Sex, hype and a little blue pill

The truth about Viagra: ...and what it says about men

WE DIDN'T wait for Bob Dole to say Viagra had put new life into his erection campaign. As soon as we heard American men were queuing to fill their Viagra prescriptions, the effect in this country was instantaneous. Computer pros scoured the Internet. Harley Street was besieged. The Impotence Association recorded a 600 per cent increase in calls to the Helpline in the first week of May alone, and the association's director, Ann Craig, asked its trustees to fund additional phonelines.

This virility frenzy had a single purpose. To secure a supply of a new drug which probably won't receive a UK product licence or be available on the NHS before September.

Why has sildenafil citrate (Viagra) touched such a universal nerve among men? It's not as if the world has been starved of effective impotence remedies. Products like Caverject and Erecnos have been providing us with hands-free erections for years. Just recently, MUSE came out - or rather was put in - as men started inserting little potency pellets into their penile ends.

In fact, doctors and drug companies have had impotence under control for a decade. They now know that 75 per cent of all impotence among the estimated 2.3 million UK sufferers has an organic basis.

Viagra, it turns out, delivers less instantaneous results than some rival products; Caverject will give you an erection whether you like it or not, while Viagra still requires you to get turned on. Not only that, you have to premeditate your usage, which can make timing a little tricky.

So, unless we're looking at the greatest marketing con in history, the Niagara of inquiries has been stimulated by Viagra's one undisputed difference - its oral delivery system. As Dr Alan J Riley, Chairman of the Impotence Association, says: "Because it's easy to take, men will take it".

But my own experience with impotent patients would suggest that something slightly more complex is happening. What, for instance, is so wrong - or unmanly - about the alternatives? Caverject comes with its own neat, disposable syringes. I discussed this with one chap who said that if I thought he was the sort of casualty who had to stick a needle in his prick (or vice versa) then I was the one who needed help. I got the same pointed reply about MUSE.

Or, perhaps, it's easy for men to pretend there's nothing really the matter if a little pill cures the problem.

The enthusiasm for Viagra is almost too revealing. Not only does it show that we havea very large impotence problem in the UK, it also seems to indicate a pent-up desire among men to regain their sexual confidence - perhaps battered by the endless media emphasis on performance.

Viagra for anxiety then? While interviewing last month for an article on male sexual insecurity for Woman's Journal I met an investment manager who talked of laying in a supply of Viagra even though his marriage is free of sexual difficulties: "As a bloke", he said, "it's always good to know you've got back-up".

But there's no pleasing everyone: "Having heard nothing all week except about the wondrous powers of Viagra, I am for the first time in my life almost off sex. What the hell is the use of trying for a good performance now that everyone and their uncle has become Don Giovanni?" (Taki, the Spectator). The author is a fellow of the British Association for Counselling and a trustee of the Impotence Association

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little