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What Erectile Dysfunction Ads Say About Our Culture and Our Health

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Amy Fried, Ph.D.       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   17 comments

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The ads are ubiquitous on TV - targeting men who suffer erectile dysfunction, with actors portraying happy couples, presumably with satisfying sex lives. What the ads say about our culture is insulting to women and men alike. What they say about our health - particularly the Standard American Diet (SAD) is perhaps even more disturbing.

If you watch TV at all, you've seen them: Graying men, with their female partners who clearly look - and act - substantially younger than their husbands. The women never have a hint of gray hair, and the thrust of the ads seem to focus on their supposedly endearing child-like behavior. I guess they're trying to suggest that the drugs being advertised will make the men who take them feel young. The sexist ageism inherent in the message speak volumes about our culture, in which male aging is accepted but female aging is not. Personally, I find the idea that women need to act like children in order to make their men feel young at least as galling.

But there's another way that ED commercials are even more revealing about our culture: the connection between the unhealthy American diet and erectile dysfunction. As various vegan advocates in the medical community explain, if you have poor blood flow, it doesn't just affect your sexual function. It is a broader medical problem that needs to be dealt with systemically:

"But most people don't know that ED isn't usually caused by stress, alcohol, or performance anxiety--it's a result of blocked arteries. The cholesterol and saturated fat in animal products can lead to vascular problems, which in turn impede blood flow." _____ Dr. Neal Barnard, PCRM.org

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Blocked arteries cause problems all over the body. Why just get side-tracked thinking about one side effect? And why treat a symptom, rather than the root cause? Pushing ED pills on American men is problematic on many levels: 1) it focuses on one symptom of a larger problem, which could cause the latter to be ignored; 2) it encourages men to take medicines that - the ads themselves admit - have negative side effects, while a healthier diet would have positive side effects; 3) it plays on men's insecurities, in order to sell a product (not to mention the whole pharmaceutical strategy of pressuring doctors through their patients!)

Sadly, the idea of meat as a man's meal is perhaps almost as ubiquitous as ED commercials. Who could forget the Burger King ad, "I am a Man," making the connection anything but subtle? Perhaps if this medical advice from the folks at The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Forks Over Knives, and others got more play, we could turn that around.

 

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Amy Fried applies her Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior to writing and activism on church-state separation, feminism, reproductive rights, corruption, media and veganism.

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