The downside of Viagra: women's experiences and concerns

Sociol Health Illn. 2003 Nov;25(7):697-719. doi: 10.1046/j.1467-9566.2003.00366.x.


While much is known about the efficacy and safety of sexuopharmaceuticals used by men for the treatment of erectile difficulties, there remains a dearth of knowledge on the perspectives and experiences of their sexual partners. In particular, few studies have focused on the possible detrimental effects for women of Viagra use within a heterosexual relationship. In this paper we report on a qualitative study based in New Zealand, which involved in-depth interviews with 27 women whose partners used Viagra. A number of key dimensions were identified, three of which revealed issues and concerns for women regarding the use of Viagra by their male partners: the neglect of women by those producing and prescribing Viagra; the embodied relationship (which encompasses physical and psychosocial effects of Viagra use); and broader socio-cultural implications (e.g the impact of 'the culture of Viagra' on understandings about sexuality in older age, and on ideas about male and female sexuality). We argue that while previous medically-oriented research in this area has generally assumed an unproblematic link between Viagra use and the resumption of penetrative sex within heterosexual relationships, more attention needs to be paid to partners' perspectives and desires, and to the specific dynamics of any given relationship. Moreover, while the publicity surrounding Viagra may potentially facilitate more positive attitudes to sexuality in older age, it may also produce a societal expectation that 'healthy' and 'normal' life for older people requires the continuation of 'youthful' (energetic) sex lives focused on penetrative intercourse.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Advertising
  • Aged
  • Aging
  • Coitus
  • Erectile Dysfunction / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Heterosexuality
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • New Zealand
  • Phosphodiesterase Inhibitors*
  • Piperazines*
  • Purines
  • Sex Factors
  • Sexual Partners / psychology*
  • Sexuality*
  • Sildenafil Citrate
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Sulfones*
  • Vasodilator Agents*
  • Women*


  • Phosphodiesterase Inhibitors
  • Piperazines
  • Purines
  • Sulfones
  • Vasodilator Agents
  • Sildenafil Citrate