The Bedroom Traveler
Call it progress. Call it Americanization. Or call it a new twist on macho. Whatever you choose to call it, one thing is certain: Europeans, particularly Spaniards, are gung-ho for Viagra—so gung-ho, they’ll do almost anything to get their hands on it. One man armed with toy guns held up a pharmacy for the joy of sexo azul (blue sex, so-called for the blue pills), and returned post-coitus with roses for the druggist. Less drastic measures include the usual methods of drug procurement: faking symptoms to get a prescription, buying on the black market at 80 bucks a pop, or sharing with friends (otherwise known as stealing). Hey, what’s a señor supposed to do, with the señoritas so demanding nowadays?
The sad part of the European Viagra craze is that it’s part of a larger lifestyle change in countries where four-week vacations and low-stress lives have historically been the norm. Spaniards, famous for being laid back, are phasing out the afternoon siesta. They’re eating fast food, becoming workaholics, and finding they don’t have time for sex. Surely that vanishing siesta is responsible for part of the crunch—I’d wager that siesta hours were used for forms of relaxation other than sleep. To cope with their sped-up lives, one sexologist says, people are using Viagra as a crutch. It’s also the drug of choice in Spanish nightclubs, coupled with Ecstasy to help endure a night of partying followed by great sex. (Don’t try this at home; they say the combo can cause heart failure).
These cultural changes have arisen out of economic prosperity, shifting gender roles, and relaxation of sex taboos, to name the most obvious. In Spain there’s also the factor of a pendulum swing towards greater sexual liberation that followed the harsh repression of Franco’s long rule.
I can’t say I’m surprised that Viagra use is part and parcel of a more stressful society. While I usually welcome most anything that serves to enhance sexual pleasure, I’ve had a creepy feeling about Viagra ever since it came online almost a decade ago. I confess that my experience with the drug is zero—but that doesn’t negate my ability to analyze the trend towards more and more drug use to enable sex. With me it’s a philosophical, rather than a pharmaceutical, matter.
In my book (literally: Sex for the Clueless), experimentation is a good thing, whether it’s with new positions, new personas or new locations. Viagra as experimentation, or for an occasional wild marathon, sounds great (in fact, now that I’m giving it my full attention, I’m thinking about losing my Viagra virginity). On the other hand, anything that increases pressure to “perform” is not so great—indeed, it can be anathema to an ongoing high-quality sex life. Seems to me if desire arises synthetically rather than, quite literally, organically, then the sex will also be synthetic. I’ve never even liked partners who “perform”—I want them, and me, to do, feel, be, explore, lust, love, abandon, enjoy. Performing is strictly for stand-up comedy. It’s got no place in sexual relationships.
Besides, a hard penis is not an absolute requirement of good sex. This cultural phallocentricity has always gotten in the way of imagination and variety. The use of hands, fingers, lips, fantasy, talk, and a million other sexual “tools” get short shrift compared to the mighty erection, especially in the male mind. To be honest, I’d be reluctant to spend a night with a man whose erection lasts four to eight hours. I can just imagine the degree of attention I’d have to lavish on the prick that never goes down.
Yes, of course, if a guy’s over the hill, or has some other problem leading to sexual dysfunction, even though he’s got real motivation, then Viagra’s a blessing. But most men, gay or straight, use Viagra for casual or marathon sex. In Big Love, the HBO series about a polygamous household, hubby is constantly chowing down Viagra before daring to enter one of his three wives’ boudoirs. I had a gay roommate for awhile who took the stuff on weekends; he also made a nice bundle selling his leftovers via the Internet.
I’m not saying Viagra is in and of itself a bad thing, and besides, I believe in live and let live. But I just can’t bear the way American culture turns everything into a commodity, and makes phony everything authentic. Sex is too good, too real, and too sacred.
I hope the people of Spain return to their senses and realize they had a good thing going with the three-hour siesta, long lazy ten o’clock dinners, and men who took pride in their innate sexual prowess. Pride in being a great lover may be an element of macho, but it’s an element I’ll take over compulsory drug-enhanced performance any day of the week—or during any siesta.