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“[Forty] percent of men by age 40 struggle from not being able to get and maintain an erection,” exclaims the website for Hims, a recently launched telemedicine startup that sells generic versions of popular baldness and erectile dysfunction treatments. Hims has a solution: with the help of sildenafil (also known as generic Viagra), you can have “an erection when you want one, not just when your penis says it’s allowed.” “Nobody wants to go to the doctor,” says Hims founder and CEO Andrew Dudum as we talk on the phone.
With a “sensitive and uncomfortable topic” like erectile dysfunction, seeking help can feel especially intimidating.
But the bills also poke a huge hole in a famous and longstanding “safe harbor” rule of the internet: Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act.
Usually shorthanded as “Section 230” and generally seen as one of the most important pieces of internet legislation ever created, it holds that “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” In other words, Section 230 has allowed the internet to thrive on user-generated content without holding platforms and ISPs responsible for whatever those users might create.
Hims might help you maintain your erection, but it won’t help you understand your body, your sexuality, or give you a more expansive understanding of pleasure.
Destigmatizing men’s erectile woes is a noble mission, but the company’s claim that it’s “weird” to leave a frustratingly flaccid member unmedicated does far more harm than good.
A post on the Hims blog does note that erectile dysfunction can have psychological causes that aren’t readily resolved by popping a pill, but you have to search to find this information.But truly getting in touch with your sexuality means confronting, not avoiding, all the embarrassments and anxieties of being human.