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‘Sex for life’? Men's counter‐stories on ‘erectile dysfunction’, male sexuality and ageing

Potts, Annie ; Grace, Victoria M. ; Vares, Tiina ; Gavey, Nicola

Sociology of Health & Illness, April 2006, Vol.28(3), pp.306-329 [Peer Reviewed Journal]

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  • Title:
    ‘Sex for life’? Men's counter‐stories on ‘erectile dysfunction’, male sexuality and ageing
  • Author: Potts, Annie ; Grace, Victoria M. ; Vares, Tiina ; Gavey, Nicola
  • Subjects: Male Sexuality ; Ageing ; Viagra ; Erectile Difficulties ; Biomedicine ; Coital Imperative
  • Is Part Of: Sociology of Health & Illness, April 2006, Vol.28(3), pp.306-329
  • Description: Discourse on male sexuality in mid‐to‐later life has exploded in recent years (Gullette 1998). Attention to this topic has been spurred by the advent of (highly profitable) sexuopharmaceutical ‘solutions’ to erectile changes affecting older men. ‘Success’ stories abound in the media and in medical literature related to the restoration of faulty erections and ailing sex lives through drugs such as Viagra (sildenafil citrate), Uprima (apomorphine) and Cialis (tadalafil). In this paper we explore some of the ways in which notions about ageing and male sexuality are changing in popular cultural and medical texts in response to the advent of Viagra and the increasing authority of biomedicine in this area. We also demonstrate how the recent biomedical endorsement of ‘sex for life’ (the imperative to maintain an active youthful masculine [hetero]sexuality – defined in terms of male orgasm through penetrative sex) may be challenged by the very accounts of older men who are, or have been, affected by erectile difficulties and have used drugs like Viagra themselves. We present the perspectives of mid‐to‐late life heterosexual men in New Zealand whose stories question the contemporary biomedical privileging of erections and intercourse ‘at any cost and at any age’. We argue that the current push to identify and treat so‐called erectile dysfunction (and restore erections and penetrative sex to relationships) neglects some men's own experiences of alternative modes of relating sexually that they identify as ‘normal’, ‘healthy’, ‘enjoyable’ and ‘satisfying’ for them and their partners; and undermines their understanding of such changes as positive outcomes of ageing, experience and maturity.
  • Identifier: ISSN: 0141-9889 ; E-ISSN: 1467-9566 ; DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9566.2006.00494.x

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