Big Wood, No Arousal
For Justin M., the red flags had nothing to do with Viagra's side effects or interactions. Supertop was HIV negative, religious about condoms, and an only occasional partier who steered clear of crystal meth. Moderation is his middle name, except when it comes to the little blue pill and its rock-hard results. His frequency of Viagra use increased from once a month to once a week—though because his hookups were often limited to an hour, he often used only a quarter of a pill. Still, any booty call with a stranger might require a pick-me-up, and so might sex with his boyfriend. That was a warning signal.
"I began feeling like my regular erection was not sufficient—that without a Viagra hard-on, something was missing," he said. "It was partly the conditions I was putting myself in—the hookups, the time-frame, the need to be a supertop. But the more I used it, the more dependent I became on it." The sense of control and power the drug gave him, not to mention the desire and pleasure his performance inspired in his partners, proved habit-forming.
But there was a darker development. "Viagra changes the way you think about your penis," Justin M. says. "You objectify it to the point where it seems detached, separate from your body, with no connection to what is going on inside your head." With minimal sensation or sentiment, his body could spring a fierce woody, like strapping on a dildo—and almost as lifeless. He began to wonder if Viagra had fundamentally, even permanently, altered his connection to his penis. "I decided that if I was going to keep having sex like that, I would do it without Viagra," he said. "There comes a point where you value your natural response—your mind is aroused and that's
what hardens your penis."
Justin M.'s hard lesson about hard-ons has moved him into the anti-Viagra camp, though he is no zealot. "I think the widespread access to it is a bad thing. It's unconscionable that my doctor dispensed it like candy," he said. "No, I would not recommend it to anyone. Instead I would tell them, 'If your dick is not hard, there's a reason for it—explore that. There's beauty in being connected to your body and to sex.'"
Justin M.'s advice may fall on deaf ears. When it comes to sex, gay men have shown a high tolerance for acting but little taste for thinking. Our history is chockfull of stories of men who came out in order to find their sexual identities only to lose themselves, and often their lives, in sex.