I meet Guillermo at a pizza parlor in San Antonio, the colonial part of Cali, Colombia, popular with young gringos and Europeans. As we get to talking, it turns out Guillermo lived in NYC for four years, he's into heavy metal, and he's a dealer. After finishing our pizza we walk over a few blocks to his apartment in El Centro where we enter through a small dry goods store. While he opens up drawers and pulls out different-sized plastic envelopes containing acid, ecstasy, cocaine, pot, and opium, Guillermo's mother walks back and forth, attending to customers who've come to buy sugar, chocolate milk, beer, and cigarettes.
I buy a gram of near-pure coke for $5 dollars, though it's mostly out of politeness. The fact is, I'm after another drug that's a lot harder to come by, and Guillermo is one of the only dealers in Cali who stocks it.
After Guillermo packs up the recreational drugs, he reaches over, grabs a knapsack and starts pulling out dozens of exotic little pillboxes. He gives me the lowdown on the effects of each of them and in the end I choose a black bottle (for $20 dollars) with its brand name written in Chinese, Korean, Arabic, and Russian and illustrated with silhouettes of two golden kangaroos. Inside, there are ten golden pills in the shape of Australian boomerangs. The instruction pamphlet in the box explains that these pills "...trigger love fire through expanding and comfortable swelling...."
It's not that I need "love fire" in a pill (I'm still a hard-working man with plenty of piss and vinegar in me), but I'm up to giving it a run with my local lady friend just for kicks. According to Guillermo, when he first started selling sex stimulants there was a stigma attached to the pills that only sexually inadequate men needed them, but now men of all ages and sexual preferences are popping pills in front of their lovers as part of a normal, healthy sex life.
It's hard to generalize about cities and cultures, but there are several reasons why caleños might very well enjoy more, better sex than people in most cities around the world. The fact that Cali enjoys intense year-round tropical heat, allowing locals to strut around in their skimpiest clothes; that even strangers call each other papi, mami, and amor; that most everyone learned to dance salsa when they were children and are thus great movers and shakers; that the cocaine produced here is pure and cheap; the fact that prostitution is legal and there are dozens of whore houses for all wallets; and that there are affordable, extravagant love motels all over the city, surely ups the level of sexual activity in this town.
In addition to the traditional places where people make love, sex in and around the city is so common that there is a name, desnucadero, for the myriad places, such as abandoned buildings, construction sites, dark alleys, etc, where people sneak in for a quick hump; a local term for quickies in public places, bluyinear, which means fucking with your blue jeans on; and a new trend called dogging, where young people agree on the internet to meet in local parks for sex.
These natural sex pills are mostly made in Asia, but they also work wonders for the racially diverse men in this tropical, sexually-saturated city. Caleños have long consumed their own local aphrodisiacs including natural products such as bananas, coconut, a fruit named borojol, and the homemade sugarcane alcohol named viche (one variety of which is called tumba catres, bed-breakers). In addition, local markets sell magic products, such as powders, sprays, lotions, and candles (one in the shape of a large black dick with balls) designed to help both men and women dominate their lovers and give them superpowers in bed.
Nonetheless, these days, global corporations peddling pharmaceuticals engineered to increase blood circulation in male genitals have penetrated sexual activity across the globe, including way down here in the southwestern corner of Colombia. Men in Cali increasingly look to modern corporate chemistry to give their sex life a lift.
Although men in the West seek help from pharmaceuticals, in the East there are hundreds of products that claim to be composed of natural ingredients that traditional healers have been prescribing for thousands of years to keep men and women happy, healthy, and sexed-up. China's ancient herbal and animal aphrodisiacs repackaged in modern pill form have recently become a huge export industry, and in the last decade sales of natural sexual enhancers have tripled.
Nearly every drugstore in Cali sells Viagra and half a dozen cheaper generic varieties over the counter. While local sex shops in the city sell some alternative Viagra, few sell natural sex products from Asia, leaving Guillermo a window of opportunity. In the 90s, inside an upscale mall, Guillermo tells me he ran one of the city's only sex shops in Cali, selling inflatable dolls, handcuffs, and remote controlled vaginas (there are sex shops all around town servicing the city's population of two million). Although he no longer has a sex shop, Guillermo still sells a long line of lubricants, delayers, dilators, and dildos, as well as more than a dozen varieties of Asian sex stimulants he says are smuggled in from Hong Kong through the coastal town of Buenaventura.
Asian sex pills claim to be made from natural products that include a wide variety of plants, such as wolfberry and saffron, though ginseng, which often grows in exotic seductive shapes that resemble curvaceous women and worth their weight in gold, tends to be listed as the main ingredient. My gold pills, however, announce that they contain not only plants but also powder derived from some very sensitive parts of some very exotic animals, including "testicle of yak, sea horse penis, sea dog penis, snow deer penis, tiger penis, snake penis, Tibetan mastiff penis, Tibetan goat penis, and Tibetan donkey penis."
It's hard to know what these pills really contain since there is no industry oversight of herbal treatments. Many of them start working their magic in under half an hour, basically the same as Viagra and other pharmaceutical stimulants. Pfizer, the manufacturer of Viagra, has long accused Asian natural sex stimulants of being laced with sildenafil, their wonder pill's main ingredient, and the powerful pharmaceutical lobby applauds when the FDA bans or recalls "herbal" pills containing active substances found in patented sex products.
According to NBC, a study by Pfizer estimated that 69% of more than the 3,000 Asian sex pills they tested were laced with patented lab compounds, but it's hard to swallow such statistics knowing that pharmaceutical corporations will go to great lengths to crack down on competition, especially natural, lower-priced alternatives.
Even when they are not adulterated, laboratory-produced chemical compounds that enhance the functioning of the male sexual organ are known to produce such side effects as headaches, flushed faces, nasal congestion, nausea, irregular heartbeat, tremors, changes in blood pressure, visual disturbances (such as difficulty distinguishing between green and blue), chest pain, and can lead to more serious complications when used in conjunction with other pharmaceuticals or stimulants.
With so much uncertainty surrounding the ingredients of both over-the-counter and under-the-radar pills, and with so many cultural, social, and economic concerns, what's a man to do? Obviously, go for the cheapest ones in the coolest bottles designed with the most potent images (one box has an image of Godzilla and Mothra going head to head in battle), accompanied by the most evocative results ("to quicken blood flow to cells in male cavernous body").
In the end, despite possible health risks and risks to endangered species, for me it boils down to whether these pills work. The golden pill I pop has me up and ready in about 20 minutes, and keeps my member standing at attention for hours of great sex. It's exciting to achieve the much announced "bigger, stronger, harder, longer," though I'm quite aware that a big boner doth not a great lover make. Although I've probably just consumed some form and quantity of pharmaceutical substance along with other ingredients of unknown origin, I am grateful that by merely swallowing a miniature golden boomerang from a bottle decorated with kangaroos and beautiful Chinese characters I was able to achieve what my pills' instructional and poetical pamphlet guaranteed in five different languages, the "infinite tremendous."
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