Viagra and Christian ethics

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Baptist Blogger has a very interesting and thought-provoking post on Christianity Sexuality and the Ethic of Pharmaceutical Enhancement. He's not talking about what is now coming to be called "male enhancement" but about such drugs as Viagra. I'd never looked into the actual scientific behind drugs like this (i.e. what they actually do and what their effects are on a level more specific than the popular understanding), never mind thought about the ethical issues they raise, so I learned quite a few things from this post. I'm not sure I agree with everything the post says, but I don't think I'm going to work out a careful view on this anytime soon, so I'm not going to raise any worries now. I did find it an interesting read that raises some good questions worth thinking about by those for whom this is an issue.

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Update: Ha!


Seemed a bit alarmist to me. Other than that, it mostly boiled down to "taking prescription drugs for recreational purposes is generally a bad thing" and "use prescription drugs with care and moderation", which isn't exactly controversial in Evangelical circles.

I was annoyed by passages like this:

The proliferation of sex-enhancement drugs has gone without much comment from many Christian ethicists, presumably for several reasons. Either they are unconcerned that "erection on demand" drugs might be misused or foster an increased focus on sex in our society, or they themselves have been prescribed the drug and wish not to raise the issue.

Aren't there any other options?

Also annoying was this:

Moreover, of significant concern is the degree to which younger men are being prescribed for Viagra only to increase their ability to maintain erections through multiple orgasms. This comes dangerously close to occultism, in which sex becomes a focus and goal for worship.

As I've already noted, I object to this use of Viagra since it is recreational, not theraputic. But suppose someone (either male or female) discovers a sexual technique that they didn't previously know that makes sex more enjoyable in one way or another. To make the case parallel to the one in the quote, say a man finds a way to maintain an erection through multiple orgasms (without drugs).
Would using that technique really be "dangerously close to occultism"? Just because one is actively working at increasing their (and/or their partner's) pleasure in sex hardly means that they are worshiping sex.

I am glad he said the following:

So perhaps a biblical ethic of erectile dysfunction medication should include a discussion of whether or not it is the man or the woman being deprived. In other words, if only the man is being deprived on account of his erectile dysfunction, but the woman does not sense deprivation, it should be factored into the couple's consideration.

However, he needs to be clear that that should not be the only consideration. While a man does not belong to himself, he should still make reasonable efforts to be in the best possible health, even if his health has direct benefit to his wife. (I am here presuming that Viagra, properly prescribed and used will have some overall positive benefit to the man's health. I don't actually know if this is the case. If this is not the case, then this whole paragraph is kinda moot.)

I think I agree with most of that that, except for one caveat. What counts as recreational drug use? You seem to be taking it to be recreational if it's not to counter a deficiency but is rather to enhance one's ability. This then makes Viagra like steroids if it's used not to counter ED but to enhance one's sexual abilities in some way. But is the problem with steroids merely that it enhances one's abilities? I would have thought the problem was that it does it at the cost of health. That's in fact why it's regulated as a drug. Enhancing one's abilities with supplements that don't have the bad side-effects is perfectly fine, isn't it? How would it be any different from eating a high-protein diet to help bulk up?

IIRC, Viagra's potential side effects include some pretty bad cardiovascular stuff, so yeah, the reason not to take it just for enhancement is because it my do bad things to your health. However, if you've got an actual problem, then the health benefits of fixing that problem may outweigh the potential deleterious side-effects.

I.e. the problem is parallel to steriods as you've described it.

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