Most men ashamed to acknowledge their ED problem
In a sexually conservative country like China, it is interesting to see that Viagra is almost everywhere: at eye level on drugstore shelves, on pharmacy window billboards, on fliers at bus stops and even on television.
Viagra is, as most people now know, a Western medication invented in the late 1990s to treat erectile dysfunction (ED). After entering the American market in 1998, it quickly became popular around the world and legally available in China at the start of the new millennium.
With a clever Chinese name (Wei ge, literally “great brother”), Viagra enjoys a large customer base in China. Even though its global sales decreased 10 percent in 2014, its sales surged in China by 47 percent the same year, according to a 2015 Bloomberg report.
Seemingly playing the role of savior for millions of Chinese men who could not otherwise get it up, this little blue pill is so widely known now that even 8th-grade boys like to make fun of each other with jokes like, “hey you look so listless today, why not have a great brother?”
One of the biggest reasons that Viagra has become so popular in China, obviously, is that China is home to many ED sufferers. Last month, domestic pharmaceutical manufacturer Hebei Changshan Biochemical Pharmaceutical Co claimed that 140 million Chinese suffer ED.
“Among Chinese males aged above 20 years old, ED sufferers account for 26.1 percent,” claimed Changshan, which recently received official approval to sell its own Viagra-like medication.
Even though the data was later proved fake and Changshan was fined 1.2 million yuan ($181,970), there’s still an estimated 70 million limp Chinese men (on the basis of WHO’s conservative figure in 2013 that around 10 percent of all men in the world are affected by ED).
Nonetheless, few Chinese ED sufferers are willing to see a doctor, simply out of embarrassment. Andrologist Wang Xiaofeng told media that only 20 percent of ED patients in China go to the hospital.
“The remaining 80 percent are trying to solve it themselves or just bearing it in silence,” he said, according to chinanews.com in 2014.
This is because many Chinese men are shy and concerned about saving face. By going to an andrology hospital, they would be openly acknowledging that they are “not good” in bed. In our male-dominated society, chauvinism not only oppresses women but also forces men to cater to certain gender stereotypes, including being macho.
A bizarre logic is thusly established under this circumstance, implying that ED sufferers are bad in bed and therefore unattractive, weak and effeminate.
These men fail to understand that, medically, male genitals are just like any other human organ, and ED is a disease as ordinary as gastritis or eczema, irrelevant to one’s sexual appeal or skills. Going to the doctor to get a prescription for Viagra, then, would be the equivalent of a person with a common cold going to the hospital for an IV drip.
Ironically, the same ED sufferers who avoid seeing a professional are willing to spend their money on unreliable and dangerous folk remedies or fake sexual health products.
Penis and testis of male ox, goat and tiger are a traditional Chinese medicine that are said to increase men’s sexual potency, and are especially popular in rural areas. No one knows whether they really work or not, but TCM tells us that “you are what you eat.”
Maca (Lepidium meyenii Walp), a sort of radish from Latin America, was once touted as the “plant version of Viagra,” enjoying great popularity and big sales in China before being exposed by CCTV in 2014 as a scam.
Chinese society is ambivalent if not outright confused about sex. Condom ads are prohibited on TV, yet abortion surgery commercials are seen on prime-time screens; professional urologists who can write legal prescriptions for real Viagra receive few patients, but fake untested remedies remain huge sellers.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Times.
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