Does anyone remember life before Viagra? In 1997, no one had heard of or used the term erectile dysfunction or ED–nor would most men have admitted to having the condition. Before the sanitized term debuted, ED was known by doctors as “impotence” and by the rest of us as “not getting it up.” It was usually blamed on circumstances like too much to drink and men and their partners rarely talked about it.
In fact, erection-challenged sex lives were a lot like what Betty Friedan called “the problem that has no name” 30 years earlier, referring to women’s malaise of unfulfillment: A problem millions had but no one talked about because they thought it was “just them.”
Pfizer’s Viagra, launched in 1998 just as direct-to-consumer drug advertising began, changed all that. Just as valuable as giving an ED sufferer hope of a treatment, it brought ED out of the closet, shedding sunlight on the problem and removing the taboo. Suddenly, couples were able to talk about “it.”