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What Does Viagra Do to Your Sexual Experience?

Angela Sheddan

Medically reviewed by Angela Sheddan, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 11/17/2022

Viagra®, which contains the active ingredient sildenafil, is one of the most popular medications available for treating erectile dysfunction (ED). 

Since it came onto the market in the late 90s, Viagra has grown from a niche medicine into an ED treatment used by millions of men around the world. 

One of the most common Viagra-related questions, particularly from younger men interested in using Viagra, is how Viagra affects sexual experience. 

Does it change the way sex feels? Does it have any impact on sexual enjoyment? Can it boost sexual performance? Will you last for longer in bed after using Viagra?

In this guide, we’ll cover the basics of how ED medications like Viagra work, as well as how they can change the experience of having sex.

We’ll also bust several of the most common myths about how Viagra works to clear up what this type of medication can and can’t do for your erections and sexual performance.

What Is Viagra?

Viagra is a medication for erectile dysfunction. It contains the ingredient sildenafil and is part of a class of drugs referred to as PDE5 inhibitors.

Often referred to as the “little blue pill,” Viagra became available in 1998 as the first prescription drug for the treatment of erectile dysfunction. Today, it’s one of several medications for treating ED and improving sexual function in men.

Both brand name Viagra and its generic version sildenafil work by increasing blood flow to your penis. This process, which we’ve discussed in more detail further down the page, can make it easier to get and maintain an erection when you feel sexual desire and arousal. 

Viagra and sildenafil come in tablet form, with both medications designed for use approximately one hour before sex.

What Does Viagra Do to Men?

So, what does Viagra actually do within your body? Like similar medications in its class, Viagra works by making it easier for you to get and maintain an erection when you feel sexual arousal  by improving blood flow to your penis. Pretty simple stuff, at least on paper.

Viagra — or at least its active ingredient, sildenafil — does this by inhibiting an enzyme referred to as phosphodiesterase 5, or PDE5.

The PDE5 enzyme is responsible for controlling blood flow to your penis. By preventing PDE5 from working properly, Viagra essentially gives blood a green light to flow into the erectile tissue inside your penis whenever you feel sexually stimulated. 

How Does Viagra Affect Your Erection?

While explaining what Viagra does is fairly simple, explaining the exact mechanism behind it — as well as the unique effects of PDE5 — is a little more complicated.

Erections require a combination of stimulation and blood flow. When you feel sexually aroused, whether it’s due to visual stimulation, physical stimulation or both, impulses from your nervous system cause blood to flow to your penis.

The corpora cavernosa — a pair of sponge-like areas of tissue inside your penis — relax, letting blood flow freely. This blood fills the tissue and causes your penis to expand and harden.

To keep your penis firm during sex, a fibrous membrane called the tunica albuginea contracts, trapping blood inside your penis until you either no longer feel stimulated or reach orgasm and ejaculate.

Viagra and similar forms of erectile dysfunction medication work by inhibiting PDE5 and making it easier for blood to flow to your penis and produce an erection.

By inhibiting PDE5, the blood vessels that supply your penis can relax, increasing their size and allowing blood to flow more freely. Since erections are all about healthy blood flow, this can give you improved erections and allow you to more easily have sexual intercourse. 

The mechanism behind how Viagra works (as well as other oral ED medicines, like Cialis® and Levitra®) is fairly simple once you understand it.

There’s no “magic” to how Viagra works, and contrary to popular belief, it won’t make you get an erection spontaneously unless you’re already sexually aroused. It also has no significant impact on your level of interest in sexual activity, or issues such as sexual desire disorders. 

Instead, Viagra simply makes it easier for you to get and keep an erection by improving the rate of blood flow to your penis. 

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Does Viagra Change Your Sexual Experience?

If you have erectile dysfunction, Viagra can be extremely beneficial to your sexual function and experience, as well as the level of enjoyment you get from sex. 

This is because even a relatively modest dose of Viagra can make it significantly easier for you to get and maintain an erection during sex.

In clinical trials of Viagra, more more than 82 percent of men with erectile dysfunction reported an improvement in their erections after using Viagra at a dosage of 100mg (the highest dosage prescribed for ED).

Even at the lowest prescribed dosage of 25mg, Viagra produced improvements in erections for 63 percent of men with erectile dysfunction.

How Do You Know When Viagra is Working?

Viagra takes approximately one hour to start working, although it may require slightly more time if you consume a large, high-fat meal before or shortly after using this medication.

When Viagra starts working, you won’t suddenly develop an erection or notice any rapid change in your sex drive or sexual arousal. Viagra also isn’t a psychoactive medication, meaning it won’t have any noticeable effect on the way you feel, think or perceive things during sex. 

Instead, you’ll simply find it easier to get and maintain an erection after taking Viagra. This might mean that you’re able to get an erection when you normally wouldn't, or that your erections have a greater degree of firmness than usual.

In some cases, using Viagra might not make your erection develop faster or become firmer than usual, but might make it easier for you to maintain an erection during sex. 

How Does Viagra Make You Feel?

Contrary to popular belief, Viagra won’t make you feel interested in sex. In fact, it typically won’t make you feel anything at all. The effects of Viagra are purely physical, meaning it will help you to get and maintain an erection, but won’t change your emotions.

With this said, if you have erectile dysfunction, Viagra’s effects on your sexual performance can potentially provide a confidence boost or make sex more enjoyable.

Viagra, like all prescription medications, may come with some potential adverse effects for some users. Common side effects of Viagra include issues such as headaches, nasal congestion and facial flushing.

Other potential side effects of Viagra and generic sildenafil include:

  • Dyspepsia (indigestion)

  • Myalgia (muscle pain)

  • Abnormal vision (blurred vision and/or changes in color vision)

  • Back pain

  • Dizziness 

  • Nausea

  • Rash

In rare cases, Viagra can also cause more severe side effects, including priapism (a prolonged, painful erection), sudden loss of vision, hearing loss or damage to the optic nerve. If you notice any of these side effects after taking Viagra, it’s important to seek medical attention.

Viagra is a safe and effective medication for most men. However, you should always talk to your healthcare professional before using Viagra, especially if you have a personal history of medical issues such as high blood pressure, sickle cell anemia, heart disease or heart failure.

It’s also important to inform your healthcare provider if you’ve previously suffered a heart attack or other cardiovascular event.

Like other medications, Viagra can cause drug interactions, including with medications such as nitrates. Common nitrates include nitroglycerin, as well as recreational drugs such as “poppers” that contain amyl nitrate and/or butyl nitrate.

To reduce your risk of experiencing drug interactions from Viagra, make sure to inform your healthcare provider about any medications you currently use or have recently used.

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Does Viagra Make You Last Longer in Bed?

This question is tough to answer with a simple yes or no, since it depends on a variety of factors that can affect your sexual performance.

First, there’s currently no scientific evidence linking Viagra with a slower time to ejaculation. This means that using Viagra won’t necessarily make you last longer in bed before you reach orgasm and ejaculate.

However, if Viagra or similar medication improves your sexual confidence, you may find it easier to last for longer in bed. 

Interestingly, there are a few studies that suggest Viagra may be a potential treatment option for men that suffer from premature ejaculation (PE). 

In a 2007 study, researchers noted that Viagra is “effective and safe” for treating PE, and that it had a higher efficacy level than the SSRI paroxetine or the “squeeze” technique.

A different study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that while Viagra didn’t have any significant impact on intravaginal ejaculatory latency (the amount of time until ejaculation), it did improve men’s confidence, sexual satisfaction and perception of ejaculatory control.

In general, it’s best not to think of Viagra as something that can help you delay ejaculation while having sex.

However, if you frequently lose your erection during sex, Viagra could have a positive effect on the amount of time you can last in bed. 

Viagra and similar ED medications make it easier to develop and sustain an erection, meaning you’re less likely to lose your erection during sex due to anxiety or lack of stimulation.

In short, the answer to this question could be either “yes” and “no,” depending on your personal circumstances. 

While Viagra isn’t linked to delayed ejaculation and generally won’t help you to last longer in the sense most people think of, it could potentially improve your general sexual performance. 

Does Taking Viagra Immediately Result in an Erection?

This is another common Viagra myth — that taking Viagra will result in you immediately getting an instantaneous, uncontrollable erection.

The reality of Viagra is very different. Viagra and other ED medications don’t directly cause you to get an erection or provide any kind of sexual stimulation on their own.

Instead, all these medications do is improve the rate of blood flow to your penis when you feel aroused. This makes it easier to get and maintain an erection, but it won’t cause you to get an erection spontaneously.

Without any type of sexual stimulation (whether it’s visual, physical or psychological), you won’t get an erection after taking Viagra. 

Your sexual arousal process will still be the same as normal. However, when you feel sexually aroused, you’ll likely find it easier to get an erection due to Viagra’s effects on blood flow. 

Does Viagra Help You Recover Faster After Orgasm?

Another common belief about Viagra is that it can reduce your refractory period — the amount of time that needs to pass for a man to recover after having sex and reaching orgasm.

In this case, the common belief about Viagra is actually true. Scientific studies usually show that ED medications such as Viagra reduce the amount of time needed to recover after sex, often by quite a significant amount.

For example, a small study of 20 people that looked into Viagra’s effect on refractory time found that a standard 100mg dose of sildenafil reduced the average male post-sex recovery time from 10.8 +/- 0.9 minutes to 2.6 +/- 0.7 minutes.

A different study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine also found that some men with PE were able to recover in less time after sex after using Viagra.

However, it’s worth noting that not every study produces these results, suggesting that Viagra’s potential effects on refractory time may not be the same in all men. 

Does Viagra Affect Your Sex Drive?

Another common myth about Viagra is that it can increase your sex drive and cause you to feel more motivated to have sex.

Viagra is designed to improve your physical performance during sex — that is, your ability to get and maintain an erection. However, it isn’t associated with any significant increase in your level of sexual interest, sexual arousal or your sex drive in general.

For the most part, the male sex drive is controlled by hormonal factors, from adrenal hormones to androgen hormones such as testosterone. For example, a common sign of low testosterone is a weaker-than-normal sex drive.

Viagra isn’t a hormonal medication. As such, it won’t have any significant effects on your levels of androgen hormones or sex drive. Instead, Viagra simply makes it easier to get and maintain an erection when you’re already in the mood for sex.

Does Viagra Change The Way Sex Feels?

Although Viagra can make it easier to get and maintain an erection, it does not seem appear to have any effect on the way sex feels. 

Taking Viagra won’t make you feel more stimulated during sexual activity, nor will it result in any positive or negative change in the level of sensation you feel. There’s also no research showing that Viagra causes more intense or satisfying orgasms. 

With this said, if you suffer from ED, using Viagra may produce a noticeable improvement in the general level of enjoyment you get from sex due to effects on your sexual performance. 

Viagra can also have an indirect psychological effect by making you feel more confident in bed, which may improve your sexual experience overall. 

However, there’s no evidence to show that Viagra changes the way sex feels or has any impact on the physical sensations you experience during sex.

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The Bottom Line on What Viagra Does

So, what does Viagra do to men? Viagra doesn’t have any noticeable impact on your sex drive, sexual stimulation or general level of interest in sex. It also won’t trigger a sudden erection right after you take it or prevent you from having sex normally.

Although Viagra can cause side effects, most are mild, and there’s no evidence that it will cause any medical condition simply because you use it to treat erectile dysfunction. 

Put simply, Viagra makes getting and maintaining an erection easier. That’s it — there’s no catch, hidden effects or long-term complications to worry about, provided you use it as prescribed.

8 Sources

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

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  3. Erection Ejaculation: How It Occurs. (2020, November 27). Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/10036-erection-ejaculation-how-it-occurs
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  5. McMahon, C.G., et al. (2005, May). Efficacy of sildenafil citrate (Viagra) in men with premature ejaculation. The Journal of Sexual Medicine. 2 (3), 368-375. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16422868/
  6. Aversa, A., et al. (2000, January). Effects of sildenafil (Viagra) administration on seminal parameters and post-ejaculatory refractory time in normal males. Human Reproduction. 15 (1), 131-134. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10611201/
  7. Ekmekçioğlu, O., Inci, M., Demirci, D. & Tatlişen, A. (2005, February). Effects of sildenafil citrate on ejaculation latency, detumescence time, and refractory period: placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover laboratory setting study. Urology. 65 (2), 347-352. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15708051/
  8. Could you have low testosterone? (2021, May 13). Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000722.htm

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.