Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Sarah Jane Brubaker


Medicalization as a Trojan Horse: Changes in Erectile Enhancement Advertising By Robert D Wood, M.S. A Thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science at Virginia Commonwealth University Virginia Commonwealth University, 2011 Major Director: Sarah Jane Brubaker, PhD, Graduate Program of Sociology This thesis investigates the medicalization of “inadequate penis size” through an analysis of online advertising of “male enhancement,” or erectile enhancement (EE) products. The process of medicalization, as defined by Peter Conrad, is the process by which non-medical problems become defined and treated as such (2007). With the advent and success of Viagra (Sildenafil) in 1998, a wave of products emerged treating erectile dysfunction and not long after followed the expansion of the market for erectile enhancement. Although several studies have been done of erectile dysfunction, there has been less research on the advertisement techniques within the erectile enhancement market. Brubaker and Johnson's article “'Pack a more powerful punch' and 'lay the pipe': erectile enhancement discourse as a body project for masculinity” dissects such advertising for overarching themes of violence, the subjugation of women, and the perpetuation of hegemonic masculinity (2008). This analysis was done in 2006, and evidence presented in this thesis suggests that the advertising techniques, particularly as they appear in erectile enhancement websites, show some dramatic differences in presentation and themes. These more recent advertisements seem to reflect a more medical approach, emphasizing an authoritative medical appearance, downplaying violent, misogynistic, or sexist undertones consistent with much of erectile enhancement advertising. This new medical approach is a metaphorical Trojan horse, sneaking in and maintaining older concepts of domination and violence. The background of hegemonic masculinity in erectile enhancement advertising is continued under the guise of medical professionalism. Through quantitative and qualitative analysis of ten erectile enhancement product websites, I show how the advertising involved in this industry has attempted to medicalize the small penis in hopes of marketing an “inadequate penis” as a more legitimate, medical concern. This study thus contributes to a better understanding of the changing social concepts of manhood, how the process of medicalization works, and how it can be seen within the area of erectile enhancement.


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Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

August 2011

Included in

Sociology Commons