Dec 16, 2009 6:20 PM
Don't deny it. Ever since you first saw those penis enlargement ads in the back pages of a porn magazine years ago the pictures of sinister-looking devices, the big letters screaming "Add Inches to Your Penis!" you've always wondered: Could I be bigger?
"Guys ask me about it all the time," says Michael O'Leary, MD, a urologist at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. "They say they'll do anything to have a bigger penis." So is there anything they can do?
Not really. "It's pretty much bunk," O'Leary says wearily. After all, if simple, effective penis enlargement were possible, every other guy in America would be a foot long.
Yet common sense isn't enough to stop some of us. And thanks to our culture's restless drive for self-improvement, information about penis enlargement is everywhere. Liberated from the classifieds of behind-the-counter smut, penis enlargement pills are hawked on TV. Without even requesting it, you might have ads conveniently delivered to your email inbox every day. More than 10,000 men in the U.S. probably many more have gone on the operating table to get highly controversial penis enlargement surgery.
But don't open your wallet and unbuckle your pants yet. We've explored the sordid world of penis enlargement so you don't have to.
First, even if you think you're small, odds are that your penis is a normal size. The average erect penis is four to six inches long, with a circumference of four to six inches. There's more variation in the size of flaccid penises. But that just means that a guy who looks well hung in the locker room isn't likely to get much bigger when erect; conversely, a guy who looks small will grow a lot.
Second, if you insist that you're small even when the ruler says you're not, you may earn yourself a psychiatric diagnosis: penile dysmorphic disorder. It's similar to the perceptual distortion of anorexics who still think they're fat no matter how stick thin they get. According to one study, the majority of men who get penis enlargement surgery have this condition. They are also the least satisfied with the results.
"Men who have a normal penile length but are convinced they're small might benefit from seeing a psychiatrist instead of a surgeon," says Karen Elizabeth Boyle, MD, assistant professor of urology and director of Reproductive Medicine and Surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.
But enough of the sensible expert advice. Here is a rundown of your options if you are still looking for a larger penis.
Unlike most enlargement schemes, surgery can work. Even critics concede that. However, there are risks, and the results may be less impressive than you hope. One 2006 study published in European Urology found that the average length gain is less than one inch. Mark P. Solomon, MD, a plastic surgeon outside Philadelphia, agrees that the results are modest but says they are usually a bit better than that.
There are two basic penis enlargement surgeries.
Other penis enlargement surgeries are available. In overweight or obese patients, the fat at the base of the penis may be removed by liposuction. While some surgeons will do both lengthening and widening at once as a deluxe package, others prefer to do them in stages.
While Rosenthal predicts that penis enlargement is about to become as common as breast enlargement, Solomon disagrees. He says the biggest obstacle is the price. Penis lengthening costs anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000. But when it comes to widening, the cost of allograft alone is $5,000 to $7,000 omitting the costs of the surgery itself. To get the works, you might easily need more than $20,000.
However, before you take out a penile improvement loan and slap your penis down on the operating table, it's important to consider the risks. No major medical organization has approved of these surgeries for men with a normal penis. The American Urological Association stresses that they have not been proven safe or effective.
The few studies that have been done aren't encouraging. The European Urology study looked at 42 men who had lengthening procedures and found that only 35% were satisfied with the results; 50% went on to seek further surgery.
"I've seen some real disasters," says O'Leary, describing times he has repaired the damage caused by augmentation gone wrong. Known complications include scarring, infections, loss of a normal erection angle, decrease in sensation, and impotence. Occasionally, lengthening can actually make you shorter: Scar tissue reconnects the penis to the pelvis and draws more of the shaft into your body.
Surgeons who do the procedures say they have good outcomes and serious complications are rare. "I've done thousands of these surgeries," says Rosenthal. "Our techniques have improved a great deal and patients are benefiting."
They are also tired of the argument that men who want this surgery need psychiatric help. This surgery just allows men to feel better about themselves, they say. Of course, there are risks, but that's true of any cosmetic surgery. Would a woman who wants bigger breasts be called crazy? Why is penis enlargement any different?
O'Leary insists it is. Unlike breast augmentation, which has for better or worse become standard, penis augmentation has not.
"If I thought there was a legitimate procedure to augment the penis, I wouldn't have any problem with it," O'Leary says. "But we just don't have an effective, proven, and safe way to offer it."
If you were hoping to find something that works, don't despair. There is one penis enlargement technique that all doctors actually recommend: weight loss. Yeah, it's a bit of a cheat, but it can help.
"A lot of the guys I see who think they're below average are pretty overweight," says Boyle. Their penises are normal but look shorter because they are buried in fat. Being overweight can also make your normal penis look proportionally smaller than the rest of you. So slimming down can help your penis look bigger and longer.
Be wary of everything else. Most penis enlargement techniques are a waste of money. Surgery is expensive, risky, and unstudied. If you have terminal cancer, getting an experimental surgery is often worth the risk. But that's not what we're talking about.
Look at it this way: The penis is an incredibly delicate and sensitive organ. That's what makes it so fantastic. So think very, very carefully before you start messing with it. Is it worth risking an average-sized penis that works to take up the quest for a porn star monster that might not?