chapter  18
Viagra and the coital imperative
ByNicola Gavey
Pages 6

Anyone encountering Viagra for the first time through direct-to-consumer promotions of the drug could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled onto a miraculous new elixir of relational health and wellbeing. Viagra, according to drug company advertisements, will generate not only sex, but also the restoration of closeness, romance, love and intimacy. It will, in fact, protect against the very breakup of relationships threatened by “distance” – a distance born, it is implied, of the ailing self-esteem and crumbling masculinity caused by “failure to admit” and therefore to overcome the condition of “erectile dysfunction” (see Gavey 2005). And what is the route to such happiness and harmony? It is the biotechnological production of a penile erection with all the qualities – of firmness and duration – required for vaginal penetration and “successful” intercourse.