Test-Driving the Little Blue Pills

If either lovemaking session was an indication of things to come, I was a convert, fallen hard, singing out my lungs, marching my way to the Tabernacle.

When I called my internist and told him I was going to write a story about ED drugs and wanted all the free samples as he could muster so that I could test them out, I’m not sure he believed me.

Would you?

What’s next? That I had developed a sudden case of glaucoma and I needed three lids of marijuana for the weekend?

Dr. Champion paused for a second, assessing my request, and then came through in spades. “Will three or four boxes of each be enough?” he asked.

Free drugs followed by sex. What more could a guy ask for?


“I’ll leave the drugs with Marlene at the reception desk,” Dr. Champion said in a reassuring Marcus Welby kind of way.

“Could you put them in a brown paper bag?” I asked. Not everyone needed to know my humble home was about to turn into the Love Shack.

When I picked up the cache of love drugs, Marlene was beaming. “These are for you,” she said with a Carmen Electra purr, her lips pouting like Angela Jolie’s.

Had Dr. Champion given Marlene a heads-up? Had Marlene peaked inside? Had she scribbled her phone number on the back of the Cialis booklet, the one with the scene of the man and woman in bathtubs on the beach?

I charged home energized. The next day my wife and I were going on a Caribbean vacation. If having sex morning, noon, and night was wrong, I didn’t want to be right.

That first afternoon, my wife and I, hand in hand, took a walk on the hot sand, marveling at how sexual the ebbing tides were—in and out, back and forth, frothy, powerful, fluid. At least, I was marveling. Alas, just as we were about to scamper back to our hotel room, I stubbed my big toe on an ugly piece of jagged driftwood. In 15 minutes, though, the pain had subsided as fast as it had come on. An hour later, as we cracked open lobsters, washed down with a nice bottle of Pinot Grigio, all I could think of were the delights to come: To the Moon, baby!

As soon as we got back to our room, I popped a 25 mg. tablet of Viagra, the smallest dose (it also comes in 50 mg. and 100 mg. doses). Then we waited.

We lounged on our deck and talked about warm breezes, how wrong the concept of snow was, how we needed to quit our jobs and open up a combination bookstore/wine bar when our Powerball numbers hit.

Then the most miraculous thing happened. During all this talk with my wonderful wife of 17 years, my dick had transformed into a dong ready to ding. We proceeded into the bedroom and got down to my journalistic mission.


Two, three, six (who’s counting?) hours later, the sex that night had been the best in many, many moons. It was slow and languorous at first, then fast and furious, all along the way punctuated by laugher, silly jokes, talk of our teenage son, his learning to drive, his new girlfriend, some of the silly people back home, how we know each other so well, and the remarkable arch in the small of my wife’s back that still slays me every time I look at it. My wife’s reaction to the lovemaking was the same. Was it the Viagra, the anticipation, being away from home and the job—or a combination of all of those things? We were on vacation, after all, when you’re supposed to fuck like rabbits.

My wife fell into a deep, contented sleep. As I lay next to her, thinking about the stars, the silvery moon, our bookstore-cum–wine bar, and the amazing sex we just had, something began to gnaw at me—or more precisely, at my big toe.

The toe that I had walloped on the driftwood six hours earlier all of a sudden began to throb. Actually, it began to pulsate. I’m not making this up. It was a bizarre sensation, like someone had suddenly taken a claw hammer and was whacking away at my toe.

And then my podiatric malady all made sense: Viagra dilates blood vessels, and not just the arteries to your penis. Men who take it say their noses and ears often flush crimson. So, why not another extremity: my toe?

The pounding in my big toe went on for another hour. I no longer had an erection, so I looked to see whether my big toe had gotten bigger or stiffer (it hadn’t). By morning, the toe was back to normal.


Two nights later, my wife and I took another stroll on the beach, and when we returned to our room and kicked off our sandals, I tried a low-range 5 mg. pill of Levitra—the drug comes in 2.5 mg., 5 mg., 10 mg., and 20 mg. doses. Although Levitra says that men may feel the effects in as little as 10 minutes, it took close to an hour for me. And again, the sex was great.

No toe-throbbing this time, but I developed a slight headache and my ears felt like they were on fire (the result of blood coursing to them), and I felt slightly faint when I got up to pee an hour later. How did Viagra and Levitra compare? Hard to say. If either lovemaking session was an indication of things to come, I was a convert, fallen hard, singing out my lungs, marching my way to the Tabernacle.

Which brings up Cialis, the Weekend Drug. Frankly I had had so much success with Viagra and Levitra, I didn’t want to push things. For the rest of the vacation, my wife and I continued with our love mission, alternating between Viagra and Levitra. Why switch? I’ve stayed with the same women for 17 years; change is intoxicating, but it can be dangerous.

For those reasons, I waited till I returned home for the 36-hour Cialispalooza. Touted by Tony, my neighbor, as “a gift from God,” I was half-intrigued, half-scared by the wild frenzy that awaited me.

So, last night, after I finished the accompanying story, I popped a 20-mg. pill, the maximum available (Cialis comes in 5 mg., 10 mg., and 20 mg. doses). If you’re going to town, go all the way.


And guess what? Not much happened. And even now, 12 hours after I took the 36-hour King Konger, I haven’t had a second rise in my trunks. My wife and I followed the same drill, but the effect was at best negligible. Inquiring minds want to know: the sex was fine, but stupendous, out of body? No way.

Maybe it’s because I had spent the whole day researching and writing about penises, erections, and male orgasms. That’ll chill any heterosexual man’s ardor. Maybe it’s because the other two drugs had set the bar so high (and hard). Maybe it’s because I took Viagra and Levitra while on vacation, and waited until we got back to the salt mines to pop the Cialis tab.

I know that my reaction is not typical. When I told my neighbor Tony what had happened, he couldn’t believe it. Tony worships Cialis. He looks as Cialis as a combination of Ricky Williams and Selma Hayek. “No way that’s possible,” Tony said, shocked. Tony took what had happened personally. I was like the guy who test drives a friend’s Porsche, and then says the car did nothing for him.

In despair, I went to the gym to work out, today’s version of a cold shower. I happened to position myself in front of a class of women in soaked Spandex thongs, grunting and groaning, doing body pump exercises. Several of these women were knockouts with long legs and very tight buns.

That’s when I looked down, and that’s when I noticed. I wonder if they did.

—Photo diluvi/Flickr

Test Driving the Little Blue Pills

About Stephen G. Bloom

Stephen G. Bloom, the Bessie Dutton Murray Professor of Journalism at the University of Iowa, is the author of Postviile: A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America, Inside the Writer's MInd, The Oxford Project (with Peter Feldstein), and Tears of Mermaids: The Secret Story of Pearls. For more than 20 years, he was an award-winning reporter for The Los Angeles Times, Dallas Morning News, San Jose Mercury News, and Sacramento Bee. His work has appeared in many publications, including the London Guardian, New York Times, Washington Post, Salon, Smithsonian, Russian Esquire, and the Annals of Clinical Psychiatry. He writes frequently about issues men talk about when they're not around women. Check out more here.


  1. Henry Vandenburgh says:

    I read the Mieka Loe articles and book critiquing Viagra use. Yesterday, I had fun refuting some of Loe’s and Marcia Angell’s arguments at a sociological meeting. As is usual, few people in the audience, though.

  2. Henry Vandenburgh says:

    Still no compliants regards Viagra. Keep on truckin’. I take the position that we older people who are on high blood pressure meds may need the extra help in spite of being in good vascular health otherwise. I do a lot of exercise.

  3. Marcus Owen says:

    On Owen, That is hot!

  4. I am happy that the pill worked. I have found for myself and other men that a healthy diet and life style does the same. In the book, NO More Heart Disease: How Nitric Oxide Can Prevent–Even Reverse–Heart Disease and Strokes Louis, Ignarro speaks about how Viagra was developed essentially from the amino acid l-Arginine.

    A man at any age is capable of having all the erections he would want if all his blood vessels are healthy. Our penises are the barometers for our general health.When they work well, we are well.

  5. Henry Vandenburgh says:

    Cialis rocks. Good for 36 hours. Then it does stop- as advertised. But my insurance doesn’t pay for C. I bit the 100mg Viagras in half because I did get the headache every time if I didn’t. This worked for three years, then I needed the 100 full dose. Now, no headache. My wife can tell if it’s ready (about an hour) because my face turns red.

  6. ED.. oh boy.. yea, my husband now and then. Big deal. I’ll NEVER have 1 cent spent on pills. Sex isn’t worth spending HOW MUCH per month?? To me, it would be like him paying to have sex. Nope, not going to happen! ALOT more better things to spend money on!!

  7. Reminds me of the hilarious eXile article “Viagra Challenge” where the guy tests all three ED pills on middle-aged prostitutes. It’s brutal reading: http://exile.ru/articles/detail.php?ARTICLE_ID=7681&IBLOCK_ID=35

  8. Though the writing was clever, I’m still not sure if any of the three were needed, actually helped or increased pleasure and, as Larry David has said, I would rather retire w/o an asterisk after my name. Guess I’m just not there yet.

    • My experience, as a 68 year old who after 33 years of marriage to a woman came out at age 64, is that in the gay culture is that if your tool is very small and not semi-erect, you may not be as attractive to other men. The use of these enhancing drugs may increase the likelihood of scoring. Unfortunately there are those who abuse this stuff and use other drugs to have dangerous, unprotected sex. I am not endorsing that kind of use.

  9. Can somebody please explain the two bathtub thing?

  10. At age 68 I sometimes appreciate a boost in the boner department However, the bottom line I learned was that if I am not really turned on by my partner, none of them will work very well. Thus, at orgies there were mixed results. Also my mood affected the effectiveness of the drugs. when I have a really exciting partner, I don’t need the drugs. Go figure.

    I have tried all three also. Viagra worked fine the first few times then I began to get a headache/sinus symptom when I took it which was unpleasant before and after sex and usually prevented me from sleeping normally later the night I took it. Gave Viagra up. Levitra was a little better but cost more so I only used a 3 sample pack.
    Cialis comes in a smaller daily dose, 24 mg. I think, but it hardly had any effect. Now my doc gave me 50 mg. and it works better for me than Viagra because I don’t get the headache/sinus pain afterwords.

  11. Tom Matlack says:

    Tough duty my friend. Glad you survived to tell the tale!
    One question though, in the other article you said that if you don’t have erectile disfunction the drugs won’t do anything. Your story seems to refute that. Did I miss something?


  1. […] We got a page-two mention in Donnelly’s piece. We are “on the right track.” Cool. Donnelly goes on to, in essence, write us a job application, parroting our mission statement (“we can recognize that coping with being a man in the modern world is challenging”) and then suggesting impeccably on-brand ideas (“Did that NY magazine cover story on the effects of rampant online masturbation on Actual Sex Life cause people to rampantly masturbate less? [yes]“). I love all of these ideas. Are they for sale? Gift? We’ve already run one or two. […]

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