Aging respectably by rejecting medicalization: Mexican men's reasons for not using erectile dysfunction drugs

Med Anthropol Q. 2013 Mar;27(1):3-22. doi: 10.1111/maq.12013.


As lifestyle drug production and medical interest in geriatrics increase, the medicalization of aging and sexuality have become intertwined. Drugs like Viagra naturalize lifelong performance of phallocentric sex as a marker of healthy aging. Yet despite the ubiquity of medical aids for having "youthful" sex in older age, this article argues that having no or less sex can be a conscious strategy for embodying respectable aging. Based on ethnographic research in a Cuernavaca, Mexico, hospital urology department, this article shows that despite the traditional association of penetrative sex with successful masculinity, many older, working-class Mexican men faced with erectile difficulty reject "youthful" sexuality and drugs that facilitate it in order to embody a "mature" masculinity focused on home and family. This article argues that social encouragement and structural disincentives for medicalizing erectile difficulty encouraged men to interpret decreasing erectile function as natural and appropriate.

MeSH terms

  • Aging / psychology*
  • Anthropology, Medical
  • Erectile Dysfunction / drug therapy
  • Erectile Dysfunction / ethnology*
  • Erectile Dysfunction / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Masculinity*
  • Men / psychology*
  • Mexico
  • Middle Aged
  • Treatment Refusal / psychology*