By Walter Armstrong
Hard-ons come and hard-ons go but a man's fear of losing his erection at crunch time never wavers. That fact, along with allied fantasies of power, control, and possessing a dick to die for, explains the phenomenal success of Viagra and other erectile-dysfunction (ED) drugs. Originally approved to treat impotence, the little blue diamond-shaped tablets have become, in less than a decade, a multibillion-dollar performance-enhancing product, a cultural icon and household name, and one of the most popular, controversial—and its critics say, most destructive—drugs in the gay community.
This is quite a feat for a pharmaceutically crude compound. Viagra cures no devastating disease, boasts no breakthrough science. It neither brightens your mood nor sharpens your thinking nor strengthens your memory. It doesn't stimulate the neurochemistry of your brain like crystal meth, Ecstasy, and other primo party drugs, and won't make you dance till dawn, fuck for days, become one with the universe or see God. Contrary to common belief, it won't even make you horny.
All Viagra does is increase the flow of blood into your penis for a few hours, ensuring an erection. But that barely begins to describe the appeal of the effect. "On Viagra my dick feels literally as hard as a rock," said Justin M. (not his real name). "It has a whole different quality to it from my natural erection. It's like a baseball bat—like something separate from the rest of my body."
Confessions of an Addict
Justin M. is a 35-year-old gay men who lives in New York, is educated, successful, and articulate, and describes himself as "addicted to" or "dependent on" the little blue pill. He first tried it in 2000. "I had a gay doctor who prescribed it liberally," he said. "I don't remember making up any excuse about condoms and having trouble staying hard or anything. I just told him I wanted to try it because I was curious."
In fact it was less curiosity than a rational consumer choice. Justin M. had a special set of needs that he believed Viagra could meet: "I was having sex outside my relationship"—he and his longtime boyfriend had hit a dry spell—"and it was the kind of thing where I'd meet someone online, I only had an hour or so, I might be feeling nervous or ambivalent, and I wanted to make the most of it." Although he never has trouble maintaining an erection, the boost from Viagra upped Justin M.'s confidence.