March 5, 1999 (Ira Pilgrim)


I'd rather have fingers than toes,

I'd rather have ears than a nose,

And a happy erection

Brought just to perfection,

Makes me terribly sad when it goes.

Author unknown(from G.Legman, The Limerick)

No, this column is not about building office buildings; it's about hydraulics.

It was very soon after the drug Viagra(sildenafil) went on the market that a black market developed all over the world. This very expensive drug (list price is $10 per pill) was selling for outlandish prices. Fake pills were manufactured and sold.

You would think, from the demand, that Viagra was a matter of life and death. No it wasn't a matter of life and death, but it was about something that to many men is more critical: the ability to have an erection.

Long before written history, fakers sold aphrodisiac that didn't really do anything, to unsuspecting men. In tests of Viagra, 22% of the men given a placebo(sugar pill) had at least one successful attempt at intercourse. Sixty-one percent of the men given viagra were successful. Viagra works, but just suggestion will work 22% of the time.

Men whose spinal cord has been severed or damaged get terribly depressed about their imagined lack of a sex life because they have no sensation in their groin. One of the treatments is to put the paraplegic patient up in a hotel room for a weekend with a knowledgeable woman. When he finds out that not only can he have an erection without feeling it, but he can maintain it as long as it is stimulated by touching, the improvement in his mental state is amazing. To many men, that means that he is still a man. This also demonstrates that the penis doesn't have to be connected to the brain in order to function. As young men soon find out, a penis has a mind of its own.

Many years ago, in the days before the animal rights movement, a psychologist did an experiment as follows: A male rat was placed on one side of an electrified metal grid. In order to get to the other side he has to cross the grid and get a series of electric shocks. By varying the voltage to the grid, the experimenter could vary the intensity of the shock. The psychologist discovered that a hungry rat will tolerate a certain amount of shock to get to food. If, instead of food, there was was a female rat in heat on the other side of the grid, he would tolerate a much greater shock to get to her. I saw films of a rat bouncing across the grid and was amazed at what punishment a male animal will endure in order to get to an available female.

Considering that the disease AIDS is almost certain death, many men will risk their lives to be sexually satisfied. It appears to be a stronger drive than hunger. It is more amazing if you consider the fact that a man can achieve erection and orgasm without the help of a partner. His life is literally in his own hand.

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