On the heels of Larry King's eighth divorce, purportedly because he slept with his wife's sister, The Daily Beast's Jacob Bernstein seizes the moment to talk about what Viagra has done to geriatric sexual politics:
He represents a growing phenomenon that didn't quite exist a decade ago: members of the first generation of old men who didn't have to give up on sex, who didn't have to put companionship first, who didn't have to reconfigure their erotic lives around pleasuring their wives.
Let's take another look at that last line. It's a key point: that all this talk about Viagra restoring male sexual confidence ignores the fact that penetrative sex isn't the only kind that matters — especially when you're talking about post-menopausal women. But for a generation that came of age before open conversations about female sexual pleasure, going back to a guy getting it up being the most important thing must be some sort of twisted simplicity.
Or, as one psychiatrist tells Bernstein, "Viagra can bring out the best in a person who's a lover and a giver and the worst in someone who's a user or a taker." Allowing, for this moment, a vast generalization, men in their seventies and eighties today didn't exactly grow up being told to prioritize equal partnerships with women. The psychiatrist also recounts the following story of a broken-up couple he met with:
The man admitted that erectile-dysfunction drugs played into his infidelity. "Part of what he said was that had a Madonna-whore complex and she was the woman who he'd watched give birth to his children. So you take a man who's middle-aged, who's lost desire for his wife, and then add Viagra into the mix. I don't think it justifies his behavior but you can understand him being seduced by it."
You can certainly understand him being seduced by it in the context of a culture that promulgates that Madonna-whore complex at just about every opportunity, or that relegates middle-aged mothers' desires to cartoons. Is there a pharmacological cure for that?