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Facing call for ban, whither Viagra?

Updated: Oct 17, 2023

Earl Fowler

I write this as a matter of some urgency, in the face of a widespread and — not to bend the truth or put to0 fine a point on it — swelling misconception that a certain class of medications is turning the male seniors of today into a generation of geriatric Lotharios.

A column by The Honourable Petronella Wyatt in Thursday’s Daily Telegraph, a right-wing British newspaper of some standing, perpetuated the scurrilous notion that men in their dotage retain an unhealthy interest in what Britons of a certain age are wont to refer to as grumpy puppy.

Sorry, best make that rumpy pumpy or how’s your father.

The Autocorrect feature on my Mac notebook tends to overheat whenever I stray into louche territory. Which is next to never, as my cookie cache can attest, but I couldn’t help sitting up and taking notice of the headline attached to Wyatt’s provocative commentary: “Viagra is turning the UK into a nation of dirty old men — it should be banned.”

Headlines are generally the titillating foreplay of the editorial world, the remit of sad old men in plaid shirts, stained ties and khaki pants. Lonely men in short-sleeves, leaning over blue pencils and blue computer terminals. So let’s let Wyatt, a former lover of Boris Johnson — a distinction which could not but confer deep, disturbing insights into the perfidious male psyche — make the case in her own words:

Of all the pills in all the world, Viagra is proving to be one of the most pernicious. It may have started as a benign miracle cure for the less enterprising in amours, but, according to new statistics, it is making Britain a country for dirty old men. A record number of males over the age of 70 are popping the little blue pills, as often as they take their statins and felodipine.

Last year, the over-70s received a record 282,000 prescriptions, including 7,000 for nonagenarians, the eldest patient being 99. There used to be a saying: “Better an old man’s darling than a young man’s slave.” Or, to spell it out, better for single, grown-up women to be romanced by quiescent septuagenarians with open wallets and open-heart surgery, rather than younger bon soldats with a ravenous appetite to merge.

In this wide, wicked universe, there is nothing quite as comforting as a relationship with a man who can answer for your future, even if he can’t answer for his own. The French call it “amitie amoureuse”, and it was love without the pressure of unwarranted expectations in the boudoir. In fact, it was a blessed relief. But Western civilisation is a self-limiting disease. There are thumping paradoxes in its philosophy, and some of them have a suicidal smack.

According to Frank Furedi of Kent University, “Contemporary culture sends out the signal that sex is for life. A lot of elderly men feel they must have a full-on sex life by any means necessary. They are fast becoming Generation Viagra.”

But sex isn’t for life. Its actual purpose is to create life, something we have lost sight of in our fiery revolt against the traditions of our ancestors and our headlong rush into the ravine of transience and self-destruction. There is, in any case, a form of human striving understood far better by the inhabitants of a modern democracy, and that is the striving for gratification without responsibility, and a belief in the divinity of the human body.


In the West, there is a misconception, fostered by magazines, social media and the new body acceptance, that insists on an equality of desirability and the right to act on it. But the human body, except for a short time in youth, is not a beautiful thing. It is a hideous thing.

Women understand this better than men. Our own bodies give us no pleasure. It is our constant effort to disguise, alter or conceal them. We never expose them aesthetically, but only as an act of provocation. The human body, compared to a vase, is very defective in form. It has clumsily distributed masses which become even clumsier with age. Most men, however, are aesthetically deaf, dumb and blind, a disability reinforced by their vanity.

Their natural instinct is to investigate every stranger of the opposite sex with a view to deciding whether to behave towards them in an amorous manner. This instinct is inhibited when they are travelling on the Tube at rush hour, but Generation Viagra is becoming a menace behind closed doors.

Firmly (or not, as the case may be) on the saggy, baggy side of life myself, I won’t contest the conception of the aging body in or out of its skivvies as a hideous thing, though Wyatt’s antediluvian politics do seem to have fitted her snugly into a prim Victorian corset. No wonder her put-upon female body, even at the relatively tender age of 55, experiences no pleasure.

No sex please, we’re skittish. To quote the 1st Baron Tennyson, who avidly shared Wyatt’s interest in claustrophobia-inducing trusses and support garments, “Ah, the soft and milky rabble of womankind!”

But I will take issue with the preposterous premise upon which her entire calumnious enterprise is based, namely, the received wisdom that geezers and gaffers, pensioners and patriarchs, codgers and bodachs with red eyes, bristling hair and snapping dentures purchase their jagged little pills solely with libidinous intent.

Yes, yes. This is certainly true of some well-known debauchees. Predictably, Wyatt points to the ultimate poster boy behind (but mostly in front of) poster girls:

Look what it did to Hugh Hefner, who died in 2017, at 91.The ultimate playboy was unable to play any more, without resorting to drugs. According to his widow, Crystal, who was interviewed two months ago, he took so much Viagra it made him deaf in one ear, and their relationship a misery. Poor former playmate Crystal. She married a decrepit millionaire in the reasonable expectation of pipe, slippers and blank cheques, and ended up with a hard-of-hearing sex addict. It shouldn’t happen to nice girls.

Purely in the interests of journalism, I sneaked a peek at Crystal’s forthcoming tell-all about her life with Hef titled Only Say Good Things: Surviving Playboy and Finding Myself. (The title isn’t intentionally ironic, but the number of adolescent boys who found new uses for previously misprized parts of themselves while paying close attention to Miss October and her centrefold peers translated into an awful lot of money for the makers of facial tissues.)

The loving, surgically enhanced widow’s verdict on even her first night with the publishing magnate, who was 60 when she was born: “Unremarkable. Whatever you would like, whatever you would think, or however you would want a night to go, well, it wasn’t that.”

Life at the mansion was about Entertainment for Men, as the old Playboy slogan had it and frequent guest Bill Cosby, aka America’s dad, liked to say while spiking cocktails. But by the time Crystal arrived on the scene in 2009 (she was 22; her host was 82), let’s just say the Hefnerian hamster wheel was suffering from perpetual jet lag.

What happened to Wyatt during and after her four-year affair with the married Johnson early this century, when the future British PM was both a Conservative MP and the editor of The Spectator, a right-wing British newsmagazine of some standing, shouldn’t happen to nice girls either.

Her wages of apparently joyless sin: an unfulfilled promise by Johnson to leave his second wife (he’s currently on No. 3), a terminated pregnancy and a miscarriage. Johnson was fired from his shadow cabinet post by then Conservative Party Leader Michael Howard for lying about the affair, which he categorically denied having, but took his lesson to heart and has scrupulously hewed to the truth ever since.

Given the unbowed and uncombed reprobate’s continuing popularity with a wide swath of the British erectorate, Johnson’s return to No. 10 Downing after Rishi Sunak has been thrashed in the next election and Labour has had another turn at the, um, tap, is hardly beyond imagining.

Vanity, thy name is man. I get that. That aesthetically deaf, dumb and blind man sure rates a mean pratfall.

But it doesn’t follow from this, as Wyatt hastily concludes, that “Viagra has become damaging to everyone’s peace of mind, as well as to our ability to form the comfortable and happy relationships that our parents and grandparents enjoyed. We are creating a lost generation of elderly male delinquents.”

On the contrary, the potential downside of Viagra, Cialis and their generic equivalents has been inflated in the press. It’s true that they’re associated with low blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes and sudden hearing loss, but at our age, so are soggy Cheerios or just standing up.

Moreover, scientific surveys have demonstrated conclusively that the three main reasons men over 70 buy these rather expensive pills are sensible, practical and chaste.

Number one: Cialis reduces jet lag in hamsters. The benefits are so obvious that they scarcely bear mentioning. So I won’t.

Number two (so to speak): Pop a small, blue diamond at bedtime (say, just after The Rockford Files at 9), and one will reduce by half the likelihood of peeing on one’s Hefnerian slippers during trips to the bathroom at 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. After that, Proud Boys, stand back or sit down.

Number three: The older one gets, the easier it is to become disoriented in the dark. Pop a small, blue diamond at bedtime (say, just after Columbo at 8:30) and one greatly reduces the likelihood of falling out of bed over the next three or four hours.

That last one is a little technical, but think of it as an analog form of GPS, a hands-on orientation system.

Think of a light switch toggling to the “on” from the “off” position. (Painfully priapic “screw terminals” come to the fore only if one “accidentally” swallows three or more pills and winds up locked in the “on” position until breakfast.)

If it helps, envisage this bedtime safety feature as a hairpin turn on a wintry road. A dreamland dogleg. A urinary tract genuflection. A sewer line with a 45-degree elbow (20 degrees or less as the night goes on, assuming one is looking up from the shrivelled nut sack or what urologists now refer to as “Trump’s base.”)

The key point is: Safety first.

Wyatt doesn’t get into it, but one of the reasons it’s still called Great Britain is that across the pond, you don’t need a prescription to buy Viagra. As an old joke has it, you can still get it over the counter.

For most of the spavined, hunchbacked, decrepit old farts I hang out with, however, getting it over the counter would take at least four pills. Even then, we’d have to close our eyes and think of England.

Or maybe just the Crystal Palace.



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4 Comments


Jim Withers
Jim Withers
Oct 15, 2023

Viagra should team up with the Up With People people, wherever they are. You know, positive, all-inclusive message ... . Give it a shot, I say.

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Mind you, there'd be a lot more people to scurry about and a lot more people to share.

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“Sunak has been thrashed in the next erection?”

Or his erection was thrashed in the next election so his erection was unelectable or non-delectable?

I’m confused. I’ll take two and call you in the morning.

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That one's one purpose. There are other corrections I'd like to make but I can't get in to make the fixes. Bother.

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