Johnson & Åsberg: Enrolling Men, their Doctors, and Partners: Individual and Collective Responses to Erectile Dysfunction

  • Ericka Johnson
  • Cecilia Åsberg

Abstract

Using the Pfizer funded Swedish informational site about erectile dysfunction (ED), www.potenslinjen.se, we examine how potential users, their partners, and medical doctors are enrolled in the process of creating the Swedish Viagra user. Contextualized against other critical work on Viagra, our analysis shows how the commercial discourse embeds the ED patient into a network of actors. Three separate actors are co-constituted and enrolled by this erectile dysfunction information discourse, comprising Viagra marketing material in a country which forbids direct to consumer advertising of prescription medication. Doctors are enrolled to produce the cultural authority of expert medical knowledge, whereas partners are given responsibility for the emotional aspects of a man’s sexuality and encouraged to direct the man toward the relationship-saving Viagra. Throughout, though, the man is the patient responsible for taking Viagra to fix his dysfunctioning penis. We problematize this individualised solution by contrasting it with the social aspects of the discourse and examining other qualitative and historical studies of impotence. We then ask if the enrolment presented by the Swedish Viagra website could be (mis)used to expand the circle of actors involved in ED, redefi ning the ‘problem’ and opening for a wider variety of treatments.