V is for Viagra

Courtney Weaver learns the ABCs of male performance anxiety.


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Courtney Weaver
May 20, 1998 11:00PM (UTC)

Women may never look at a softie the same way again.

By all accounts, the little diamond-shaped blue pill is being dispensed faster than you can say "erectile dysfunction." According to a recent New York Times article, men are crowding into their urologists' offices, demanding as many Viagra pills as their wallets can handle. Doctors are getting writer's cramp from their new attachment to the prescription pad. Office hours everywhere are being extended. A urologist was quoted as claiming that his Viagra patients are having the kind of hard-ons they had when they were 20.

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But there's something extraordinarily baffling about this "Viagra Madness." "There can't be this many men with impotence problems," I said to Q. "There just can't. Supposedly upwards of 150,000 men have already gotten a prescription filled in just the last few days. And 10 bucks a pill! That's a lot of dough for Pfizer."

I was moving my car through the rain-soaked 5 p.m. traffic on Montgomery Street, changing lanes, frightening Q. as usual with what he calls my guerrilla driving. "My friend Janet has had her fibroid surgery denied twice by her insurance company," I continued. "When I had an abortion, the insurance company wouldn't pay for it. But they'll pay for six Viagras a month." I peered over at him. "Don't you think that's fucked up?"

"I guess so." He shifted in his seat. "That's not very much sex, though."

I changed lanes again. "I guess men's perceived sexual prowess is more important than women's reproductive health."

Q. turned his baseball hat around backwards. A look of exaggerated patience came over his face.

"Oh, I know it's boring to talk about that stuff, that ol' women's fertility issue," I began.

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"Are you really surprised?" he asked. "Don't be so naive. Besides the fact that many more health issues are more important to HMOs than women's reproductive systems, don't you think you're missing the point?"

I stopped suddenly at a yellow light. "Has it ever happened to you?"

"Not getting it up? Of course." I made a motion with my hand to signal out with it. "Last year I met this woman and she took me home and took off my pants. Then she started to get undressed, and I just thought, if I'd known I was going to have sex tonight I wouldn't have drank so much."

"That's different. But thanks for sharing that pleasant picture," I commented acidly. "Christ. So, you knew you weren't going to get a hard-on?"

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"Yep. I was just too drunk that night. It happens, but it's pretty
terrible. How about you?"

I zoomed across Market Street, nearly hitting a cyclist, who turned around and gave me a well-deserved middle finger. "I guess so," I said. "And when it has happened, it's related to alcohol. I didn't take it that personally, but that's difficult when you're a woman. I asked him if there was anything wrong and he said no. But we didn't sleep together ever again." I braked for an old woman crossing against the light. I glanced over at Q. and could see he was struggling with whether to ask me identifying details.

But all he said was, "Do you know how humiliating that is for a man?"

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I switched lanes without looking and I heard Q.'s short intake of breath. "Well, actually," I said, pulling up to a red curb and turning off the car, "no, I don't."

Q. looked around, then glanced at his watch. "Not that I think we should miss the movie over this, but performance anxiety is the No. 1 fear of men. Think about it -- you girls can fake it somewhat. You can even not be that turned on and still do it if you want. We can't. And not only that, there's this little soft evidence hanging right there that you've failed. You're not a man. You're supposed to be able to get an erection all the time."

"You guys are to blame for that," I interrupted. "What are all the lines we hear if a guy gets turned on by, say, a lap dance or a stripper? Oh, I couldn't help it, I can't control my dick if it gets hard, it has nothing to do with my mind."

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"Well, it does have something to do with the mind," Q. said. "Remember the first time you took me home? I was incredibly intimidated. I was afraid of you. And as I remember, we didn't do it that night."

"You did lose your hard-on," I recalled. The rain pattered on the roof and we fell silent. "But you can't have it both ways. Your hard-on can't be connected to your brain sometimes and not at others. You have to choose."

"I do not have to choose," he said testily. He wiped some steam off the window with his hand and looked at it as if it had the answer. "I'm telling you the way it happens. This, this conversation," he waved his hand around the damp car, "and you wonder why we have performance anxiety?"

"OK," I said, turning on the ignition. "We don't have to talk about it anymore." I moved slowly back into the traffic and waved at a glaring young man who let me cut in front of him. "But one more thing ..."

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Q. groaned and I ignored him. "In terms of Viagra then, you're saying it's not that there are millions of men who can't get it up, it's the depth of their fear that matters. And you're right -- to me that is baffling." I swerved around the corner and, spotting a real parking place, zipped across four lanes of traffic as he involuntarily sucked in a fearful breath. I turned off the engine and started to get out of the car, but he remained immobile. "What?"

"I was just thinking." He reclined against the seat, exhausted. "Ten dollars a pill is too steep. Maybe the money would be better spent at couples counseling."


Courtney Weaver

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