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May 08, 2006

Human rights cause impotence!

According to an article in the Washington Post, sexually voracious girls are contributing to an impotence epidemic in college boys.

Amanda, Scott, and Sarah have already tackled the confusion and sexism underlying breathless passages like this:

It seems that for a sizable number of young men, the fact that they can get sex whenever they want may have created a situation where, in fact, they’re unable to have sex. According to surveys, young women are now as likely as young men to have sex and by countless reports are also as likely to initiate sex, taking away from males the age-old, erotic power of the chase.

“I know lots of girls for whom nothing is off limits,” says Helen Czapary, a junior at the University of Maryland. “The pressure on the guys is a huge deal.” [WaPo]

And this little gem:

One can argue that a young woman speaking her mind is a sign of equality. “That’s a good thing,” says Sawyer, father of four daughters. “But for some guys, it has come at a price. It’s turned into ED in men you normally wouldn’t think would have ED.” [WaPo]

As these fine bloggers and their incisive commenters have already noted, there's no evidence of a trend. Besides, even if impotence were becoming more common in college men, there are many more parsimonious explanations, such as: the annoying gap between porn and human physiology, heavy drinking, antidepressants, and stress.

If you really want a psycho-sexual explanation for this putative phenomenon, you could start with the pernicious myth that all normal men are rarin' to go 24/7. In the old days, men always had to ask women for sex, and so they asked for sex when they felt like it. Nowadays, women feel entitled to initiate sex (gasp!) when they feel like it. Maybe macho culture is teaching guys that natural ebbs and flows in sexual desire are pathological.

Still, I have to wonder there might be some other impetus behind this confused WaPo "news" story. After a few years in pharmaceutical advertising, I've come to suspect that almost every health trend story can be traced back to a corporate press release.

Let me explain about the kind of education/outreach/marketing effort that might have inspired the WaPo writer.

Pfizer and the other pharma giants know that doctors are willing to prescribe Viagra to older men with no discernable health problems, but not to younger guys with the same complaint. 

Pfizer is also aware that many doctors are resistant to prescribing drugs unless they think are treating an underlying disease. So, Pfizer has spent a lot of money selling a disease state known as “erectile dysfunction” (ED). ["ED" is a term straight out of Pfizer’s marketing department, btw. I’m sure that phrase was used in in the literature before Viagra, but Pfizer made a conscious decision to brand and "own" the phrase and especially the acronym.]

Anyway, big pharma has invested heavily in convincing doctors and consumers that ED is a serious health problem that needs to be treated. A lot of what they say is absolutely true and important. Chronic performance problems can be a warning sign of heart disease, diabetes, and other serious illnesses. A lot of people who who need antidepressants don’t stay on them because of performance issues. The aging and the diabetes epidemic are taking their toll in the bedroom, and so on.

Pfizer’s one-two punch is to argute that either ED is itself a disease, or that it’s a sign of a disease. Albeit, it's frequently a disease defined eclusively by the patient's subjective dissatisfaction, but the bottom line is that aggressive medical management is indicated!

Of course, if you look at the ads, all this serious health talk is delivered with a strong dose of nudge-nudge, wink-wink.

Doctors know that vast majority of impotence complaints can't be linked to identifiable pathology of any kind. Often, it really is "just one of those things." There's no bright clinical line between recreational and therapeutic Viagra. (Nor should we be overly concerned about establishing one, except for insurance purposes.)

However, society isn't comfortable with the idea of recreational sexual enhancers. At least for older dudes it's plausible that there's some organic problem, if only the aging process itself. So, there's a lot of nudge nudge wink wink in the ads and the promotions about how this is a SERIOUS DISEASE, but that if you treat it your patient just may have a LOT MORE FUN.

So far, there's no comparable fiction that would allow Pfizer to market to twenty-somethings under the guise of medical need.

Which brings me to that WaPo piece about the co-eds emasculating their classmates with unbridled lust and unstinting sexual availability.

Perhaps an enterprising marketing division is trying  to convince the public that there’s a new SOCIAL impotence epidemic. Something that’s not the natural result of overindulgence or underconfidence, but a quasi-medical problem that should make us feel sorry for these poor limp-dicked boys and want to treat them.

That problem? Sexually voracious college girls sucking the libido right out of the Holy Phalli , like humminbirds slurping the flower of our youth.

I'm just throwing this out as a hypothesis. If there is a promotional effort afoot, it won't be confined to a column in the WaPo. Particularly, we should expect reports of the same "trend" to start popping up in other publications.

If anyone starts seeing studies in “respectable” psychiatry, psychology, or general practice journals about this alleged phenomenon, please let me know.

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Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Human rights cause impotence!:

» One pill makes you something from dustbury.com
This Washington Post story asserts that college men are turning into candidates for Viagra, what with all these forward, forceful women putting the move on them. Lindsay Beyerstein suspects something... [Read More]

» Let Them Eat Viagra from Mad Melancholic Feminista
Lindsay also tackles Big Pharma today in her piece "Human Rights Cause Impotence." This health trend story in the WaPo--impotence epidemic among college boys--is creepy. Her theory is that this is a set up to pave the way for prescribing Viagra to co... [Read More]

» Since when is "regression to the mean" a medical emergency? from Figleaf's Real Adult Sex
Very cool post from Lindsay Beyerstein of Majikthise about a sky-is-falling-type Washington Post article about sexually "voracious" college women allegedly driving college men to impotence. It seems that for a sizable number of young men, the fact that... [Read More]

» Since when is "regression to the mean" a medical emergency? from Figleaf's Real Adult Sex
Very cool post from Lindsay Beyerstein of Majikthise about a sky-is-falling-type Washington Post article about sexually "voracious" college women allegedly driving college men to impotence. It seems that for a sizable number of young men, the fact that... [Read More]

Comments

"Sexually voracious college girls sucking the libido right out of the Holy Phalli , like humminbirds slurping the flower of our youth."
I love it when you talk dirty...

This must be one of those things that changed after 911.. I would not have called that a problem when I was in college. In fact I spent an inordinate proportion of my youth in a mostly futile attempt to find these gals. Times change, I guess.

cheers,

Naked Ape

Yet another impotence story, eh? You won't be content until you emasculate every last one of us, will you? You must want us to lose all of our wars. Why do feminisits hate America?

Majikthise, I think you nailed it ... so to speak.

Oh! God! Born before my time. I went to a all men's college and I thought it was making me go blind and grow hair on my palm.

taking away from males the age-old, erotic power of the chase.

Personally was never big on being the chasER in college - highly overrated.

Always turned me on more when I the chasEE.

Maybe I should think about going back to school. ;-)

I don't get the guys that are supposed to have this problem. Don't they see that there is really nothing sexier than a woman who likes sex a lot, is eager for it, and goes out and gets it? I mean really, that's the tops.

Looks like there's about 2 : 1 ratio right now between substantive comments and comments that use the subject as an opportunity to brag/leer.

Best ratio on a consensual-college-sex-related thread in internet history? But still, I like to dream that one day humankind will do even better.

That problem? Sexually voracious college girls sucking the libido right out of the Holy Phalli , like humminbirds slurping the flower of our youth.

Have you ever read a book called Evil Sisters, by Bram Dykstra? It's not great (the thesis falls apart before the end) but he points out that, in the early part of the 19th century, this idea was believed to be literally true. Young men were warned that voracious women would drain them of their "life essence" and they would be, well, emasculated.

It shows up in works like "Heart of Darkness," where Kurtz is partly driven mad by the sexual demands of his mistress. (Seriously. Read it again.)

heh this reminds me of Dr. Strangelove

"Gen Ripper: I first became aware of it, Mandrake, during the physical act of love...
Yes a profound sense of fatigue, a feeling of emptiness followed. Luckily I was able to interpret these feelings correctly: loss of essence...
I can assure you it has not recurred, Mandrake. Women... women sense my power, and they seek the life essence. I do not avoid women, Mandrake, but I do deny them my essence."

I really couldn't care less about this story except for Lindsay's speculation that it was written to help sell Viagra. If that's true, then it needs to be shouted from the treetops. It is absolutely reprehensible for an advertisement to pass itself off as a news story. There should be laws against it.

I suspect that the motivation of such stories is nothing so healthful as means of selling Viagra.

In the mid 60's William Iversen wrote an article entitled "The Pious Pornographers", which described those who can only accept literary libidinous stimulation under the guise of clinical or censorious writings. An "intellectualized" moralizing Mrs Grundy if you will.

My money is on Pfizer. But the WaPo does have something of a track record with these kinds of breeathless lifestyle trend stories based mostly on anecdotal evidence. I thought it was well known that alcohol is not an aphrodisiac. Maybe the girls are no longer afraid to admit that they wanted and couldn't get it because their partners weren't up for it -- but I doubt that much else has really changed.

Anyone who lived (and loved) through the '70s knows that this is bogus.

taking away from males the age-old, erotic power of the chase.

I never, ever understood the idea that anyone finds "the chase" fun. Have you ever heard anyone say "Damn she's hot. I really wanna...get rejected by her several times until I do something really impressive to show my masculinty."

Shouldn't this be an easy hypothesis to test?

Anyone with lexus/nexis access can search the same databases of press releases that newspapers use, and most companies post all their press releases on their website.

I don't feel like doing this search, but it seems like someone should.

rob helpy-chalk writes: I never, ever understood the idea that anyone finds "the chase" fun. Have you ever heard anyone say "Damn she's hot. I really wanna...get rejected by her several times until I do something really impressive to show my masculinty."

Well, as someone who spent a fair number of years in a miserable relationship, I think I can say something here. It isn't so much that rejection is any fun. But anxiety about it can be mistaken for excitement. It's like riding a roller coaster, or skiing downhill really fast, or diving from a high platform. Part of you think it's a lot of fun, but another small part of you is terrified. Those two reactions are not completely separable.

I'm sufficiently paranoid to give some credence to suggestions that the PR department of some pharmaceutical company has pushed this "story."

I have a quibble, though, with Lindsay's statement concerning the lack of a clear boundary between recreational and therapeutic viagra that "... Nor should we be overly concerned about establishing one, except for insurance purposes." I think the final clause should be compounded to read, "except for insurance purposes and to delimit the scope of medical authority." I say, make viagra available OTC, available right next to Plan B at your corner market.

OTC Viagra would probably be a good idea. I wonder if the FDA would be any more objective and even-handed than they were for Plan B. On the one hand, it's for male sexual pleasure. On the other hand, it's the sort of thing that would make it easier for poor guys to have fun, even if they don't have a doctor and prescription drug coverage. These are the kinds of ideological dilemmas that would make a Republican FDA commissioner's head explode.

Ooh, yeah, Dykstra, that's perfect, I'd forgotten about that book. (Or, wasn't there another one by him? also having to do with art in that period). Yeah, I was thinking about the idea of women as succubi. Draining the men of their precious bodily fluids, yannow. I think the whole Victorian "angel in the house business," and the idea of woman as not actually liking sex at all, was in fact a reaction against this earlier form of fucked-uppedness. It's not that women don't like sex; they like it TOO MUCH. AIYIIEEEEE! RUN FOR THE HILLS, LADS!

...clearly, the solution is more pushups, and a manly game of football or two. And perhaps a good birching. And prayer.

I think that a similar phenomenon, the universal availablity of fast food and snacks, is responsible for the pervasive problem of undereating in this country. Also, the universal availability of alchohol has resulted in our inability to imbibe the stuff.

Well, I'm glad we solved the problem of Americans' starvation, sobriety and impotence.

Could over the counter viagra stem the tide of new crystal meth users by offering a fun drug at minimal cost? It would be cool if viagra reinforced harm reduction?

Lindsay -
I don't agree that viagra is for male sexual pleasure -- unless you view the absence of "performance failure" as a sort of pleasure in its own right. Let's face it, when it comes to the old fashioned sort of sexual pleasure (you know, the oohing and aahing thing), it's FEMALE PLEASURE that viagra promotes (as I've said before, extending the performer is simply a means to extending the performance). Unfortunately, if the neolithic jerks at the FDA are wise to that fact, it bodes ill for OTC status -- gotta control those women folk, y'know.

> you could start with the pernicious myth
> that all normal men are rarin' to go 24/7

If by "all" you mean 100.0%, and by "24/7" you mean not one single minute of downtime in the 365.2596 days of the average year, then this is clearly a myth.

But I have sad news for the women out there in the world, both traditional and voracious: 99.0+% of men between the ages of 15 and 25 are "rarin' to go 24/7". Sorry about that.

Cranky

I agree with Cranky's observation that "99.0+% of men between the ages of 15 and 25 are "rarin' to go 24/7," but with one absolutely crucial qualification. Of that 99.0+%, about 90% are ready to go for _only_ 10 minutes. _That's_ what recreational viagra changes.

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