A recent report on pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and their decision to directly market Viagra online was a curious one. I understand this would be the first occasion in which a major manufacturer did this, but the story itself is something of a side note in a broader discussion about the availability of certain drugs. Particularly those drugs that are purposed for what could be described as sexual empowerment, but in this instance it might be better to phrase it as individual empowerment with regards to control of one’s body.
Possibly since the dawn of email, spam messages marketing the since nigh on infamous man pill have indiscriminately plagued users. Alongside the post-watershed “twinkle in the eye” suggestive undertones of the oddly cryptic TV ad, and other slightly veiled but public means of getting the product about, this was albeit an indication of the general social acceptability of its use. A use, no doubt, preferably kept discreet for the implications inherent to its requirement, but in this regard it’s no different to many a treatment for an embarrassing ailment.
What makes this issue more interesting is when you contrast this ethos of broad agreement that a man needs to “get it up”, with a rather unbalanced approach to the same idea when considering women. Clearly a woman doesn’t have precisely the same consideration but the objective for men is basic biological sexual empowerment, an objective that for women still remains mystifyingly controversial in much of the world. The biological element differs substantially from broader sexual empowerment in terms of attitudes, behaviours and cultures, thus my distinction at the beginning, but control of one’s body should be a clear and inalienable platform for gender equality.
Obviously this notion then informs the larger debate but I want to focus on the core aspect. Here in the UK there seems to be a reasonably healthy attitude and women have easy access to gender specific birth control, free on the NHS, and the somewhat gender neutral condom is commercially readily available. But even in America the debate still rages over whether or not it’s even moral to use the “pill”, with recent efforts to widen it’s availability on the public dollar stirring up another hornet’s nest. The debate over abortion is an even nastier one, and although more complex than birth control it speaks to the same matter.
I’m sure none of this is ground breaking feminism on my part but I couldn’t help but wonder that if an astoundingly powerful company like Pfizer wanted to do something genuinely remarkable, they could provide a similar service to women as they supposedly have just provided men. Apparently the Viagra move was in the name of fighting counterfeit erectile aids on the black market that could contain anything so horrible as printer ink and pesticides. Well, some of the stories I’ve heard from near every corner of the globe that talk of the horrors that women sometimes endure for want of control over their own bodies are a goddamned greater deal worse than that.