The co-authors of Invasion of the Prostate Snatchers, blog alternate posts weekly. We invite you to post your comments.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Did I hear you say “direction?” That you’d lost your direction?


Apparently loss of hearing isn’t the only loss we’re subject to in these latter years. Oh well, “Direction, erection—as long as you’ve still got your health, right?

The first breakthrough in treating erectile dysfunction (ED) came at the 1983 American Urological Association meeting in Las Vegas when Dr. Giles Brindley injected his penis with the drug phentolamine. Following the injection, Dr. Brindley appeared on stage and dropped his pants to display one of the first recorded, drug-induced erections to a startled audience of urologists and their wives.

It wasn’t until 1998, when the FDA gave Pfizer the go-ahead for their little blue pill, that erectile dysfunction (ED) came out of the closet, and, thanks to Viagra, men no longer had to self-inject their penis or use a vacuum pump in order to get and keep an erection, aka “hard-on.”

In case you wondered, “hard-on” is a synonym for “boner” or "blunder," 1912, baseball slang, probably from bonehead. The meaning "erect penis" is 1950s, from earlier bone-on (1940s), probably a variation (with connecting notion of "hardness") of hard-on (1893). Sure as shooting, many a hard on has resulted in blunders! Still, losing our “blunder-making ability—erectile dysfunction or ED—is of serious concern to a great many men.

Today, it is estimated that up to 30 million American men frequently suffer from ED. For those of us who are over seventy, the hydraulics of nature’s ultimate erector set are subject to ordinary fatigue and malfunction. Many of us are dealing with the after-effects of prostate cancer treatment. And there are dozens of other reasons, both medical and emotional, for the inability to get or maintain an erection.  So without a doubt there is a humongous market for what my young neighbor calls “boner pills,” and last year alone Pfizer spent $176 million on TV ads for Viagra.

Although it is almost impossible to turn on your TV without seeing a commercial about erectile dysfunction, until recently the content of those ads, while excellent fodder for comedians, has been fairly subtle—usually involving an attractive middle-aged couple making goo-goo eyes at each other, building up to the magic point “when the moment is right.” It may be hokey, and a trifle awkward to explain to your 10-year-old daughter what Viagra is all about, but the ads were not totally gross.  Then Pfizer changed their ad agency…

The latest Viagra commercial features a glamorous blonde in a slinky blue dress reclining on what appears to be a mattress. Looking directly into the camera, and in a sexy, sultry voice with a British accent, she addresses the viewer: “So guys, it’s just you and your honey. The setting is perfect. But then erectile dysfunction happens again.”  She then takes a stroll through a tropical setting and adds, “You know what, plenty of guys have this issue—not just getting an erection, but keeping it.”  (Incidentally, this is the first use of the word “erection” in a TV ad outside of the description of side effects.)

The new face of erectile dysfunction is an English soap actress called Linette Beaumont, and she is prompting a Twitter storm. One viewer tweeted: “Don’t need Viagra. Just need the hot blonde with the British accent.”  A less enthusiastic viewer tweeted: “Nothing is worse than sitting next to your grandma while a hot blonde British woman talks about erections. Thanks, Viagra.”  I haven’t yet seen any of the late night talk shows, but I imagine the hosts are having a field day.

No doubt about it, Viagra has helped countless men to maintain an active sex life.  But do we really need this kind of advertising to get a rise out of men (pun intended)?

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