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Talking About Bodies Online: Viagra,

YouTube, and the Politics of
Public(Ized) Sexualities

Article in Gender Place and Culture A Journal of Feminist Geography October 2014
DOI: 10.1080/0966369X.2013.879106


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Vincent J. Del Casino Catherine F. Brooks

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Talking about bodies online:

Viagra, YouTube, and the politics of
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a b
Vincent J. Del Casino Jr. & Catherine F. Brooks
School of Geography and Development, University of Arizona,
P.O. Box 210076, Tucson, AZ85721, USA
School of Information Resources and Library Science,
Department of Communication, University of Arizona, 1515 East
First Street, Tucson, AZ85719, USA
Published online: 07 Feb 2014.

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online: Viagra, YouTube, and the politics of public(ized) sexualities, Gender, Place & Culture: A
Journal of Feminist Geography, DOI: 10.1080/0966369X.2013.879106

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Gender, Place and Culture, 2014

Talking about bodies online: Viagra, YouTube, and the politics of

public(ized) sexualities
Vincent J. Del Casino Jr.a* and Catherine F. Brooksb
School of Geography and Development, University of Arizona, P.O. Box 210076, Tucson,
AZ 85721, USA; bSchool of Information Resources and Library Science, Department of
Downloaded by [University of Arizona], [Vincent J. Del Casino] at 13:32 25 March 2014

Communication, University of Arizona, 1515 East First Street, Tucson, AZ 85719, USA
(Received 8 December 2012; final version received 4 November 2013)

The development of Viagra in the late 1990s ushered in a new age of conversation
about sex and sexuality, as mens bodily abilities were put on display for all to discuss.
In 2005, the video-sharing technology YouTube was launched. Taken together, these
technological innovations both biomedical and representational have produced
debate around sex, sexualized and gendered bodies, and sexual health. This article
interrogates Viagra-related representations posted on YouTube and analyzes
sexuopharmaceuticals as a set of intertextualities that create space for both normative
discourses and social critiques. Three analytic themes illustrate how Viagra-related
YouTube videos (1) reinforce a regime of self-care within a wider context of
individualized responsibility for ones sexual health, (2) highlight the values attached
to the pharmasexed gendered body for men and women in the age of Viagra, and (3)
provide disruptions, in the form of criticism, to the assumption that healthy bodies and
relationships need pharmasexual enhancement. The article concludes by suggesting
that social networking sites such as YouTube are managed public spaces through which
one can interrogate the intertextualities that link discourses related to bodies and sexual
health to the virtual and material spaces of everyday life.
Keywords: technology; gendered and sexualized bodies; sex; sexuality; YouTube;

Its a little embarrassing to talk about ED [erectile dysfunction]. But its so important to
millions of men and their partners that I decided to talk about it publicly. (Bob Dole, 1999,
Viagra commercial)1
In a 1999 advertisement, Bob Dole, former Republican nominee for president of the USA,
opened up a public discussion about his struggle with impotence, or erectile dysfunction (ED).
Although the commercial is difficult to find on the Internet, a clip from the Rachel Maddow
Show on the video-sharing site YouTube allows us to glimpse this piece of sexual history and
recover the language of the advertisement. That this ad continues to be part of a public story
about gendered and sexualized bodies suggests that Viagra has gained momentum as a
cultural icon. After all, Viagra appears in US politics in a 2008 press conference about health
care with John McCain and in popular culture in the case of the feature films Scary Movie
4 and Love and Other Drugs. Given the mass sales of Viagra and related drugs globally and in
light of Viagras position in popular culture, it is not surprising that stories and discussions
about the drug have found a following on video-sharing websites such as YouTube.2

*Corresponding author.

q 2014 Taylor & Francis

2 V.J. Del Casino and C.F. Brooks

In light of this cultural conversation about Viagra, this article argues that YouTube
provides an empirical space to analyze sexuopharmaceuticals in representational contexts
(e.g., Del Casino 2007a; Potts 2004). YouTube is more than a virtual space; it is best
theorized as projecting traditional relationships built in physical spaces, into the spaces of
flows (Crang 2011, 413). In the case of sexuopharmaceuticals and ED, discussions of what
goes on in the bedroom are broadened out into a networked public through the posting of
video representations about Viagra on YouTube. Thought this way, YouTube does not sit
outside the normative expecations of what constitutes an acceptable representation . . . but
rather functions to reflect and reinforce those expectations (Longhurst 2009, 47). Put more
directly, power relations in cyber/space reflect and reinforce power relations in real
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space (Longhurst 2009, 47). Postings about sexuopharmaceuticals on YouTube are

intertextually linked to a broader set of sexualized conversations and representational
practices on topics such as male impotence, mens subjectivities and bodies, and the spaces
of sex (Morgentaler 2003). Within these intertextual flows, the media is not an external
driver of social change. Rather, a great deal of our life is now techno-social, where
changes in what we do and the media through which we do it run together (Crang 2011,
413). The material changes to the body and to the places in which those bodies are located
are also already virtual. As such, YouTube is spatially interconnected to a myriad number of
other spaces both material and virtual, including other social networking sites.
Following on Longhurst (2009) and Crang (2011), this article interrogates the techno-
sociality of Viagra-related representational practices and suggests that the spatial politics of
sexuopharmaceuticals foregrounds not one uniform set of sexual practices but maintains a
myriad number of politicized and publicized bodies (Johnston and Longhurst 2010).
We make this argument in the context of the public spaces of YouTube, which are best
thought of as a limited public of mediated techno-sociality across a global, regional, and
local set of digital divides (Crang 2011; Lange 2007a, 2007b). Thinking of YouTube as a
managed public space of contested conversation about bodies and sexualities and the places
they inhabit from the bedroom to the chat room raises a number of questions. First, how
is YouTube making public sexualized bodies and places through the posting of videos
related to sexuopharmaceuticals? Put another way, how do videos on YouTube work through
the discursive flows that call upon new technologies of the pharmasexed body? Second, how
do video postings of sexuopharmaceuticals on YouTube challenge and reify the presumptive
necessities of using gendered and sexualized bodies in particular ways and places and
through a specific set of representational practices across the life course? Third, is it possible
to use YouTube to offer a reading of how bodies are represented through an emergent
discourse of a new bodily technology such as sexuopharmaceuticals?
To answer these questions, the remainder of the article is organized as follows. We first
outline the history of Viagra and YouTube and raise questions as to how we might theorize
these new technologies of the body and their concomitant spatial practices. Following
those two sections, we offer a methodological framework for using YouTube as a source of
visual ethnographic material before engaging the analytic section of the article. In the
concluding section, we discuss how scholars might go about rethinking the relationships
between media sites such as YouTube and bodily technologies, such as Viagra, and what
all of this might say about the tension-filled nature of sex, gender, and sexuality in the Age
of Viagra (Del Casino 2007a).

Viagra bodies and new pharmasexualities3

It is impossible to prize apart bodies and spaces. People inhabit different embodied
subjectivities (e.g., birthing woman, mother, disabled, elderly, black) in different discursive
Gender, Place and Culture 3

and material spaces (e.g., pornographic film, YouTube videos, homes and hospitals,
restaurants). Sometimes these subjectivities and the spaces occupied are seemingly
contradictory (such as a birthing woman being in a pornographic film). In this way, bodies
both produce space and are produced by space. (Longhurst 2009, 48 49)
The development of Viagra and other sexuopharmaceuticals as material and discursive
objects does more than create a biomedical fix to male impotence; it also underwrite
economies from the manufacturing industries that produce the drug to the porn
industries and other parts of the sexual economy that rely on the drug to produce the
appearance of stamina and desire. Viagra also produces public conversations about sexual
health, asking to what extent ED should be treated. Within these conversations,
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sexuopharmaceuticals are reflected in a number of embodied subjectivities (e.g., older

men or recreational drug users) and spaces (e.g., the retirement community or the Internet).
The result has been the development of a drug that is more than just a technology of the
body or a biomedical intervention; it has turned a bright spotlight on previously hidden
areas of sexuality and relationships (Morgentaler 2003, 6) and entered the public
consciousness through its elevation as cultural artifact in the sexualized lexicon of
everyday life (Loe 2004). As Tiefer (2008, 53 54) identifies, sexual enhancement
through chemistry is far from new . . . however, the social study of aphrodisiacs and
drug effects on sexuality has often been relegated to the cabinet of historical curiosities
. . . but failing to inspire serious sexuality theory, research, or policy. In the absence of
serious scholarship, the conversation (and research) on the efficacy of drugs, such as
Viagra, remains mediated by the pharmaceutical industry (e.g., big pharma) and national/
international drug policy, which regulate the debate on the effects of such drugs on
personal and social lives. Yet, these drugs are situated in what Foucault (1986) theorizes as
a regime of self-care, whereby individuals take on the role of the state by managing their
own health and bodies. Mainstream big pharma and its medical industrial complex offer
these drugs as part of that regime and as a solution to a biomedialized dysfunction
(cf. Marshall 2002) or as a corrective to the problems caused by other drugs, such as
medications that produce impotence in men.
Within the regimes of self-care and bodily regulation, sexuopharmaceuticals are seen
by some scholars as promoting and supporting spaces of sexual recreation (Fisher et al.
2006; Harte and Meston 2012), while others suggest that the use of sexuopharmaceuticals
might produce or sustain a variety of sexualized desires (Del Casino 2007a, 2007b). After
all, drug use . . . alters the very meanings we ascribe to certain spaces and the practices
we might engage when we are in them (Del Casino 2007a, 906 907). As a technological
intervention into the workings of the body, Viagra is, as Mamo and Fishman (2001, 14)
aver, invested with particular scripts about sex, sexuality and gender . . . [although it]
retains interpretive flexibility in that different meanings can be, and are, attributed to it by
various social groups (authors emphasis). This interpretative flexibility enables a
complex conversation invested with contradiction, as sexuopharmaceuticals temporarily
reify normative hard bodies and male heterosexual desire while also coproducing counter-
narratives that disrupt the value placed on that same body. These drugs also co-construct
pharmasexed bodies, such that loosing ones hard-on might lead to (dis)placement (Del
Casino 2007a, 910) from a particular space of sexualized engagement.
Viagra can also be deployed through a reductionist logic that colocates sex and the
organism, in that sex begins with a hard penis and ends with ejaculation. As Croissant
(2006, 339), argues: Men are using Viagra to enhance sex and achieve intimacy.
Intimacy is sex, so men are seeking sex as an expression of sex. Does sexual activity
produce emotional closeness, as Pfizer suggests? Or the converse? Of course both.
4 V.J. Del Casino and C.F. Brooks

This new (revived) body can achieve the sexual possibilities of a much younger body
despite years of neglecting exercise, underlying poor health, work and relationship stress,
and all of the other potential detractors for sexual interest and abilities (Croissant 2006,
339). Hard bodies are able to perform spaces, such as the bedroom, differently, as they
have the ability provided to them by their pharmacological enhancement to be sexually
active in a particular way (cf. Hopkins and Noble 2009; Johnston and Longhurst 2010).
Moreover, in underwriting sexual economies, such as the porn industry, sexuopharma-
ceuticals co-construct body and space by illustrating how sexually vigorous men can and
should be. Discursive flows operate materially in the sex lives of both those who are
publicly performing Viagra-facilitated sex and those who are watching those same
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performances. These flows are projected onto bodies in material spaces in ways that
reinforce what is an appropriate set of sexual practices and desires (cf. Parr 2004).
The pharmasexed body also manifests itself in the complexity of difference that these
drugs help partially produce. Tiefer (2006, 287) argues that the need to reduce sex to the
organism has not been contained to men and mens desires, as the Hunt for the Pink
Viagra has helped produce the growth of diagnostic and treatment clinics for female
sexual dysfunction. The recent upsurge in female Viagra YouTube posts attests to the
fact that gendered bodies are intertextually sutured to the subjectivizing processes of the
sexuopharmaceutical industry. The debate about the efficacy and use of sexuopharma-
ceuticals is thus not a straightforward one, as men and women from across the life course
are engaging in a disparate and messy dialogue about the value placed on how and in what
ways bodies are sexually available (Potts 2004; Potts et al. 2004). This debate enables us to
ask how these new pharmasexualities sexualities performed through such
pharmacological interventions are being articulated through the public spaces of
web-sharing sites, such as YouTube.
In thinking about the pharmasexed body geographically, it is necessary to interrogate
the complex and contested intertextualities that discursively link seemingly disparate
spaces together and tie bodies to certain forms of healthiness, masculinity, and sexuality
through the managed public spaces of YouTube (cf. Thien and Del Casino 2012; see also
Berg and Longhurst 2003; Hopkins and Noble 2009 on masculinity studies in geography;
van Hoven and Horschelmann 2005). To be fair, sexuopharmaceuticals intersect with
many social identities and subjectivities, co-constructing a complex landscape of
masculinities and femininities (Brown 2012). That said, there is a logic to
sexuopharmaceuticals that is tied to how a healthy body should work. This logic is
discursively sutured to a moral and ethical subject that is asked to perform his or her body
appropriately through the norming of sexual health related to how the body should
perform sex (cf. Connell 1995). What we are interested in here, then, is how the individual
establishes his relation to the rule and recognizes himself as obliged to put it into practice
(Foucault 1985, 27), while at the same time considering how embodied subjectivities are
coproduced through the discursive spaces of YouTube (Del Casino 2007a). To address
these concerns, we turn to the popular video-sharing website YouTube.

YouTube and public(ized) pharmasexualities

Growing since its inception in 2005 and exceeding more that one trillion views in 2011,4
YouTube is a media outlet whose content is developed by individuals, corporations, and
groups through the process of uploading short videos to its website. YouTube functions as
both a top-down platform for the distribution of popular culture and a bottom-up
platform for vernacular creativity (Burgess and Green 2009, 6), and it is a site in which
Gender, Place and Culture 5

people can participate, be emancipated, and become famous (Kellner and Kim 2010).
While YouTube may be thought of as having changed the way people can know things,
construct shared understandings, and dialogue with people that they might not otherwise
reach, it can also be theorized as emblems of a culture saturated with personal branding
and strategic self-commodification (Shifman 2012, 200). YouTube does not do this
without drawing upon a much wider array of discourses; it is always already an intertexual
space of contested meanings that ties individual video uploads into a wider array of socio-
spatial relations of gendered and sexualized bodies (cf. Del Casino and Hanna 2000).
YouTube is also a space for sharing and articulating ideas (Shifman 2012). While
videos are the primary source of expression on the site, people communicate through
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personalized web pages, bulletin boards and posting comments related to the videos
themselves. Chau (2010, 65) refers to the blended character of YouTube by explaining that
the site can combine media production and distribution with social networking features,
making them an ideal place to create, connect, collaborate, and circulate novel and
personally meaningful media (see also Rotman and Preece 2010). As a space for the
intertexual construction of meanings, knowledges, relationships, and ideas, it is possible to
theorize YouTube as a networked public (Boyd 2011). As Boyd (2011, 39) points out,
networked publics are the imagined collective that emerges as a result of the intersection
of people, technology, and practice. As scholars, marketers, social critics, and jokesters
post and discuss Viagra-related videos on YouTube, they engage networked publics that
sustain ongoing conversation about bodies and sexualities.
While the growth of YouTube may be a function of the fact that Google acquired it in
2006, its global expansion is tied to the relations around how social media are used in
everyday society. YouTube is both a way to link people together who share proximate
place-based relations e.g., as people use YouTube to organize and broadcast a protest
and bring local followers to a certain place and connect distant strangers e.g., as
people mount an international conversation about those same protests. YouTubes global
growth is indicated by the fact that 70% of YouTube traffic comes from outside the US
(YouTube 2013). YouTube is also localized in 53 countries and across 61 languages, and
the sites software allows for translation and captioning across these different languages,
even as there remains a strong US- and English-centered narrative, particularly when it
comes to videos on sexuopharmceuticals. YouTube viewers and producers are also
uploading videos and comments through mobile devices: the power of such mobility was
witnessed during the Arab Spring and in many other popular contexts, where sites, such as
YouTube, now play a larger role in mobilizing networked publics across places. YouTube
has thus become not only a global marketing phenomena, but is also a nodal point in a web
of intertextually linked discourses and practices that tie together myriad places.
At the same time as YouTube has become globalized, it has placed its own limits to what
people can watch and upload, depending, for instance, on legal and copyright concerns.
YouTube has a terms of service policy which has rules about posting inappropriate material
. . . [T]he fact is participation is limited (Lange 2007b, 38). Lange notes (2007a) that
YouTubes publicness is also limited by the networking that people do and the access that
content producers provide to others. YouTube participants can broaden or limit physical
access to their videos and thus create larger or smaller media circuits by using technical
features such as limited friends-only viewing or strategic tagging (Lange 2007a, 367; see
also Flack 2005). From beyond YouTube, governments have censored YouTube (and the
Internet more generally) in their attempts to control sociocultural and political-economic
messages about their countries. YouTube is managed as a public space in all sorts of ways
even as it enables a number of important networked possibilities.
6 V.J. Del Casino and C.F. Brooks

As a platform supporting a managed networked public of participating users, YouTube is

also a quotidian space where the contested and complex representational practices of the
Viagra body are partially located. Contestations take place in YouTube because it is
simultaneously a site of production and consumption (cf. Del Casino and Hanna 2000).
YouTube is a part of a spatial network of flows and spaces through which people connect and
engage emergent social practices and subjectivities. In some cases, people take original
content and re-author it to another purpose splicing in voiceovers to offer commentary on
a particular television commercial. In other cases, users reproduce content verbatim a
movie clip and post it with little comment. As a set of nodes in a larger network of ideas
and practices, YouTube is a space of connectivity where intertextually linked conversations
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about sex, sexuality, and body politics in the post-Viagra world are being reworked.

A visual methodology
Rose (2012) argues that social scientists need to study visual culture, particularly as that
culture relates to the representations of places and bodies (see also Garrett 2011; Pink
2006). Following Rose, we are interested in the sociality of images and the range of
economic, social, and political relations, institutions, and practices that surround an image
and through which it is seen and used (2006, 20). Within this broadly social definition of
visual methodology, we focus on the intertextualities of the spaces of YouTube and the
ways in which images and their concomitant narratives call upon and incorporate broader
meanings of bodies, places, and health, while simultaneously interrogating how these
slices of visual culture produce specific visions of social difference (Rose 2012, 8;
following Haraway 1991; also see Longhurst 2009).
The site of this study is the video itself (Rose 2012, 27) and includes a library of
YouTube video representations. Like Rose, we are interested in employing the
methodologies afforded to us by Foucaults analysis of discourse. We are particularly
interested in analyzing these videos for how they co-construct [s]exual activity . . . [as] a
source of therapeutic effects as well as pathological consequences (Foucault 1986, 118).
In thinking about sexualized bodies and places in this way, we are drawn into a larger
conversation about how YouTube videos rely on claims to truth, or to scientific certainty,
or the natural way of things (Rose 2012, 215) while also taking into consideration how
YouTube posts provide moments when dissent from a discourse is acknowledged (even if
implicitly) and dealt with (215 216). For the videos analyzed here, there are both
moments of certainty and dissent as well as complexity and contradictions internal to
discourses (217, authors emphasis). If the video is the site of this study, the discourses
that work through the virtual spaces of YouTube and among the networked relations and
flows that splay out from the people who upload these videos are the data points around
which we provide analysis.
When searching for videos related to Viagra via the YouTube search engine, we began
with a number of key words, including Viagra, Levitra, and Cialis as well as erectile
and dysfunction. Through this process, we were able to locate thousands of videos that
could meet the needs of this study. To provide a sense of the dynamism of YouTube, when
this article was first submitted in November 2012, we found that the term Viagra
produced 43,200 hits. By June 2013, when we were finalizing this article, the numbers had
grown exponentially (see Table 1). The growth in videos also precipitated the addition of
two new search terms female Viagra and Lybrido which helped us expand our
analysis of the medicalization of female sexual desire.5 A secondary set of searches mixed
these terms together, producing slightly different results with each iteration. Regardless of
Gender, Place and Culture 7

Table 1. YouTube search results (results tabulated on 12 November 2012 (and 15 June 2013)).

Search terms Results

Viagra 43,200 (257,000)
Cialis 9950 (23,300)
Levitra 2910 (6020)
Erectile 15,800 (67,500)
Erectile dysfunction 12,800 (53,300)
Female Viagra (21,600)
Lybrido (210)
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Viagra and erectile dysfunction 2380 (21,600)
Cialis and erectile dysfunction 1490 (7150)
Levitra and erectile dysfunction 690 (2360)

the way search terms were organized, all searches produced some degree of overlap:
a general search for Viagra produced a video on Lybrido.
This process provided a database of key videos from which we could choose. We
began by using titles and brief descriptions to narrow down our field. Like Longhurst
(2009) and her study of birthing videos on YouTube, we did not go through all 43,200
Viagra videos in November 2012 or the even larger dataset of 257,000 in June 2013, but
instead used the initial searches to focus our analysis on videos that gave us partial insight
into the complex and contradictory discourses surrounding sexuopharmaceuticals.
Because of how YouTube is regulated, we found no full frontal nudity in these videos, nor
did we find people having sex. There is medical imagery of genitals (often cartoon images)
as well as illusions to sex. But, YouTube does not allow what might be labeled as either
soft-core or hard-core pornography. YouTube also regulates copyrighted materials, and
several videos, which were part of the initial study, were eventually removed because of
the illegal use of commercially produced material.6
Given our focus on the broader discourses of sex, sexualities, bodies, and sexual
health, this study was not based on creating a quantitative representative sample but a
qualitative purposive one (Stier and Clark 2011, 123 124). We coded videos for themes
that represented the different ways in which YouTube video posts call upon and reinforce
certain discursivities (Gee 2005). In line with a grounded theory approach (Strauss and
Corbin 1990), the coding themes came from the videos themselves. This process included
tracing links to other posts found on the site; the posts on the side bar to the right of each
video often drew attention to the next closely related video. At the same time, this analysis
was guided by the theoretical debates about sexuopharmaceuticals that appear in the
academic literature (Barnett, Robleda-Gomez, and Pachana 2012; Del Casino 2007a; Katz
and Marshall 2004; Loe 2004; Marshall 2002; Wentzell 2001, 2011;) and by Rose (2012),
who argues that the study of the contradictions internal to discourses can be a key focus
for visual methodology.
Through this methodological process, we narrowed our analysis to 25 videos, which
are analytically organized into three themes (see Table 2). These themes are tied to a set of
discourses that: (1) reinforce a regime of self-care within a wider context of individualized
responsibility for ones sexual health, (2) highlight the importance of the pharmasexed
gendered body for men and women in the age of Viagra, and (3) provide disruptions, in the
form of criticism, to the assumption that healthy bodies and relationships need
pharmasexual enhancement. It is important to note that individual videos do not easily fall
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Table 2. Themes in sexuopharmaceutical-related YouTube videos.

Thematic analysis
Regime of Pharmasexed Critical
Video Title (link) self-care bodies dissent Keyword coding
1 Official Viagra YouTube Channel ( X Self-medication, counterfeit drugs, pharmaceutical
com/watch?vbClCi-cNOSM&list UUu authority
fCtwKv5EScp7Yol6eMvbw&index 8&featu
re plcp); removed by the user (but reposted
numerous times, e.g.,
2 Sexual Health Tips: Avoid These Pharmaceutical X Side effects, avoiding sexuopharmeuciticals for sexual
Drugs to Prevent Impotence and Erectile health, increased ED using sexuopharmaceuticals, impact
Dysfunction ( on porn stars
V.J. Del Casino and C.F. Brooks

3 Patient Education Institute Viagra ( X Viagra, impotence as common problem, Viagra as plcp) prescription, how to use within regime of self-care,
importance of biomedical oversight, male spokesperson
(voice only)
4 Viagra Alternative Best Natural Alternative to X Intensified sex life for men and women, super food injector
Viagra ( aphrodisiac, balance body and physical/mental health,
v8AXvnQ-Yfyc) pure health benefits, maintains sex drive, female
5 Erectile Dysfunction Natural Ayuervedic X Defines impotence/ED, relationship between ED and
Remedies ( mental/emotional health, recipes for natural alternatives,
vfs_72jSCB40) female spokesperson
6 Look After Your Little Fella and He Will Look After X X Intimate relationship between man and penis, ignoring penis
You ( Qski_ is tied to larger emotional health, self-care essential for
4fBsR4) heterosexual intimacy
7 More Young Men are Taking Viagra (http://www. X Uploaded clip from CBS Morning News, pressure on jNBU7cgLqBY) younger men to perform sexually, Viagra use to
compensate for perceived inadequacies
8 Viva Viagra ( X Uploaded Viagra commercial, heterosexual monogamy,
vNyMXahpRVV4) home as important site for male female sexual
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9 Viagra Commercial ( X Uploaded Viagra commercial, celebrating in public space,

watch?vXk9JwV8sZTs) men of all ages and races, background music We Are the
Champions, women celebrate also, Viagra appears at the
end of video
10 Prolasta. Last Longer. Love Longer (http://www. X Womens body as site of male desire, extended sexual opportunity and length of time engaged in sex
11 Viagra Commercial Allen Enlow (http://www. X Value of sexuopharmaceuticals to heterosexuality, drugs as promoting social connection and intimacy
12 Viagra Couple ( X Uploaded Viagra commercial, older couple getting younger
vdW54ZW5y1PU) over time as they move from car to apartment, Viagra
produces intimacy in heterosexual relationships, Like the
first time (tag line)
13 Cialis Keep Up with Younger Women (http:// X X Overwritten Cialis commercial, concerns over why older men want to be with younger women, when you need to
keep up with younger women
14 Female Viagra Bit ( X X Images of women in lingerie, use of term nympho to
v67kMFFRAUDU) describe medication, men have Viagra/Cialis, women
more complicated than men (not a real medication)
16 Levitra bin Laden ( X Overwritten Levitra commercial, ED leads to violence/
vw7TjkHfuh-k) terrorism, racist notions of Islamic culture, cure as
solution for socio-political conflict
16 Viagra Best Commercial! ( X Older man trying to arouse much younger woman in
watch?vKShkhIXdf1Y) lingerie, strength of penis turns her attention to him,
closes with the power of Viagra
17 Cure Low Libido and Erectile Dysfunction with the X X Raw food as cure for ED/impotence, nonsexual images
Raw Vegan Diet ( replace discussion of sex (rocket etc.), criticism of
v4qjt1PWfyPU) processed foods, it will cure everything
18 Viva Huh? ( X Critique of male sexuality in need of Viagra, erectile
VGwritesalot)* the original critique video was dysfunction as social issue not medical one, relation
removed because of copyright issues (first between male impotence commercials and the lack of
accessed October 14, 2007) similar commercials for women
19 Grandmas Viagra Song ( X Problems of Viagra in relationships, Viagra and alcohol use,
Gender, Place and Culture

watch?vJwO2nuo1FZs) critique of male sexuality tied to need for sex

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Table 2 continued

Thematic analysis
Regime of Pharmasexed Critical
Video Title (link) self-care bodies dissent Keyword coding
20 The Dangers of Cialas Erectile Dysfunction X Erections lasting four hours as positive, intimacy, queer
Ad Parody ( reinterpretation of Cialis use
21 McCain: Viagra or Birth Control (http://www. X Contradictions in health care law and insurance, inability of politician to talk about sex
22 Lady Viagra is Coming ( X X Arousal pill for women, Lybrido, comparison/difference
watch?vIrEpy3Yq3UE) from Viagra, womens libido tied to length of
relationship, women as hyper-diagnosed for lack of
sexual desire, concern in debate women might have too
much sex
V.J. Del Casino and C.F. Brooks

23 Viagra Ad: A Review ( X X Normative heterosexuality, Viagra as a party or (club) drug,
watch?vtiQVCxll5mY) older man/younger woman relations, Viagra-induced sex
as transgressing boundaries of age-difference relations
24 Viagra commercial Extra Stiff! (Stifficade) (http:// X X Sexuopharmceuticals change relationships, drugs reinforce and destabilize heterosexual relations, women as sexually
aggressive and desiring of these drugs
25 Tempers fly in This Morning debate over female X X X Debate about the responsibility of women to satisfy male
Viagra ( sexual desire, women should take female Viagra to make
vCh7h8RcP4Ho) husbands happy, problems of the drug in relationships
Gender, Place and Culture 11

into one category or the other. Most of the videos align with all three themes to varying
degrees, although the identification of each video with one theme or another (or more than
one theme) was based on the dominant narratives identified within them.
The videos chosen come from a wide array of posts some are copies of news clips or
commercials shown on television while others are homemade videos or running
commentaries. Other videos are part of a growing group of Internet vloggers (video
bloggers), who use YouTube as a space to connect audiences to their social analysis and/or
critique. We treat all of these as an archive of the types of conversations people are having
about sexuopharmaceuticals. It is because YouTube as a space exists that it is possible to
catalogue these conversations in this way. There are, of course, many other layers of analytic
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potential on YouTube that are beyond the scope of this study. Those might include an
investigation of the running commentaries that accompany the videos. For this article, we
focus on the videos themselves without including an analysis of how those representations
are negotiated by viewers and video consumers so that we can focus on the competing and
contested representations that not only reinforce but also potentially undermine the power of
sexuopharmaceuticals to regulate the pharmasexed gendered and sexualized body.

Public(ized) sexualities, Viagra, and YouTube

The 25 videos chosen for this study cut across the three themes highlighted above and
demonstrate how sexuopharmaceuticals simultaneously reinforce and challenge normative
notions of what a healthy sexual person is or should be. These videos also tell something
about how YouTube as a negotiated public space serves to circulate narratives about
sexuopharmaceuticals, gendered and sexualized bodies, sex, and sexual health. This section
examines how and in what ways YouTube as a negotiated public space intertextually situates
discussions of sexuopharmaceuticals within a wider network of discourses that both
reinforce and challenge regimes of self-care, the appropriate management of gendered
pharmasexed bodies, and the need for pharmasexual enhancement.

Viagra as cure within a regime of self-care

Undergirding YouTube conversations about Viagra is its emancipatory possibility the
capacity to take a dysfunctional sexual body and make it function. It is the capacity to
cure or rather treat a dysfunction that makes sexuopharmaceuticals so successful, as
these drugs fulfill a fantasy that enhances or reinforces ones sexual subjectivity. Many
YouTube videos call upon this emancipatory theme, even as some criticize the synthetic
drug market. Drawing from the emancipatory possibilities afforded by regimes of self-
care, these videos reinforce the autonomous subject and reify responsibility for ones
sexual health as situated in the individual. From the Patient Education Institute (Video 3),
which explains how Viagra works, to the Official Viagra YouTube Channel (Video 1),
which illustrates the responsibility individuals have to regulate the self and the market of
knockoff Viagra pills, to the video titled Look After Your Little Fella . . . (Video 6),
which focuses on how one must care for ones body, YouTube circulates through its
network a discourse of autonomous subjectivity and self-regulation.
The video, Look After Your Little Fella, for example, follows the exploits of a
middle-aged man as he and his little friend (a smaller image of himself standing in for his
penis) go through their day. The backdrop song, titled We Were Friends, plays as these
two characters move from one high stress moment to the next. At the end of the video, and
the big mans and little mans day, the little man covers his eyes with an eyeshade and goes
12 V.J. Del Casino and C.F. Brooks

to bed: he has no interest in the possibility of sex with his wife, who lays at the big mans
side. A tag line reads: if you dont take care of your little fella, it wont take care of you.
Health issues can lead to erectile problems. Within the wider regime of self-care,
individual regulation of ones sexual health is normalized it is not only something for
which men are responsible, it is something that is an essential part of your male,
heterosexual subjectivity and part of your broader obligation as a citizen/political subject
(Thien and Del Casino 2012).
The public spaces of YouTube provide opportunities for big pharma to speak directly
to the value of their product. Pfizer developed a YouTube channel to highlight the
dangers of counterfeit Viagra pill, using the site to provide a detailed narrative about
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how to buy the real Viagra properly on the Internet. As one of the links attest, In May
2011, Pfizer Global Security conducted a study to see how many top ranking online
pharmacies were selling counterfeit VIAGRA . . . 81% of sites sold COUNTERFEIT
VIAGRA (their emphasis). Paralleling this use of YouTube are educational videos, such
as one by the Patient Education Institute, which uses a set of cartoon images of doctors,
patients, and the effects of Viagra on male genitals to provide clinical definition of an
erection and ED and outline the proper uses of Viagra. The video also points out that
most patients who take VIAGRA are satisfied with the improved quality of the erection
and with the ability to maintain the erection for satisfactory sexual intercourse. Similar
to Look After Your Little Fella . . . , this video calls upon a discourse that seeks to
normalize a certain set of practices of responsible sexual health that assumes Viagra is
both appropriate and necessary.
Parallel to these biomedical narratives are the so-called alternative regimes of self-care
that appear in videos produced specifically for YouTube. At one level, it is easy to read these
videos, such as Sexual Health Tips . . . (Video 2), Viagra Alternatives . . . (Video 4), and
Erectile Dysfunction Natural Ayuervedic Remedies (Video 5) as part of a critical dissent
against biomedical interventions in the sexual self-care market. And, yet, they all call upon
similar discourses of individual responsibility and sexual health. In Sexual Health Tips, the
host of the channel PsycheTruth, sits on a chair and talks directly to the audience, as she
discusses the problems associated with sexuopharmaceuticals, criticizing these drugs as a
cause of impotence and ongoing sexual health problems. She then turns the viewers
attention to the National Institutes of Health and MedWatch (Federal Drug Administration
(FDA)) website, while noting ones individual responsibility:
As consumers we are responsible for reporting our drug affects to the FDA, so that they know
about them. Our doctor doesnt do that for us, we as consumers are responsible. So, if you
have taken any of these drugs . . . and you have had some side affects then I encourage you to
go this website and report your effects.
In these videos, self-care is tied to a wide array of discursive regimes, as the individual
becomes the locus of responsibility not just for ones self but also for society more
generally the person using these drugs or investing in these treatments is managing both
the body and the spaces in which that body circulates. Sexual health in sutured to the moral
responsibility of individual management for a larger social good.

Viagra and the re-gendering of the new pharmasexed body

The new pharmasexed body, with an assumed wider range of sexual possibilities, is both
lauded and critiqued in many of the videos, as debates about the use of these drugs are
brought into conversation with normative notions of the gendered and sexualized body.
Wider sexual possibilities are seen in the video Viagra Couple (Video 12), which shows
Gender, Place and Culture 13

a couple getting younger and younger as they move from the car to the bedroom. At the
end of the video, a tag line flashes across the screen like the first time. Such videos
intertextually draw upon a wider discourse of sexual autonomy and availability as well as a
re-entrenchment of heterosexual monogamy and a particular type of normative gendered
and aged subjectivity using sexuopharmaceuticals is about creating a younger version of
your self (see Video 13 also). This video, and others like it, relate anxiety around ones
sexual performance to what an appropriate man or woman should be like sexually. These
videos place value on sexuopharmaceuticals within the context of heterosexual
monogamy and a younger subject produced through increased sexual availability
(Croissant 2006).
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Many of these videos work through discourse of sexual availability. They often
examine how male-centered sexuopharmaceuticals are allowing women to construct new
sexual subjectivities in the process of their use. In a CBS Morning News report titled
More Young Men are Taking Viagra (Video 7) two news anchors discuss with
relationship experts the increasing number of young men who are taking Viagra to
manage their performance anxiety, which has resulted from, according to the clip,
womens ability to require more from men in the bedroom. This discourse of the
relationship between womens empowerment and the use of sexuopharmaceuticals is also
played out in the video Viagra Commercial Extra Stiff (Stifficade) (Video 24). In this
video, viewers are introduced to a man and what we are led to believe is his wife, who has
long claimed her husband could not satisfy her sexually. But, one day he tells her that he
has seen the doctor about his problem. As she jumps up from the couch and strips off her
clothes, the man realizes that her sexual desire will be insatiable he wont be able to
manage her sex drive long-term, even with medication. The sexual availability of women,
and the demands on men to meet their increasing desires, is also seen in videos that sell
natural products for treating ED. In Prolasta (Video 10), we see a woman as the words
want it to last longer? flash across the screen. The image of a woman, whose gaze is
firmly fixed on a presumed straight male subject, conjures up classic representations of
female sexual availability (Berger 1972). What she desires is a man with an erect, hard
penis that will last a long time. In many ways, the new pharmasexed body is not new at all
these drugs heteronormatively co-construct a safe discursive space for their
development and distribution. We see this reproduced in the Pfizer commercial, Viva
Viagra (Video 8), which has been uploaded numerous times. In the commercial, a group
of men in a band are singing about how at the end of the day Im not a guy wholl stray
because she is my only desire, and I cant wait to go home to satisfy their wives. In a
similar video, Viagra Commercial (Video 9), Pfizer encourages users to change it up a
bit within your monogamous relationship by using their product.
Viagra is also deployed on YouTube in ways that appear to emasculate men for using
it. And, yet, this satire works to simultaneously reinforce the value of the pharmasexed
male body and a normative gendered male heterosexuality. In Levitra bin Laden (Video
16), images of Osama bin Laden are spliced into a real Levitra commercial as he is
heard saying, Sure. I deal with a lot of stress at work. But you never think it will happen
to you . . . I was in bed with my wife, number seventeen. And I remember looking down
at my floppy penis and saying bluh. In this context, bin Laden is represented as someone
whose inability to get it up might be linked to his desire to destroy western society.
In this racist and Orientalist narrative, Levitra is deployed to help bin Laden resolve
his inadequate sense of his sexual self.7 The pharmasexed body helps bin Laden negotiate
a common problem: he can now be a real man who does not have to participate
in terrorism. That same body is intertextually sutured to a wider narrative that places
14 V.J. Del Casino and C.F. Brooks

mens sexual relationships with women as an essential characteristic of their male


Viagra as deconstructive device within twenty-first century sexual(ized) debates

Throughout the archive of YouTube videos, one finds a number of concerns raised about
this new pharmasexed body. These concerns are often raised in homemade videos or
through the posting of news stories (either native to YouTube or ones drawn from other
online sources), with the goal of destabilizing the cultural value of sexual availability and
the need for enhanced sexual desire associated with what Viagra claims to support.
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Intertextually, these videos highlight the contradictions that are part and parcel of the
discourses of normative heterosexuality an appropriately gendered female body that is
both sexually available and monogamous and the privileging of phallocentric sexuality
by calling into question those cultural values as they are sutured to sexuopharmaceuticals.
Moreover, these videos provide insight into the geographically dispersed and contested
relations of the role that sexuopharmaceuticals play in everyday life, from the intimacies
of the bedroom (Video 13), to the ways in which sexuopharmacueeuticals address not only
your physical but also your emotional health (Video 11), to the value of adjusting your diet
toward raw foods in order to cure everything (Video 17).
In Lady Viagra is Coming (Video 22) posted on the YouTube channel DNews, the
shows female host discusses the contradictions of these values when she states:
all of this excitement [around Lybrido, a female Viagra] is inspired, and perhaps rightly so,
by a lack of excitement. Many womens libidos drop between year one and year four of a
monogamous relationship, although they (we) totally get hot and bothered by new people. So,
theres that
As she begins to untangle this drug and its value, she challenges the premise upon which
this new pharmasexed body is based is the problem with womens libido a medical
problem or a social one? Do women really need this pill, or do the discourses around
heterosexual monogamy undergird its necessity? Should we be examining heterosexual
monogamy more generally, or the use of anti-depressants, or other causes of reduced
sexual desire? Is it the job of women to inhabit this new pharmasexed body in the age of
Viagra? And, in contradistinction, should we indulge the concerns of government
regulators who believe Lybrido may turn women into nymphomaniacs (this notion is
discursively reinforced in Video 14, Female Viagra Bit)? This criticism of female
regulation intertextually links this video to the wider discourses of how female sexual
desire is problematically (and historically) controlled within the context of normative
heterosexuality. This video not only calls into question the new pharmasexed body but
also the wider normalization of womens sexuality as limited by their monogamous
relationships with men.
YouTube thus provides space for challenging the new pharmasexed body and it does so by
allowing for posts that call into question both the value of that new body and the wider
discourses that perpetuate the need for that body in the first place. In Grandmas Viagra Song
(Video 19), an older woman laments her husbands use of Viagra, while at least one other
woman claps in the background. The song begins with the simple chorus Viagra, Viagra, my
oh my, Viagra. As it continues, the singer interrogates the problematic nature of Viagra.
He took that pill at seven
He drank some cherry wine
He thinks I am going to make that little thing shine
He gets that horny feeling
Gender, Place and Culture 15

I know hell be ready about nine

Im cussing Viagra, Viagra
Please or please no more Viagra
As she sings, she shows us how one might counteract the powerful cultural effects of
Viagra and what it has done to her husband, which has made him more sexually
Tonight Im gonna fool him
In our king size bed
He thinks Im gonna give it up again
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Shits gonna hit the fan

Because I flushed them down the can
Now, hell be a very angry man
Hes crying Viagra
Where the hells my Viagra
In a similar vein, in a clip that was eventually taken down from YouTube titled Viva Huh? a
young woman deconstructs a 2007 Viagra commercial titled Viva Viagra (Video 18). As
she cuts back and forth between herself and the video, she critiques Viagra, arguing that it is
a drug that is used to do more than enhance a particular vision of masculine identity. She
interrogates the cultural meanings and contexts for its proliferation. In her words, How
many men go up into the woods to sing about their penis pills? Her answer, Zero. In her
moment of critical analysis, she suggests that Viagra is not deployed to satisfy the relational
issues tied to ED, it is a cultural construct through which the erect penis is presented as an
essential characteristic of male sexual identity.
In further interrogating the underlying assumptions embedded in this particular
commercial, she goes on to state, Thats not an erectile dysfunction. Thats called being a
loser. In being a loser, she argues that unfulfilled male sexual desire is not a medical but
a social condition brought on by male insecurities about their own identities as social
beings. She then turns the tables, suggesting that mass media performances of male sexual
impotence and religious-like revival are embedded in a culture that normatively centers
sexual life on male desires and bodies. In her words, How would you feel if we women
made a commercial changing some Johnny Cash classic into a ditty about yeast
infections? And, she sings, And it burns, burns, burns, the ring of fire . . . In both this
video and in Grandmas Viagra Song, the value of the pharmasexed body is called into
question, as is the assumptions of normative male heterosexuality and virility (tied to ones
ability to be sexually younger). These videos further expose the contradictory nature of
the drugs and the discourses that are intertextually linked to them, as the pharmasexed
body is seen as a body that needs repair. Sexuopharmaceuticals are contradictions to take
them means admitting failure in the regimes of self-care and exposing the normative
gendered body as fraught.
In several other videos, including McCain: Viagra or Birth Control (Video 21),
Viagra ad: A Review (Video 23), and Tempers fly in This Morning debate over female
Viagra (Video 25), the value of these drugs are called into question, challenging the
dominant narratives that naturalizes their use. Perhaps more than any of the others, the short
Tempers fly video embodies these contradictions, as two female guests on a British talk
show argue over the value of female Viagra. Following the scripts gives us a sense of these
Guest 1: You have something here [in female Viagra] that can solve all your problems.
Guest 2: No, it doesnt solve all the problems.
16 V.J. Del Casino and C.F. Brooks

Guest 1: I am sure it would keep your husband happy.

Guest 2: Well, I am sure it would keep him happy, but . . .
Guest 1: [interrupting] Which would then make your marriage . . .
Guest 2: [interrupting] Actually, would it keep him happy? How nice is it for a husband to
know that the only reason I am in bed with him is because I popped a pill.
Host 1: Are you saying that women have a responsibility to keep their libido high.
Guest 1: Absolutely.
In many ways, this video cuts across all three themes analyzed here, as the debate between
the guests and the question from the host draw on several broad discourses. We see that
women are responsible for not only their personal sexual health within a regime of self-
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care but also for maintaining the sexual satisfication of their heterosexual monogamous
relationship. At the same time, the tensions and contradictions in the wider discourses are
laid to bare, as both the second guest and the female host raise the question about where the
responsibility really lies and if sex answers or resolves this question. In the end, the
concern remains: does female Viagra reinforce a discourse of heteronormativity and
monogamy or challenge the very notion that women should be responsible for their male
partners sexual pleasure?

YouTube is a video library of randomized visual ethnographic moments, which, when
interrogated, tell a story about the intertextual linkages that are part and parcel of the
contested history of sexuopharmaceuticals. As an empirical site, YouTube is best thought
of as a managed public space, where people post videos (both homemade and from
professional sources), create video blogs, and construct channels that focus attention on
debates about sex, sexuality, and the new pharmasexed gendered body in the Age of
Viagra. Thought this way, YouTube is not a free-standing autonomous and virtual space;
it is a dynamic site through which various discourses flow, are temporarily sedimented,
and reimagined. As such, YouTube is just one node in a much more complex and
contradictory network of socio-spatial relations that allows us a glimpse into our ever-
increasingly techno-social world (Crang 2011).
As part of this techno-sociality of virtual and material exchange, Viagra and other
sexuopharmceuticals are called upon within the spaces of YouTube to both reinforce and
challenge the normativities associated with the ethics of the new pharmasexed body. There
are many ways in which that body is not new at all after all, the broader discourses of
self-care, gendered normativity, and heterosexual monogamy are often reinforced through
YouTube postings about sexuopharmceuticals. Indeed, these videos make reference to and
participate in the relations of power that inscribe a certain set of appropriate practices to
the pharmasexed body. Viagra is also a drug that opens up space for interrogating the
complexities and contradictions that are always already part of any broader set of
discursivities; it is its capacity to act as an intertextual link to the proliferating and
variegated sexualized narratives of what are appropriate practices in and out of the
bedroom that makes it such an interesting object of analysis. New communication
technologies, such as YouTube, also challenge the historical flows of conversations that
have been relegated to the private spaces of the home or the public spaces of a highly
regulated political and mass media economy (cf. Herring 1999). The postings of Viagra-
related representations on YouTube comprise a new kind of dialogue that can be both
playful and informal and clinical and medical at the same time. Given the data presented
here, we see that new patterns of and opportunities for public discourse present exciting
Gender, Place and Culture 17

avenues for both local and global understandings of social life, body politics, and public
(ized) sexualities, and sexual politics moving forward.

We want to thank the people who gave comment on earlier iterations of this article, including
colleagues at the National Communication Association and the Association of American
Geographers. We also have to thank the anonymous reviewers, who provided valuable feedback on
various drafts of this article. Lynda Johnstons constructive comments throughout the review process
were invaluable as well and helped us tighten our argument considerably.
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1. This quotation is part of a clip from the Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC. Source: http://www. nBdgpjnKInA (accessed July 13, 2012).
2. Domestic drug sales for Viagra can be found at: (accessed
November 12, 2012); international sales reports shows that the Pfizer exported more than US$700
million of the drug in the first three quarters of 2011 (
by-country-a334134, accessed November 12, 2012).
3. We have to thank Michael Brown who suggested the term pharmasexuality several years ago.
4. See timeline of YouTube:
years-infographic_b13015 (accessed November 12, 2012).
5. We thank the anonymous reviewers for pointing out that this would be a valuable line of inquiry.
6. We chose to leave these videos in the final analysis since their removal from YouTube does not
make them less relevant, and it is possible that by the time this article is published, other videos
may have also been removed.
7. There is not enough space in this paper for us to further explore the racialization of the
pharmasexed body, but it is a very important line of analysis that we hope to take up at length at a
later time (cf. Said 1978).

Notes on contributors
Vincent J. Del Casino Jr. is Professor of Geography and Development at the University of Arizona
and Associate Dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. He publishes in the area of
social and cultural geography, health geography, and the geographies of health care and sexuality.
Catherine F. Brooks is Assistant Professor of Information Resources and Library Science and
Communication at the University of Arizona. Her research focuses on the use of information in
everyday life, computer-mediated communication, and anxiety- and health-related communication.

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Hablar de cuerpos online: Viagra, YouTube, y la poltica de las sexualidades publica
El desarrollo del Viagra hacia fines de los anos 90 marco el comienzo de una nueva era de
conversacion sobre el sexo y la sexualidad, a medida que las capacidades corporales de los
hombres fueron expuestas para la discusion de todos. En 2005, se lanzo la tecnologa para
compartir videos YouTube. Juntas, estas innovaciones tecnologicas biomedica y
representacional han producido debate sobre sexo, cuerpos sexualizados y generizados,
y salud sexual. Este artculo interroga las representaciones relacionadas con el Viagra
subidas a YouTube y analiza los sexuafarmaceuticos como un conjunto de
intertextualidades que crean espacio para discursos normativos y crticas sociales. Tres
temas analticos ilustran como los videos de YouTube relacionados con Viagra (1)
refuerzan un regimen de autocuidado dentro de un contexto mas amplio de responsabilidad
individualizada por la salud sexual; (2) resalta los valores asociados con el cuerpo
generizado farmasexuado para los hombres y las mujeres en la era del Viagra; (3) provee
disrupciones, en forma de crtica, al supuesto de que los cuerpos y las relaciones sanas
necesitan un mejoramiento farmasexual. El artculo concluye sugiriendo que los sitios de
red social como YouTube son espacios publicos administrados a traves de los cuales uno
puede interrogar las intertextualidades que asocian discursos relacionados con cuerpos,
espacios, y salud sexual a los espacios virtuales y materiales de la vida cotidiana.
Palabras claves: tecnologa; cuerpos generizados y sexualizados; sexo; sexualidad;
YouTube; Viagra


20 V.J. Del Casino and C.F. Brooks




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