.
their doctors" (generally as the doc was leaving the examining room),
but many didn’t talk with their wives. And many doctors, out of discomfort,
didn’t ask questions. Some doctors commented later that they were.
disgusted by octogenarians asking for blue pills. Bob Dole became the.
butt of every joke on late night television.
Meanwhile, Pfizer realized.
that Viagra generally did not work for men post-prostate surgery – men.
like Bob Dole and my grandfather. Now that the American public knew.
about erectile dysfunction, Pfizer could now move to market the drug.
to men in a wide age spectrum who were curious and anxious about sexual.
performance. In short, the sexual status quo was tested, and then youthful.
sexy manhood quickly took center stage again. Ageism, heterosexism,
and medicine triumphed.
From that point forward, the.
Viagra man became either professional baseball or NASCAR spokesmen talking.
about all-around performance, or those handsome age-ambiguous (thirty,
forty, or fifty-something?) guys with a touch of gray in their hair,
impressing their coworkers with their new confidence, caressing a lovely.
younger-looking woman, jumping in the street to the tune of "We are.
the Champions," singing Elvis tunes with friends, and sprouting devil-horns.
while "getting back to mischief."
In the age of direct-to-consumer.
pharmaceutical advertising (only legal in the United States since 1997),
drug ads proliferate, and to some degree, they reflect culture. But.
they also help to construct and reinforce cultural values. Since its.
debut, Viagra has been hailed as a sexual revolution for men. In reality,
I’m not sure we’ve progressed at all. A new approach to aging? Except.
for middle-aged men graying at the temples, we’re back to denying.
aging and elder sex, and selling medication with anti-aging branding.
A new Viagra man? I’m seeing a whole lot of confidence and bravado.
in these ads. Where’s the vulnerability and insecurity we all feel,
especially after being barraged by these images? Revolutionary sex?
Straight couples and an emphasis on erectile performance – show me a.
woman who thinks this is new. Now Viva vulvas…that would be something.
Over the last decade millions.
have stepped up to the plate and swallowed the youth, vigor, and vitality.
message. Who can resist? But I have also met a good number of courageous.
men over the years who chose not to refill their Viagra prescriptions.
They have used the Viagra era as an opportunity to explore what manhood.
and aging means to them; they talked to friends and family about these.
things; and they learned how to be better lovers. It turns out they.
were onto something. A study just published in the Canadian Journal.
of Human Sexuality points out that among the ingredients for great sex.
after sixty is vulnerability, as well as authenticity and good communication.
So maybe the revolution is still to come.
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