This article first appeared in the Good Vibrations magazine.
Via Carnal Nation
The fact that a lot of money gets spent on erection pills isn’t news. And there are lots of reasons why someone might choose to use them. But one common reason is the desire to improve “male sexual performance”.
The focus on sexual performance is problematic for several reasons. When sex is a performance, it’s something that we do for an audience. That audience might be a partner or it might be the critical voices that we have internalized. And when sex is done for an audience, it becomes much harder to explore our authentic sexual desires because they might come into conflict with our or our partner’s expectations.
Sex as a performance also encourages spectatoring, the habit of observing yourself “from a third person perspective during sexual activity, rather than focusing on one’s sensations and/or sexual partner, [which] can increase performance fears and cause deleterious effects on sexual performance.” * When we’re so busy thinking about whether we measure up, we’re more likely to disconnect from our pleasure and the experience of the moment.
The performance model of sex also creates a goal-oriented approach. Men are told that they need to “give a partner” an orgasm, which makes him responsible for his partner’s pleasure. That’s a lot of pressure to take on. Sometimes, it makes men resistant to receiving feedback during sex because that might threaten his self-image as a skilled lover. And it can contribute to spectatoring since the focus is on the goal, rather than the pleasure.
On top of all of this, the male sexual performance model also puts men’s health at risk, at least if they purchase counterfeit erection pills. According to an article in International Journal of Clinical Practice, “[m]illions of counterfeit PDE5is are seized yearly and account for the bulk of all counterfeit pharmaceutical product seizures.” These pills may contain very low doses of the active ingredient, or they may contain more than twice as much as the labeled dose. In their research, only about 10% of the seized pills were within 10% of the advertised strength. That means that users can be taking much more than is safe.
These pills can also contain contaminants (including talcum powder, commercial paint and printer ink) and other, potentially dangerous ingredients. A sample of counterfeit Viagra that was seized in Hungary turned out to be amphetamine, which is ironic, given that it can cause erectile dysfunction. And, of course, there are some health conditions that make using medications like Viagra a very bad idea, but when you’re not getting them from a doctor, you’re more likely to put yourself at risk.
Of course, there are reasons why men might use erection medications besides performance anxiety. They may simply enjoy the way sex feels with an erection. Their partners may also enjoy it. I don’t think that using a medication to make penetrative sex easier is necessarily more problematic than using a lubricant to do the same. But it does seem like a problem to me when men start using them out of a performance model, especially without talking to their partners about their desires and needs.
In any case, if you do want to use erection meds, talk to a doctor first and make sure that they’re safe for you. And when you purchase them, get them from a pharmacy or from a reputable website. Most of the counterfeit drugs are purchased over the internet, which puts you at much more risk unless you’re getting them from a reliable source. It may be more expensive, but it’s clearly safer.
* Paul D. Trapnell, Cindy M. Meston, and Boris B. Gorzalka (Summer 1997). “Spectatoring and the relationship between body image and sexual experience: self-focus or self-valence?”. Journal of Sex Research