Bioethics Blogs

Viagra Versus the Pill

Given that continuing controversy surrounding insurance coverage for how contraceptives, I want to point out another drug that also targets sexuality and reproduction yet does not generate the nearly same degree of controversy. In fact, insurance companies began covering it immediately upon approval by the FDA with no fanfare. I’m referring to erectile dysfunction drugs. The public’s different responses to female contraceptives and male sexuality medications has been discussed in academic circles as well as in the media. Here I want to present some feminist perspectives on this topic. 

Some feminists argue is that part of the reason we understand and treat pregnancy and impotence differently is because we have different standards for women’s and men’s health, which result from the traditional gender norms at play in our society. We (as a society) expect women to adhere to norms of chastity (e.g. fall on the “virgin” side of the virgin/whore dichotomy by not having sex until marriage) and one way we do this is by limiting their access to sexual and reproductive health care. In contrast, because our notions of masculinity are tied into sexual prowess, we are more receptive to providing health care for men who are not able to maintain an erection. 

Abstinence is frequently suggested as a easy and free way for women to avoid pregnancy, but not as a treatment strategy for dealing with erectile dysfunction. While abstinence will not cure men’s problems with erectile dysfunction, by not engaging in any sexual activity, they can avoid the issue altogether. In a similar vein, people with Celiac disease may be able to minimize their health problems by not eating gluten and people with a severe dog allergy may be to minimize their health problems by limiting contact with dogs.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.