Posted by: Ophelia | July 21, 2008

Viagra good, birth control bad

on the July 17 edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor, while discussing the issue of whether health insurance plans that cover Viagra should also cover birth control, host Bill O’Reilly asserted:

O’REILLY: OK, listen up. Viagra is used to help a medical condition — that’s why it’s covered. Birth control is not a medical condition, it is a choice. Why should I or anybody else have to pay for other people’s choices? Do I have to buy you dinner before you use the birth control? Give me and every other taxpayer a break, Planned Parenthood.

(Media Matters)

Okay. Let’s pretend for a moment that birth control pills are ONLY used to prevent pregnancy. Now let’s see. Viagra is used to help erectile dysfunction. This “medical condition” only affects a man’s ability to obtain and maintain an erection so that he can have sexual intercourse.

If we pretend birth control is single use, it allows women to have sexual intercourse without the risk of unwanted pregnancy. Please explain how two medications both of which (let’s pretend) only serve the function of allowing the choice to have sex are in any way differen. What’s the difference between the two? Oh, that’s right. One helps men and the other helps women.

Why should I or anyone else be responsible for a man’s choice to pursue medication because of his inability to maintain an erection? How is this much more compelling than allowing couples to control their fertility. If we’re of the belief that birth control only prevents pregnancy, then birth control isn’t just for women but also for their male partners.

As it is, birth control is used to treat disorders resultant from hormonal imbalances. It is not single purpose–unlike viagra. Sorry Bill. But I appreciate the misogynistic dig at women who use birth control. Oh you caught us, we’re all filthy sluts who want everyone to fund our whoreish ways and while you’re at it maybe you can buy us dinner. There’s a reason why birth control is prescription only. It’s not just contraception, it is a medical treatment.

But I get it. When it happens to penises, it’s a legitimate problem. When it happens to women–it’s illegitimate. You could have saved yourself some time and wind by just saying that instead of trying to justify your misogyny. Or maybe its the sort of nearsightedness that comes with advanced age and the…softening of one’s prospects. Sometimes it’s hard to see past the end of one’s own…nose. But just think of it this way. Men who may need to use viagra may well be in relationships with women of child bearing age. How is it then that insurance companies have no issue with paying for the man’s newly stiffened resolve but won’t pay for her hormonal treatment/right to prevent unwanted pregnancy. Insurance companies will pay for prescription acne medications, so I don’t see why contraception should be excluded. Obviously the notion of choice doesn’t really enter into the equation since one could choose to live with being limp, or choose to keep their acne. Obviously the issue is something more than choice–or at least it’s only about limiting the choices of a select gender.

*The Curvature covers this latest remark here.

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Responses

  1. Viagra allows men to have sex. Birth control allows women to have sex without worrying about becoming pregnant. Case in point: PREGNANCY is a medical condition according to insurance companies. Therefore, birth control medications are preventative medicines. Why should I pay for some guy to go and have sex? It doesn’t benefit me either.

    Stupid people….

  2. “What’s the difference between the two? Oh, that’s right. One helps men and the other helps women.”

    That’s a little disingenuous. One restores the proper function of something that is not working as intended.

    The other interrupts and drastically alters the proper function of something, in order to purposely make it NOT function as intended.

    That’s the difference.

    You’re comparing apples and oranges, and every time I hear the argument made, it still doesn’t work.

    If you were comparing a male contraceptive medication, to a female one, it’d work.

    If you were comparing Viagra, and some form of pill to restore proper vaginal lubrication to women who couldn’t produce any whatsoever, then you’d be on the same page.

    Trying to compare the two as you are simply doesn’t work.

    It’s a very false analogy.

    There’s always the option of not having sex, which would absolutely prevent pregnancy 100%.

    And before you bust my chops, or call me names, let the record show that I don’t have sex.

  3. Everyone I know on the pill got it either so that they could regulate their periods or regulate their acne. The whole not getting pregnant thing is just a pleasant side effect. You think if they stopped calling it birth control it would be any different?

  4. You know, I just still can’t understand how the a-holes who complain about all the people (*ahem* minorities) having too many babies are so often the same ones who complain about women wanting access to birth control. Umm… which one is it?!

  5. Uh blackthirteen–birth control pills are hormonal and do very well serve to restore and regulate hormone levels in women. I would know. In fact–birth control pills have been used in fertility treatments. They allow for very predictable cycles which means that fertility treatments can be more successful in their timing. They’re also used to help treat disorders like endometriosis. So, no it’s not a false analogy if one believes that viagra treats medical conditions and restores function–likewise, hormonal therapy does too.

    Further–I’m not trying to bust your chops, but there’s always the option for men who need viagra not to have sex too. If birth control is just a choice and women could just as easily not have sex, I’ll have to offer the same sage advice to men who simply want to restore their sexual functionality–why don’t they just choose not to have sex? Why is it that you value the right of men to engage in sexual activity over women to protect themselves from pregnancy? Sex is sex.

  6. Oh, I’m aware of that.

    I was under the impression that, as in your original section of your post, we were speaking in purely contraceptive terms.

    Well, as far as the men who need viagra not having sex, I’m sure it could have occurred to you that they’re taking it because the women in their lives want to have sex.

    I doubt you’d want to propagate the whole “only men like sex” schtick.

    Though, again, it’s not the same. Simply having sex isn’t the same as having sex and preventing pregnancy. It’s still apples and oranges. Women who are not on the pill are still perfectly able to engage in intercourse, or numerous other non-penetration acts.

    A man who cannot achieve erection cannot do anything at all.

    It has nothing to do with “the right of men to have sex” being more valued than the “right of women”. Because with or without BC, women still have the right to have sex, and the ability to do so. Without a functioning penis, men don’t have either.

    It really has nothing to do with the rights or values thereof.

    Making pregnancy sound like something you need to be “protected” from makes it sound like a disease. It’s why so many feminists who reproduce feel so alienated from the movement, because too many feminists make them sound like traitors or that their actions are bad.

  7. Okay so the men who use viagra may be using it so that their female partners can have sex with them. Women who use the pill as contraception are doing it for…the men in their lives who want to have sex. Again I’m not sure where the apples and oranges comes in. Not wanting to get pregnant shouldn’t prevent physical intimacy between partners in the same way that erectile dysfunction shouldn’t prevent sex. There are medications for both, and both lead to more enjoyable sex lives for some.

    I’m really not sure where you’re picking up the notion that because contraception protects against unwanted pregnancy that there’s somehow no room for wanted pregnancy. I even mentioned how some fertility treatments are more successful with the use of hormonal contraception under a doctor’s supervision.

    If you hope to continue commenting here, you’re going to need to stop all of the strawmen and ad hominem attacks. If you think pregnancy prevention makes pregnancy sound like a disease, that’s your issue and not one present in my words.

  8. Again, if you define ‘impotence’ as a medical condition and use that as the reason why it is acceptable to have it insured, it’s a self defeating argument because if you use birth control of any form solely for contraceptive use, it will prevent pregnancy, which itself is defined as a medical condition. If you don’t believe me, contact a health insurance company and ask if they will insure a woman that’s already pregnant. If they will, the premiums will be much higher than a woman that is not pregnant.

    So yes, if you take out the valid parts of the argument, the argument doesn’t work. Congratulations. Now you can apply that logic to take the heat away from hot water to create cold water.

  9. Actually, it IS present in your words. Also, an ad hominem attack would b a direct insult against you. I have made none.

    When you say people need to be “protected” from pregnancy, it makes it sound like a threat.

    Regardless, being on or off birth control does not “prevent physical intimacy”. You can still have sex. My point is, without a functioning penis, you cannot have sex. You can still have sex without birth control.

  10. If you don’t want to get pregnant and oh say, have a latex allergy–you may have to use birth control if you want to have sex. You can have sex without birth control but not protected sex. For some, non protected sex just isn’t an option. Also, insinuating that I’m one of those mean feminists that make mothers feel like traitors is a personal attack–and its not your first.

  11. Regardless, that’s my point. A lack of birth control does not make you physically unable to have sex. A lack of a functioning penis, however, does.

    Again, ad hominem is a direct attack. Whatever assumptions you make are your own issue, not mine. If you assume without asking intent, that’s not really my fault.

  12. No, it seems as if you make your own presumptions and try to blame it on my words–that’s your issue, not mine.

    If you do not want to risk pregnancy, you cannot have unprotected sex. So no, it’s not really a choice. If you don’t want (more) children, then you can’t have unprotected sex so the risk of pregnancy does serve as a physically manifested barrier to sex.

    Again, both medications allow patients to have sex that they might not otherwise have. Because one allows for sex without the risk of pregnancy, it’s somehow less legitimate? Sex is sex.

  13. Black Thirteen, you are focused in too closely. Look at the basics: they both facilitate sex, sex that the individual might not otherwise have.

    If an insurance company covers viagra, it means it values a certain “right to sex” as we might say.

    The man using viagra is circumventing a physiological obstacle. The woman using BC is circumventing physiological and socioeconomic obstacles.

    Are they the same? No. Are they so similar that if one is covered both should be covered? Yes.

    On top of that, BC has valid and important uses outside of sex, which viagra does not.

  14. “If you do not want to risk pregnancy, you cannot have unprotected sex. So no, it’s not really a choice.”

    Sure there is. You don’t have sex.

    “If you don’t want (more) children, then you can’t have unprotected sex so the risk of pregnancy does serve as a physically manifested barrier to sex.”

    Not the same. You are still physically able to do it. Besides which, there are condoms, or, why not get “fixed”?

    “Again, both medications allow patients to have sex that they might not otherwise have. Because one allows for sex without the risk of pregnancy, it’s somehow less legitimate? Sex is sex.”

    Point is, one person is physically unable to have sex, the other simply doesn’t want to get pregnant from it. They’re still able to have functioning sex.

  15. So in the case of men who wouldn’t otherwise be able to have the sex they want–insurance should cover that medication.

    In the case of women who otherwise may not be able to engage in the kind of sex they want–insurance should not cover their medication.

    I note that you never offer the option for the men who need viagra not to have sex–why is this? If you believe that being unable to have sexual intercourse in the manner they desire is an unnecessary burden given the existence of medication, could you explain why it is the insurance company’s responsibility to pay for it?

    You continually offer “just don’t have sex” as an option if women don’t want to get pregnant. If that’s the case, maybe men who can’t get erections should just not have sex. That’s a choice too.

  16. Men don’t have to have sex either.

  17. Why don’t we get rid of BC and viagra, create a vast database, pair up all the women wanting BC with men who have ED, solve both problems and save the insurance companies a bunch of money.

  18. Did you read that now Viagra helps depressed women to improve sexual function? http://www.emaxhealth.com/48/23371.html

  19. First off, those men aren’t just “not having the sex they want”. They can’t have ANY.

    The women can. That’s the fundamental difference.

    The reason I say “not have sex”, is because those men can’t even masturbate. They can do nothing. The women CAN masturbate. They have options, while the man would have none.

  20. Actually erectile dysfunction also includes men who cannot maintain an erection–not just those who can’t get one at all. And again, why not just choose not to have sex and seek pleasure through other avenues? Lack of erection is not the same as lack of sexual sensation. It seems like you’re attempting to drum up reasons why the men simply must have sex whereas the women don’t have to. Neither do. You suggest that if fears of pregnancy preclude sex that women just deal and I offer the same advice to men who need viagra. If women can deal, so too can men. If insurance will pay for one, they should pay for both.

    “We’ll pay for you to have sex–but you over there can just deal.” There is no justification for it beyond tired presumptions. Apparently a man who cannot have sex is a tragedy that must be remedied, whereas a woman who cannot or will not risk unwanted pregnancy should just deal, her medication (which is also used as treatment for hormonal issues) should be her responsibility.

    A double standard is a double standard no matter how you justify it.

  21. Well, obviously Black Thirteen himself can’t possibly be talking about something he doesn’t have experience with himself. I’m assuming he’s dealing with erectile dysfunction, and that he knows EXACTLY what difficulties others with this condition face and can comment completely educated about the subject.

    I mean, would anyone argue about something without fully understanding it?

  22. “Lack of erection is not the same as lack of sexual sensation. ”

    A man that cannot achieve erection can’t really have an orgasm. It’s sort of essential for us. Women have multiple orgasm options, none of which require the maintaining of a particular physical state of their anatomy.

    I would assume you know how that works.

    The other avenues work great for women. A woman can have oral sex, she can have manual stimulation, etcetera. A man that cannot achieve erection, or maintain one, can have no orgasm.

    “If women can deal, so too can men. ”

    Again, pregnancy fears do not stop a woman from having sexual stimulation. A non-functional penis stops a man from having any.

    Which, I suppose works great for a woman, because she can still make him perform oral sex, and then doesn’t have to give him anything in return!

    “Apparently a man who cannot have sex is a tragedy that must be remedied, whereas a woman who cannot or will not risk unwanted pregnancy should just deal, her medication (which is also used as treatment for hormonal issues) should be her responsibility.”

    Again, a man that cannot have sex, cannot have sex.

    A woman that fears pregnancy can still have sex. Why not just get her tubes tied? Done and done.

  23. “I mean, would anyone argue about something without fully understanding it?”

    Why not? Feminists/women argue about things that are unique to men ALL THE TIME!

    Good for the goose, good for the gander, as is said.

  24. “Why not? Feminists/women argue about things that are unique to men ALL THE TIME!”

    now there’s an ad hominem attack if I ever saw one, save the fact that it is an inadequate reply to the point you quote.

    now, men seem to have a great time exercising their “right” to comment and decide on issues “unique to women” all the time. isn’t John McCain voting against BC coverage and Bill O’Reilly’s subsequent sexist, misogynistic comments (which illuminate a double standard that affects women) what started this whole ‘debate’ in the first place? I suspect that should you elaborate on whatever you mean by issues “unique to men”, such issues would surely affect both women and men.

  25. Again, pregnancy fears do not stop a woman from having sexual stimulation. A non-functional penis stops a man from having any.

    So it’s impossible that such fears would serve as a psychological barrier that manifests physically? Oh wait–they do. Stress does serve as a barrier to sexual expression (and has been cited as the cause of some expressions of erectile dysfunction that do not originate from a physical ailment).


    So…wait, because we’re women its impossible to know anything about male medical ailments? Someone tell all the female doctors out there to stop treating men then. Yet, this doesn’t explain why you’re arguing about erectile dysfunction if you don’t know much about it. You seem to have a serious chip on your shoulder about women and feminists in particular and seem unable to keep yourself from constantly lumping them together and essentializing. All women are not the same, nor are all feminists. If they were, this blog wouldn’t exist.

  26. The bigger picture should be putting sound medical policies in place that benefit the whole over the individual.

    And that is just what insurers covering oral contraceptives does.

    Access to family planning allows individuals to better plan their education, which then in turn is good for employers, social infrastructure and the overall economy. Delaying childbirth also helps reduce the burden on social services.

    The fact that there are other methods available for contraception is a of little relevance because oral contraception over the last 40 or so years has indeed proven to be the Easiest, Safest and Most Reliable method for women to use.

    And that’s the stuff of medical policy. When the benefit to the whole outweigh the benefit or risk to the individual it’s sound policy to cover that service. Furthermore, oral contraceptives have demonstrated superiority and acceptability of use over other alternatives.

    Access to viagra on the other hand is hardly a public health issue. It has also been flagged by insurers as a drug with a high potential for misuse, overuse, abuse and diversion. Which is why in most cases payers put limits on how many pills they will pay for each month.

  27. Regardless, my point is, a woman who doesn’t want to get pregnant, can still have stimulation through other means. A man that cannot get it up, cannot.

    Also, as for “not knowing about it without experiencing it”, I was referring to the other commenter, claiming I shouldn’t be speaking about something without experiencing it.

    Which then made me reference women and feminists, because those two take it upon themselves, almost daily, to tell men what they think/feel/experience, without having any firsthand experience themselves.

  28. Which then made me reference women and feminists, because those two take it upon themselves, almost daily, to tell men what they think/feel/experience, without having any firsthand experience themselves.

    Unlike men like Bill O’reilly and yourself who like to pontificate on how birth control is and isn’t used.

  29. Jefferson, that’s pretty interesting. Though I wonder if insurance companies would pay for it for women. Apparently the thought process goes that if you can have sex at all, it’s unnecessary.

  30. Unlike men like Bill O’reilly and yourself who like to pontificate on how birth control is and isn’t used.

    Well, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. If you find it okay to give commentary on what is or is not good for men, don’t be surprised when it gets returned to you.

  31. Okay what? My commentary began with a man saying that medication that facilitates sex for men is good but if its for a woman it’s wrong. Please explain to me wherein I began speaking about what’s best for men and what they do and don’t need because I believe you have that avenue covered for both men and women. Please stop trying to justify your lack of actual argument on me. You’ve nitpicked every minute point and have come to the point where you’re arguing that orgasm is the point of sex and if you can’t have one, insurance should pay. Try sticking with your argument and see where it takes you.

  32. Well, you said there is nothing wrong with men who can’t achieve erection, but dammit, society better fork over for women who don’t want kids!

    My point was, a woman doesn’t need birth control to have sex. A man without a functioning penis needs medication in order to do so.

    Yeah, generally, most people use sex to get an orgasm.

    Regardless, a woman not on BC, still has options. A man that can’t get it up, does not.

  33. Actually I never said that. I said that if it’s good enough to say that women who don’t want children just shouldn’t have sex–then maybe men with ed should give it a try too. Oh wait, no one would ever expect them to do that.

  34. Biological asymmetries are what render the original analogy imprecise and not the analogy itself.

    In a scenario where a male is using Viagra and his female parter is using hormonal contraception, nothing changes the fact that as a result of intercourse between them, it is the woman who might have to carry the fetus to term for 9 months.

    Although both therapies are part of maintaining healthy sexuality, you simply cannot give equal weight to the quest for a 10 second orgasm and not wanting to carry a child for 9 months. Both are worthy of medical attention of course, but one has broader societal implications and health consequences.

  35. My insurance never covered birth control for men, i.e., condoms, so why should they cover birth control for women?

    Viagra is not birth control, so it’s a false comparison.

    A true comparison with Viagra would be Premarin, which is used by women to offset the effects of decreased estrogen. And that is covered as a prescription drug.

    And, by the way, I have very good medical insurance coverage, but if I needed Viagra, my monthly co-pay would be $35 — approximately the retail price of most birth control pills — and I’d be limited to 8 pills per month.

  36. You know what else is a false comparison? Comparing latex prophylactics with hormonal medication is a pretty false comparison. One is a medication, the other isn’t. Insurance generally doesn’t cover things you can get over the counter. Hormonal birth control isn’t something you can get over the counter.


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