Guest Commentary

December 16, 2010


By Elizabeth Lee Vliet, M.D.


Viagra’s latest car crash


Everyone’s got something to say about Viagra’s latest commercial featuring the very cool, very Eastwood-Grand-Torino-like muscle car. Half the male population wants to know what kind of car it is (a Camaro), and the other half is laughing themselves silly because the poor guys at the ad agency didn’t know that you can’t fix an overheating radiator by pouring a liter of mineral water into it.

As a woman, and a mistress to a variety of men, I have to admit that watching a sexy 50-something hunk driving through the desert in a hot car well outweighs the fact that I know that gas caps don’t magically unscrew from burning hot radiators for the convenience of their owners — no matter how studly they are. The tomboy in me learned a little something about cars in my teens, but the female chauvinist pig in me likes the eye candy.

I do, however, find the voice-over message to this little filmstrip more frightening than sexy. Starting with the claim that middle age men don’t ask for information, they “know what to do,” and that they can “take care of things” themselves, and ending with the usual disclaimers, including the caution: “Ask your doctor if your heart is healthy enough for sex.” I wonder if more than a few men aren’t having their panic button pushed.

Viagra has supposedly been a miracle drug for erectile dysfunction for more than 20 years. It’s achieved popularity both with men who need it and are otherwise healthy, as well as with perfectly functioning men who don’t (but want to possess a Louisville slugger for a couple of hours). One of the side effects not listed in commercials is the anxiety it causes in those men who can’t take it, but still hope to compete in the sexual game. Another is a lack of public knowledge about alternative methods for correcting ED.

Unlike the ad suggests, the first thing a man needs to do is ask for information. Why in the world would any man automatically know the best way to cure a recurrent case of limpis dickis? That’s what doctors are for. Personally, one lover I knew had a pump device installed surgically — and I can assure you, it worked just fine. (It also enabled him to keep going even after he climaxed — a nice little perk for me.) Another experience I had with a younger man who clearly didn’t need it, but had taken the pill anyway, left us sitting in bed over post-coital cocktails wondering when it would finally go down. Whether a pill, an implant or something else, finding a way to buy Viagra without the help of a doctor isn’t manly, it’s stupid.

This latest commercial also tries to take the newer approach to a man supposedly solving his problem on his own — right up until the last scene when we see middle-age-hottie drive his macho car into his two car garage suburban home. No rugged stud-for-hire here. His wife’s SUV is parked sedately in the next bay and — she’s left the light on for him. Awww. Not to be catty, but once again Viagra’s ad men have had to acknowledge their true consumer base: happily married men.

Every doctor knows that the combination of too much sexual excitement (like sex with a new partner) and Viagra increases the toll the drug can take on a man’s heart. Also, many men find it easier to go to a doctor with the support of the woman in their lives. As most of my lovers over the years have been single men, I have witnessed my share of performance anxiety (not to mention fear of going to the doctor) and personally wish I could wipe it from the male population of the planet. Actually, if both men and women spent more time learning the variety of ways to make love, there wouldn’t need to be so much emphasis on who’s got a perfectly performing penis.

Last, the most terrifying advice featured in this beautiful but misguided advertisement — that men should ask their doctors if their hearts are healthy enough for sex — begs all intelligent men to suspend common sense altogether and ponder the dire possibility that they may have to make a choice between screwing or breathing. CV


Susan Jay is the author of “The House of Yes — an erotic memoir,” available exclusively through

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