Hard Science or Hard Sell?
On March 27, 1998, Viagra became the first oral medication to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat erectile dysfunction. A flood of books and articles, which shows no sign of abating, has subsequently been devoted to analyzing the pill's impact. Among the more insightful is Meika Loe's The Rise of Viagra: How the Little Blue Pill Changed Sex in America (2004). But what does it mean to say sex is changed? Is Viagra a wonder drug? A magic bullet? The rejuvenating potion doctors sought for centuries? Supporters of the medicalization of sexuality certainly claim as much. Previous surveys suggested that when strictly defined as the inability to get an erection perhaps ten percent of men suffered at times from impotence. To appreciate the Viagra phenomenon we need to trace the emergence of the new pharmacological agents that arose in the 1990s but then situate them in the context of changing cultural attitudes toward masculinity, medicine, and the enhancement technologies.
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