Jeremy Laurance: Are we expecting too much from medicalised sex?

Share
Related Topics

The launch of Viagra in 1998 was a landmark. Within weeks it became the world's fastest-selling drug, within four years it was being used by 20 million men worldwide, and within a decade it had spawned a dozen rivals.

As the first oral treatment for impotence, it promised the possibility of an active sex life to thousands of men who could previously only dream of it. The Government was so alarmed at its potential appeal that it heavily circumscribed those who would be eligible to receive it, in the first open acknowledgement of rationing on the NHS.

It was not only patients with impotence who benefited. At its launch, young, presumably virile, journalists queued up to test the drug – and wrote glowing reports of its effects. For a while it was in demand at nightclubs alongside the more familiar party drugs.

But more than a decade on, the picture is less rosy. Viagra enjoys a global reputation and millions of men remain keen to try it. But the rate of repeat prescriptions is low, doctors say. Curiosity drives couples to experiment, but having done so they revert to what they were doing – or not doing – before. The one thing you can say about Viagra is that it ain't habit forming.

The huge interest in the drug and the embarrassment that still attends its purchase across the counter has led to a thriving internet trade. But as the world's No 1 counterfeited medicine, with hundreds of thousands of fake tablets seized each year, it is a case of caveat emptor (buyer beware) for those who choose to buy over the web.

Viagra has also triggered searching questions about modern mores. The medicalisation of sex has made it the world's most popular medicinal drug. But does this reflect a genuine need or people's increased expectations in our sexualised culture?

Some light is thrown on this question by the sex lives of older people, which surveys suggest are better than ever. The so-called Viagra generation is supposedly having better sex, and more of it, than ever before. But whether they are actually having it more than previous generations, or just talking about it more, is unclear. Sexual liberation for the over-seventies may be no more than a state of mind, and satisfaction can come from saying no and not feeling inadequate about it.

In terms of chemical sex aids, the scales have been unfairly weighted, medically speaking, in favour of men for the last decade. But it has not been for want of trying on the part of pharmaceutical companies. They have raced to develop pills, creams and patches intended to do for women what Viagra has done for men – but so far with notably less successful results.

Fibanserin could be the answer but don't hold your breath.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: Hang on – that’s not how it’s supposed to be written

Guy Keleny
Rafael Nadal is down and out, beaten by Dustin Brown at Wimbledon – but an era is not thereby ended  

Sad as it is, Rafael Nadal's decline does not mark the end of tennis's golden era

Tom Peck
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test