Review of Viagra: How the Little Blue Pill Changed Sex in America by Meika Loe
Ms. Loe writes a thorough analysis of the medicalization of sexuality as seen through the study of the miracle
drug, Viagra. Instead of focusing on the science behind the cure, she explores the social implications of
producing and consuming Viagra. For her, Viagra clearly demonstrates the medicalization and oversimplification of
the male body into a repairable machine. She explores this topic from four angles: the manufacturer's, the men
considering the drug, the women indirectly affected by their partners using it, and the impact Viagra makes upon
society at large.
From Phizer's standpoint, she critiques their usual storyline of drug development by revealing the connections
between subsidized "experts", "scientists", and the family doctor. She also highlights the development of Viagra
as a medical accident, not something Phizer even considered before finding occasional erections an anamoly. After
that, Phizer worked hard to create a new condition that it could pair with a certain medication, thus creating a
pattern for all other blockbuster drugs like Prozac, Paxil, and Avalimil. Most of these new medical disorders
were stolen from the mental health industry, such as shyness changing to social anxiety disorder to sell Paxil,
thus reinforcing the body as a fixable machine. HMOs love this though, because they're willing to cover pills and
potions for medical problems, but high charges for therapy visits are usually seen as personal problems.
Therefore, the manufacturers are winning by medicalizing our problems, especially in the case of erectile
dysfunction, because anyone subscribing to their quality-of-life drugs now will surely be using them continuously
for the rest of their life as they become more dependent on the pills than themselves.
As for the men taking or considering to take Viagra, Ms. Loe uses them to explore the definition of masculinity
and how that relates to an erection. Most men agree that not being able to get it up or perform makes them feel
like less or not a man at all, especially with those dating younger women. One related the experience to women
losing a breast from surgery in that it may not make logical sense to feel like less of a person, but its a
persistant feeling nonetheless. Thus, for most of these men, the idea of Viagra seemed like a useful product,
when taken with the right precautions, though a few men did have reservations about putting harmful drugs into
their bodies for merely recreational use.
Ms. Loe then studies their potential partners, late middle aged and older women, to see what their response to
dealing with their contemporaries on Viagra. Most of her subjects are split on the idea, but many voice a concern that they want a rest from worrying about sex and sexuality. Their partners trying to be 20 again merely frustrates these women, and they frequently wish that they could have platonic relationships with men instead of trying to force something that isn't there. other women cite the fact that most of their male peers are looking for younger women regardless, so they few that are around aren't interested in women their age. This leaves a smaller subpopulation of single senior men who have varying health problems for these women to choose from. Thus, many older women continue to lead solitary lives, whether by choice or accident. So, for these women, Viagra appears to raise more problems than solutions because a consistent erection can't rival simple affection.
For the rest of us, Ms. Loe believes that the Viagra culture is certainly harming us because it reinforces the message that there can be a quick fix for anything. Instead of trying to figure out the real problem, such as the relationship a woman with FSD is in, the doctor can merely hand us a pill. In addition, these drug teasers contain mild symptoms that might lead the layperson to self diagnose a problem that might be greater or worse than anticipated. Most doctors wouldn't flinch to give out free prescriptions of drugs that could do real harm used off-brand or recklessly. Viagra and its offshoots also oversimplfy the medical industry by turning everyone's body into the same body. It also sets higher standards for normal sex versus bad sex, which we all feel we should be having. Therefore, Viagra is doing some real harm by reinforcing standards that society cannot meet all the time and by creating a pill culture that denys the reality that some problems need to be handled head on.
Anyway, the book is good and worth checking out. I'm going to try and send a note to Ms. Loe about how much I liked reading it. I'm still amazed that I found it in the Brighton library, but hey maybe someone out here is a good liberal. Too bad its nobody I work with.