Impotence disappears in era of Viagra

Thursday, July 29, 2004

I often listen in a fascinated horror as the television ads for pharmaceuticals enumerate their side effects. By far, my all time favorite is for the drug Cialas: a "48 hour erection." If it happens, the advice is to call your doctor. No offense to my doctor, but if I get one of those, he is not who I will be calling.

Isn't it interesting how easy it is these days to talk about erections? What we used to snicker about as "impotence" is now shouted out as "erectile dysfunction." Men are no longer "without power"; now their erections are dysfunctional.

And who knew there were so many with this problem?

The little blue pill known as Viagra has been tried by a whopping 23 million men so far. The Viagra Web site boasts that nine pills are dispensed every second. If you are a man and over 40, then 52 percent of you will have some degree of "erectile failure," according to Massachusetts Male Aging Study. But does this mean you have erectile dysfunction? Some experts say if you can't achieve an erection with your primary partner at least 25 percent of the time, you've got it.

The American Endocrinologist Association, in their 2003 update on male sexual dysfunction, gets real when it comes to the subject: "Erections, once achieved through fantasy and foreplay, are more fragile as men age. Older men must maintain their focus. They may occasionally experience detumescence without ejaculation for no apparent reason."

"Detumescence"? Yikes! Looks like all the help we aging silverbacked apes can get is a good thing.

It is fortunate that we live in the 21st century. If we had been in ancient Egypt and concerned about our tumescence, we would have been gorging on crocodile's penises in order to enhance our potency. Only 40 years ago, what was then called impotency was treated by electric shocks to the testicles.

No wonder Viagra and its newer cousins -- Levitra (quicker acting) and Cialis (longer lasting) -- are at the top of the pharmaceutical hit parade. As we get older, our vascular systems aren't as efficient. These drugs act as a vasodilators, creating conditions that allow for the blood to flow south where it is needed for those afternoon delights.

Although research on these drugs show satisfaction at a whopping 90 percent, not all is dandy in sex paradise. These chemically potent drugs can only do so much.

I polled my male correspondents about the subject of Vitamin V. One wise fellow reported: "If the interest is not there, no pill is going to make it appear. The most powerful sex organ is still between our ears, not between our legs."

Another man confided in me: "I tried Viagra twice. It was like a drug experience. The erection was stronger and long lasting, but I felt more separated from my partner and more on a 'chemical high.'"

Surprisingly, although many confessed to using Viagra, only one of my correspondents actually admitted to having erectile dysfunction. What gives?

Is Viagra the new drug of choice for a generation that pioneered the widespread use of recreational/experience-enhancing drugs?

Several guys admitted to it. One said it plainly: "Viagra has been a great recreational addition. It seems to give me more staying power and a quicker recovery for those special evenings and long weekends."

Maybe the issue for many aging lotharios is more erectile satisfaction than erectile dysfunction. As one guy said: "I'm not sure it is necessary, but what the hell: A little extra wind in the sails can't hurt."

Dr. Michael O.L. Seabaugh is a Cape Girardeau native who is a licensed clinical psychologist with over 20 years experience helping individuals and couples with their emotional and relationship issues. He has a private practice in Santa Barbara and Santa Monica, Calif. Contact him at

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