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Duly Noted

Thursday, Mar 15, 2012, 1:35 pm

Viagra Bills Are Parody, Not Retaliation

By Lindsay Beyerstein

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Some cheeky state legislators around the country are introducing joke bills that, if they ever became law, would require men to jump through various hoops in order to obtain Viagra. These bills poke fun at the warped logic behind various aspects of the Republican War on Women, notably Virginia's new forced ultrasound statute, which requires women to get medically unnecessary ultrasounds in order to get abortions.

In the spirit of parity, these proposed laws call for various measures to make men aware of the options vis a vis impotence, like celibacy. 

The wittiest of these joke bills is legislation introduced in Ohio that would force men to submit an affidavit from a sexual partner attesting to their impotence in order to obtain a Viagra prescription. This would supposedly ensure that no one is "subsidizing" the sex lives of "slutty" men who want to use Viagra recreationally, as opposed to treating victims of erectile dysfunction. 

This is a nod to the current controversy over whether insurers should have to pay the full cost of birth control under health reform. Sandra Fluke testified that Georgetown Law is refusing to cover the birth control pills that a fellow student needs to control her suspected endometriosis because she hasn't undergone surgery to prove that she has it. 

Since a lot of endo is invisible to less invasive tests, most doctors prefer to prescribe the Pill first and see if it works, rather than go in with the camera. If the surgery proved she had endo, the first line treatment would be the Pill anyway. If the surgery didn't show endo, and the Pill controlled the excruciating pain, the Pill would be medically indicated anyway. But Georgetown's insurer wants proof that this woman isn't just pretending to have endometriosis so she can get free slutty sexy sex pills. The woman in question is a lesbian, but the insurer is reportedly unmoved. After all, maybe she's just feigning lesbianism. Sluts who lie about endometriosis will say anything. So, says her insurer, pictures or your agonizing abdominal pain didn't happen. 

Which brings me to Alison Yarrow's piece in the Daily Beast about these bills. Yarrow acknowledges the humorous intent but she characterizes the measures as "revenge legislation" and claims that state legislators are "pushing bills to retaliate against the male-led, restrictions-laden drive to limit women’s rights to abortion and birth control." Yarrow gets the joke, and she's probably engaging in a little recreational hyperbole of her own.

In all seriousness, though, this isn't about revenge or retaliation. No one wants to make these bills law, especially not the legislators who wrote them. The whole point is to stress how ridiculous arbitrary restrictions on women's health care are by imagining what it would be like if men had to live by the same rules. Unlike the recent spate of all-too-real anti-women legislation, these joke bills are intended to make people think, not to punish anyone for their sexuality. 

Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning investigative journalist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Noted. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Nation, Ms. Magazine, and other publications. Her photographs have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times' City Room. She also blogs at The Hillman Blog (, a publication of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a non-profit that honors journalism in the public interest.

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