Potency in all the right places: Viagra as a technology of the gendered body

Body and Society 7 (4):13-35 (2001)

Abstract

New pharmacological therapies, often dubbed `lifestyle drugs', demonstrate the enactment of yet another interface between technologies and bodies that promises a re-fashioning of the body with transformative, life-enhancing results. This article analyzes the emergence of one lifestyle drug, Viagra, from a technoscience studies perspective, conceptualizing Viagra as a new medical technology of the body. Through an analysis of promotional materials for Viagra, we argue that this pharmaceutical device performs ideological work through its discursive scripts that serves to reinforce and augment dominant cultural narratives in relation to material bodies, particularly those of hegemonic masculinity and male sexuality. We conclude that Viagra carries the potential to reify and reinforce these dominant and hegemonic narratives, while at the same time, through ensuring an open market for heterogeneous users, it provides spaces for alternatives to these normative ideals and assumptions.

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