Viagra and the mythical man-unicorn

Viara and the myth of the man-unicorn | Betty Herbert

Reblogged from bettyherbert.com.

So, Viagra is now off-patent. Yes, it’s been a full fifteen years since Richard and Judy sent that middle-aged couple off to a hotel room with a packet of little blue pills and the chance to discuss the results on live TV. Hard to believe, isn’t it? (I may as well surrender to the double-entendres early.)

Since then, erections have changed for good. We’ve long lived with the myth of the perma-hard man, eternally baying for sex in a desperate effort to quell his raging stiffy. Viagra practically made that an obligation. Suddenly, erections became public property. There was simply no excuse not to have one anymore.

Clearly, Viagra has been a godsend for many men (and their partners) who have faced years of frustration at their insubordinate members. But it’s not a panacea. Plenty of people can’t use it (those with heart conditions, for example), plenty of people won’t benefit from it (including those whose erections have been lost due to prostate surgery) and plenty more don’t have access to it.

The wider issue is that we rarely speak the truth about erections. They’re fragile things, easily affected by emotional and physical states like tiredness or depression. Most men will experience an elusive erection at some point in their life (and not just because of ‘brewer’s droop’, that re-machoing of threatened manhood) – it’s normal, and yet we commonly portray it as a crisis. The ever-erect man is as elusive as his mythical cousin, the unicorn.

We need to stop talking about erections as the be-all and end-all of sex. They are not the only locus of male sensation; and they are not the only way that women can receive pleasure. The sole purpose of sex is not to create and spend an erection – that’s just a bizarre impression that we get at school. We can let go of it as adults. We have better imaginations than that.

That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with seeking treatment if it’s a long-term problem (not least because it can point to a range of underlying illnesses). It’s just that I think we should acknowledge that men have bodily insecurities too. While women get fed up with seeing thin, airbrushed beauties everywhere in the media, men can rightly feel aggrieved that they are expected to have access to an endless stream of tumescence, while an absentee erection is generally a sign of weakness or failure.

Sexual feeling resides in our whole bodies – and our minds. A lost erection doesn’t have to be the end of sex: it can instead be a chance to break up the in-out monotony, and to escape from the bizarre race-to-orgasm that happens so often in the bedroom. Forget Slow Food – this is Slow Sex: exploratory, appreciative, deliberate. It’s a chance to open up a dialogue about pleasure, sharing fantasies, learning about touch and reigniting our senses. As this article suggests, unreliable erections can make us better lovers.

And that’s all of us, not just those of us with a penis.

 

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