As a man in his late 50s with off-and-on weight problems, right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh is in the perfect demographic for Viagra, the drug that treats "erectile dysfunction," or impotence, the less politically correct name for the inability to get an erection.
After all, for many chubby middle-aged men, having trouble below the belt is as unavoidable as death and taxes. Like menopause, it can simply be a part of aging, although diabetes and artery-clogging cardiovascular disease (both common side effects of obesity among older men) make it worse -- not only weakening a man's arteries but his manhood as well.
As sex therapist Dr. Barnaby Barrett puts it, a man of Limbaugh's age "would expect to have occasional problems."
Limbaugh is waiting to find out whether he violated his deal with prosecutors in a prescription fraud case after he was detained for more than three hours Monday at Palm Beach International Airport. Customs officials found Viagra in his bag, but his name wasn't on the prescription -- it was in his doctor's name instead. Limbaugh was released without being charged and is waiting to find out whether he violated his deal with prosecutors in another prescription fraud case.
So, given that it's no surprise that Limbaugh would need a little help between the sheets, why would he reportedly be willing to break the law (again) and obtain a prescription written out to his doctor instead of to himself?
In a statement released to the press, his lawyer, Roy Black, chalked it up to the need for privacy. And that's understandable; his private life has long been heavily scrutinized after he admitted having a long-standing painkiller addiction and was accused of trying to get his housekeeper to act as his drug dealer.
However, there's also probably an even more sensitive thing he's trying to protect -- his ego.
"Certainly Bob Dole," the former Kansas senator and Viagra spokesman, "broke the sound barrier and made this a legitimate concern with all of the advertisement," said Eli Coleman, director of the University of Minnesota's Human Sexuality Program. "But impotence has the connotation of a lack of power ... to admit weakness, that's a tough one. … I've had many patients who have written to me saying, 'I don't feel comfortable talking about this with my physician.' They still want some kind of anonymity."
Insecurity about needing or using Viagra is understandable but certainly not helpful, Coleman added. For one, anxiety and self-consciousness don't help an erection problem, even if it's rooted in unavoidable physical changes caused by aging.
And while Coleman doesn't exactly recommend that men adopt a Bob Dole-style openness about their personal prescription use, he doesn't believe Limbaugh's strategy is very wise either.
"When men can integrate their vulnerability with the strengths, that is what sexual health is, that's when well-being is attained," he said. "If you are alienated from your vulnerability, then there is a discord, it has to take its toll on one's self-esteem.
Or, in other words, Coleman says, "It's OK to not be perfect."