Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 19, No. 6, 2020
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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Bernard Dubé
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David Solway
Louis René Beres
Nick Catalano
Don Dewey
Chris Barry
Howard Richler
Gary Olson
Jordan Adler
Andrew Hlavacek
Daniel Charchuk
  Music Editor
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Chantal Levesque Denis Beaumont
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Naomi Klein
Arundhati Roy
Evelyn Lau
Stephen Lewis
Robert Fisk
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Michael Moore
Julius Grey
Irshad Manji
Richard Rodriguez
Navi Pillay
Ernesto Zedillo
Pico Iyer
Edward Said
Jean Baudrillard
Bill Moyers
Barbara Ehrenreich
Leon Wieseltier
Nayan Chanda
Charles Lewis
John Lavery
Tariq Ali
Michael Albert
Rochelle Gurstein
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward





Former lead singer of the legendary 222s, arguably Montreal's first punk rock band, Chris is now a freelance writer based in Montreal. You can check out his writing at where he combines the sardonic humour of David Foster Wallace and the deliciously contrived irreverence of Anthony Bourdain.


It seems that every time I turn on the TV these days I’m hit with what appears to be a public service announcement about the heartbreak of is known as erectile dysfunction, or E.D. as the cool people in the pharmaceutical biz like to call it.

Now honestly, to date, this has never been a big problem with me personally, although the combination of too much alcohol and a partner with a rancid smelling sweet spot, has admittedly, on occasion, had the effect of dampening my enthusiasm of my best part. Still, it’s nice to know that there are organizations out there that deeply care about my boner, and are prepared to take on the expense of a massive promotional campaign, to let me know that if anything ever goes wrong with it they will be there to help me get hard again. Thanks.

But who exactly are these wonderfully benevolent people for such concern with the state of my erection? And, God forbid, if I should ever go limp for an extended period of time, how would they help me? Would they care enough to send a teenage prostitute to my door? Would they keep the police at bay while I attempted to get hard and masturbate at the locker room of my local gym. I mean as the Bee Gees used to sing: how do you mend a broken wang. And why do these people care if mine is broke, anyway?


Watching his commercial for the two millionth time this week, it crossed my mind that perhaps these concerned folk may actually be a pharmaceutical company, like, say, Pfizer, the fabulously wealthy transnational company who happens to hold the patent for Viagra. But funny enough, their name is mentioned anywhere on the spot. Is it possible, I wondered, if the sponsors of this ad are people who really care about the health of our nation’s erections?

I hadn’t even realized that erectile dysfunction (E.D.) was such a serious health issue. The ad states that one in three men will suffer from E.D. at some point in their lives, and, worse, most of these dudes will suffer in silence. A disturbing subject matter, the message warns, which may have the effect of disquieting certain viewers. And when push comes to shove I suppose you can count on me among the disquieted, because if it’s really true I have a one in three chance of becoming sexually impotent, consider me perturbed.

In fact, since first becoming exposed to this ad I’ve found myself becoming increasingly compelled to learn more about penises, so that when the curse of E.D. comes knocking at my door, I will know what to do and be ready to meet the challenge. So last week, when an ad flashed on the screen, I took down the E.D. emergency phone number and called them up.


Over at the emergency E.D. line they’ve got an ensemble of ‘health professionals’ standing by to give you the 411 on all things erection-related. When you call, the first thing you hear is a recorded message that is supposed to make you feel better for not being able to get it up any more by repeating ad infinitum that in the majority of instances impotency is caused by a curable medical condition. Apparently there are close to three million other schmucks in Canada who are just as lame as you in this area. If at any time in the phone call you want to speak to a real-live ‘nurse’ about your sexual inadequacy, all you have to do hit ‘1’ and someone will come on and patiently listen to your story in an effort to try to talk you into seeing your doctor about it.

When my personal health professional came on line I panicked, and, in light of my relatively healthy condition, didn’t quite know what to tell him anymore. Not wanting him to feel that I was wasting his time, I decided I had better ad-lib a little.

“Hi,” I mumbled. Um . . . sometimes I have trouble achieving and maintaining an erection and I’m not sure what I should do about it.” I figured that was as good as place as any to start.

“Well Sir,” replied the professional, not missing a beat, “erectile dysfunction is a very common malady that effects millions of Canadian men. A lot of people are still uncomfortable talking about it, but it is almost always curable. There are several products on the market that can be prescribed to you should you be prepared to sit down with your doctor and talk about it.” He then proceeded to go on about how normal it is to be limp all the time and how they could send me a brochure about the various treatments and physical causes of E.D. “What is your mailing address, sir?”

At which point the entirety of E.D. campaign was suddenly made clear to me. This 'health professional' sounded like nothing more than a telemarketer. I could tell he was reading from a script. He really didn't care about my penis. He was part of an elaborate part to sell me something. "But what," the idiot in me wondered. I had a couple of ideas. I decided to mess with him a bit.

"I'm too ashamed to see my doctor about this," I told him. "I'm afraid he's going to laugh at me the same way my wife does when I try to initiate sex with her."

I figured this last revelation would give him something to think about, but he barely flinched. He just kept reading more crap from his script how erectile dysfunction is nothing to be ashamed of and blah blah blah. I decided to try a litter harder.

"So uh . . . what could my doctor prescribe that might help me with my condition?" I asked pretty sure of who he was working for and what his answer would be. "I have a friend who used to take something called Muse, which he said gave him awe-inspiring erections, but I remember him claiming that there was a lot of unpleasantness involved as well."

"That could be true," my telemarketer nurse told me. "For a long time the treatments had to be injected directly into the penis with a hypodermic needle, which a lot of people were uncomfortable about. But now it is also available as a penis suppository. You insert it with an applicator into the tip of your penis."

"That doesn't very nice either," I said trying to stifle a giggle." I remember him saying that after a while his penis was all scarred up from using it and that he would sometimes get involuntary erections from out of nowhere that refused to go down no matter what he did. He works in a daycare center, you know, and I think it caused him some problems with his employer. And I've also heard that the penis pump is problematic. What else is available?" I had unknowingly opened the door for the inevitable Viagra pitch.

And it was quickly delivered, albeit somewhat subtly. “Most doctors are prescribing oral medications to combat erectile dysfunction,” the telemarketer rambled on predictably. “It has helped millions of men deal with the aguish of . . . blah blah blah.”


So there you go. My initial impulse was correct – it is really just the Pfizer corporation trying to encourage people to bug their doctors into prescribing them Viagra at 18 bucks a pop.

I decided to continue our dialogue nevertheless and tried fucking with him a little more by informing him that (a) I can sometimes still get erections when my wife lets me put a bag over her head (b) my present bout of impotence began around the same time I upped my dose of Zoloft (another fine Pfizer product) to 150 mg. a day, and (c) I can sometimes feel an erection coming on when I’m showering with other men. But it was a hollow thrill. Nothing really phased him and I think he simply began to regard me as an idiot, as a possible prankster, although he remained disturbingly polite and professional throughout our entire conversation.

Calling Pfizer directly after my adventure with their E.D. line, I was officially informed that this campaign is their attempt to bring male sexual impotency out into the open, and to let people know that erectile dysfunction is no joking matter. It’s a public service really, and it has little to do with the fact that pretty well anyone who walks into a doctor’s office complaining of limp penis is going to end up walking away with a prescription for their product. Unless, of course, people decide they are more comfortable sticking a needles into their penises than taking a handy little pill. Which is unlikely, even though it makes for better jokes. God bless the pharmaceutical industry.

Also by Chris Barry:
Digital Pimp
Remembering Alex Soria
Cultivating Cannabis: The Way It Was
To Boots with Love
From Spring Fatness to Fitness
Coming Out: Is It Any Easier?
Head Trip Story: My Inner Idiot
Ballet Boxer: Milford Kemp
Like Young
Loving Hard Times
Feed Your Head
Talking 12-Tone with Patti Smith
Beauty Pageants: The Golden Years
Swingers' Clubs as Safe Zones
Bust a Move
Trapeze - Swinging Ad Extremis
Hells in Paradise
The Cannabis Cup
Colonic Hydrotheraphy


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