I was on the Chicago metro when I took a picture of the in-your-face advertising for the up and coming erectile dysfunction pill called Roman. This was the second time I saw the ad. The first time was in May, after buying a single ride ticket to get on the Manhattan 6 line. I turned from the ticket machine and saw generation Y faces plastered like wallpaper everywhere my eyes could see.
So many questions popped into my media literacy mind: How much do these cities get paid by Roman and how do they use the money? Why are they marketing to younger males? Is it mandatory for pharmaceutical companies to have an ethics board? How easy is it to get a Roman prescription?
While checking out their website for some answers, I read the founder’s well-intentioned statement about how his ED is a symptom of a heart condition that was found at 17. To get a prescription, one needs to either meet with or talk online with a doctor, but it still seems so calculated.
I get that everyone wants a quick fix. I've done it too. Like experimenting with taking birth control pills to calm down acne instead of working on balancing my diet and stress levels. I am quite experienced - sort of in a negative light - with healthcare, and most doctors I have met with are super quick to prescribe medications and are lacking in leading conversation and education about lifestyle changes. Because of the way typical doctors are, many people think that drugs are the only answer. I would advocate that such methods should be the last resort and that prescribers should diagnose and treat people holistically.
No male should have the unrealistic expectation of having and keeping an erection every time they are in a sexual situation. Compared to women, men are indeed expected to be aroused and ready for sex, sometimes no matter what that situation is. The pressure to do so is part of the hyped up, toxic masculinity side of gender roles that boys and men are often taught. And the people behind Roman and other erectile dysfunction pills know that. Think about it. Are they truly seeking to help you? That's a really important question to ask before buying- and buying into -certain products. It's more likely them preying on peoples’ insecurities, which is how a lot of advertising is designed.
Roman is nothing new. It’s the same drug - called Sildenafil - as Viagra, just with a new name and new marketing! So, before younger men decide to take pills that only provide a temporary fix like Roman, hopefully they know that they might not even have an issue that needs intervention. And if they do, it might be because of an emotional issue like anxiety, pornography use, high blood pressure, diabetes, substance abuse, medication side effect, or from age-related body changes. For a lot of those causes, erectile dysfunction can get better through ways that don’t involve medication.
The most recent addition to sexual dysfunction drugs is for females. Addyi is classified as a multifunctional serotonin agonist antagonist and is prescribed to treat low sexual desire in women who haven’t gone through menopause. Of course, many females do come across a sexual problem or two, though are much less likely to be told they have some kind of disorder. Women can be effected by some of the same reasons men get ED, like anxiety and medication side effects, as well not verbalizing to partners what feels good to them and/or having a partner who is sexually selfish. The orgasm gap between males and females is a reality, but this doesn’t mean that Addyi is a good idea. (Reading more on Addyi’s prescribing information and how it’s pretty much an antidepressant gives me weird vibes). Again, these pills cover just the surface of whatever the issue is and not the core cause.
But maybe the core cause isn’t something harmful anyway! Sexuality and arousal can get pretty complicated, so unless there is something serious that's causing symptoms, what if people weren’t given quick diagnoses or labels that make them believe they’re abnormal? What if people were primarily given a different type of "prescription" to work on self-discovery, mental and physical wellness, and interpersonal communication instead of codependency with pharmaceutical bullies? If more of us tell prescribers what our standards are by asking for other ways to treat what ails us, we could see a loosened grip on the prescription pad.
We should be suspicious of big pharma. We should believe in people over profit.