Friday, September 23, 2016
Two True Penis Stories
Penis Envy: How Size Influences Self-Esteem
The center of a man’s existence is his penis. At the root of his self-worth is how he feels about the size of his penis and what he thinks about its ability to please his partners.
At least that is how many men seem to experience life.
As men, our relationship with our penises is a complicated affair related to our sense of power. For some, life is a dick-wagging contest, a competition played out in the boardroom, bedroom and on the playing field. The guy with the big dick proudly asserts his entitlement with authority while the guy with the small dick bullies co-workers and acts like a-know-it-all.
There isn’t a man who hasn’t compared the size of his penis to other men in the locker room or at the urinal, a sizing-up that leads to either a prideful smile or a sense of inadequacy. It’s the shame, that’s coined a catch phrase: “I’m a grower, not a shower.”
One handsome, straight, young man told me, “Men think about their penis at least ten times a day.”
How often have men worried if they are going to measure up, literally, when getting naked with a new partner’s previous lovers? Will a grin or a smirk greet the bared private part? And when it’s two men about to have sex, isn’t there always that moment of anxiety when they wonder whose dick is bigger?
Of course, if a guy deals with all these size issues and actually starts having sex without a panic attack, there’s always the matter of sexual performance nagging at him. Will he be able to sustain his erection? Let’s face it. There isn’t a man whose uncooperatively limp penis hasn’t embarrassed him at some time during sex.
All of this pales in comparison, though, to the mortal fear of premature ejaculation or taking too long to come and boring, no pun intended, one’s partner to death.
It’s a wonder any man ever has sex.
A penis is tied to a man’s sense of his virility. Beyond athleticism, job prestige or earning potential, the powerful penis is considered the true physical manifestation of masculinity. A man is supposed to spread his seed and have the proper tool to do it with.
Perhaps the anxiety begins in boyhood when, all too often, the first unforgettable penis comparison happens with a much bigger one – a father’s or older brother’s.
Into adolescence, popular films and television shows like Hung and Sex in the City, where attractive women vocalize their preferences for well-endowed men, doesn’t alleviate the anxiety.
Watching pornography – as do most men – can set off alarm bells. The average human penis is about six inches long, but porn stars set the gold standard higher, at a whopping eight-plus inches.
The rationalization that “It’s not the size of my penis that matters, but who I am as person” doesn’t really seem to put the matter to rest.
To find out more directly what women think, I spoke with my daughter Alyssa, a fellow psychotherapist in Portland, Oregon, whose practice is largely female.
“Most men don’t speak about their penis to their partner, so most women take it for granted that men don’t worry about their penises until they come across the man who asks more than once for reassurance,” she told me. “My male clients express their concern more about maintaining an erection or pleasing their partner at first, but then as they get more comfortable with me, they might acknowledge that size is a concern. There’s isn’t a man with whom I’ve discussed this who hasn’t measured his penis and then gone online to see how his size stands up against others. I think the insecurity comes from a deep sense of male competition that’s inbred in our culture. Most men fear that that they will not be able to attract and keep a mate. Will she will fantasize about another man and leave me for someone better endowed?”
Some female patients have told Alyssa their partners’ sizes was not something they remembered except for those penises outside the average range. One woman said, “The really thick or really small ones are hard to forgot for different reasons, but, personally, I place more of an interest on our emotional relationship than on the size of his penis. When I see a nice one, I think it’s a lovely bonus.”
“I once had a patient who came to therapy,” Alyssa said, “because he felt that his penis was betraying him. When faced with the opportunity for intercourse, his penis would rarely comply. He was erect during masturbating but limp when faced with the actual prospect of intercourse with a woman. Until the therapy progressed, he did not make the connection that his emotions influenced his performance. Instead, he thought his penis had a mind of its own.
“Some women envy men for their ability to become quickly aroused and reach orgasm, but most don’t envy what Freud assumed: that women envy men simply because they have a penis.
“One women had the perfect rejoinder: ‘Men can’t fake it. We can. So we have the power.’”
My own patient Sam, 30, worried about the size of his penis for as long as he could remember. He felt ashamed and depressed because of it.
By the time he came to therapy, he believed his penis was shrinking. He measured it regularly, his findings showing daily fluctuations. On some days, it even grew. Yet this is what he told me: “Overall, the data proves it’s getting smaller.”’
I had once read about Koro, a culturally specific syndrome from Southeast Asia in which there’s an overpowering belief that an evil spirit has the power to shrink a penis until it eventually disappears. But that was not quite Sam’s case.
When I asked Sam about his sex life, he told me he was still a virgin, too shy and self-conscious to have sex. He said he masturbated excessively and wondered if that might be the cause of his problem. When I asked what he thought about when he masturbated, Sam told me that he fantasized having an enormous penis that every woman admired. Unfortunately, though, Sam’s penis embarrassed him.
Naturally, the first thoughts I entertained were that Sam felt deeply inadequate and was metaphorically expressing his obsession with the small size of his penis.
But the truth was actually more interesting.
Sam’s father, a warm and affable fellow, worked as a rabbi in a local synagogue. To earn extra money he served as a mohel in the religious ceremony called a bris when baby boys are circumcised eight days after birth.
A Jewish Bris
After performing a bris, Sam’s father would make jokes at home. “That boy was hung like a horse.
Not anymore!” Sam’s mother, Paula, a math teacher, stifling a big laugh would reply, “Oh, Murray. How many centimeters?”
Sometimes in jest, his father would chase young Sam around the table with his “butcher’s” knife.
Sam was a handsome boy who did well academically. But even his popularity in school didn’t spare him some needling about his father’s religious duty. Sam took it all very personally. He internalized the teasing and began to taunt himself. He focused his attention on his penis and increasingly lived in fear of losing it.
Obvious, right? But when you’re caught in an obsessive spiral, it really is not so clear.
It took several sessions for Sam to make the connection between his past experience and present concerns, and when he did his family’s sense of humor returned.
During the fourth session, I handed Sam a ruler and asked him to go into the restroom and measure his penis. “Four-and-a-half inches flaccid,” he said when he returned.
I took the ruler and went into the bathroom to measure myself.
I came back and sat in my therapist chair. “You’re bigger than I am Sam.”
After a moment he said, with a hearty laugh, “I belittled it.”
It was the perfect beginning to our therapy.
Now Sam could learn to have sex.
As for myself. I have an average sized penis that has certainly changed with age. Like every other part of my 67-year-old body, it has more wrinkles than it once did and works better sometimes than others.
But, of course, it has something that a younger penis does not have: years of experience and the wisdom that comes with that.
* * *
Following a failed marriage proposal seen on YouTube ’round the world, Patrick Moote was suddenly confronted with a life-long insecurity of the largest proportions: a “small” penis. In a society that promotes the bigger-is-better ideology at every level, Moote decided to take matters into his own hands. If society feels he truly is too small to be a sufficient man, he wants to expose the reasons why and see if it can be resolved.
Like most children, Moote endured an adolescence of torment. Unfortunately, whereas many of those hurtful comments remain unsubstantiated or resolvable (e.g. too fat, too thin, braces, glasses, et. al), having an undersized penis may be the most psychologically damaging of any irreconcilable body feature.
To make this documentary, director Brian Spitz follows Moote on a much-needed journey of self-discovery, starting with trips to each of his ex-girlfriends to see if their dissatisfaction with him was linked to his manhood. Surprisingly, many of his former flames seemed more offended at the question than interested to answer. For Moote, his would-be fiancée’s rejection tapped into a well-known source of cultural conflict between the sexes. In general, men believe women are strongly concerned with penis size, and women believe men are too focused on their penises to understand sexual pleasure. For this reason, men with bigger penises often become arrogant with women because they believe their ability to satisfy them is built-in. Men with smaller penises believe women will never be satisfied with them sexually, and so they often view women as innately superficial or emasculating before any sexual contact has occurred. In Moote’s case, the fact that his girlfriend cited his “small penis” as her reason to end their relationship was both unexpected and, as becomes evident, suspect.
The more people with whom Moote shares his story, the more he begins to realize that the problem in his relationship had much more to do with his ex-girlfriend than his penis. One by one, people are shocked to hear that his girlfriend would stay in a relationship with him if she had such a problem with his body. It seems only rational that for a woman to wait until the possibility of marriage surfaces in a relationship before mentioning such a superficial sexual issue, there must be much more to it than that. But Moote needs a bit more reassurance, and so his journey continues.
Spitz follows Moote on a series of rollicking trips to his pediatrician, a urologist, a sex shop, a “jelqing” expert, and a host of other cultures, examining the peen-scene frankly from all angles. Jelqing, by the way, is a natural enhancement technique where the penis is stretched to induce small tears, much the way bodybuilders tear muscle in order to enhance its growth. Moote even visits a porn industry expo and asks both male and female porn stars and directors their thoughts about the hot topic of cock size.
The consensus: There are plenty of ways men can give pleasure regardless of penis size, or even the penis at all.
One actress explains that her foot fetish can be satisfied without any penile involvement, and when Moote asks legendary actor Ron Jeremy, “Do you have to have a giant dick?” Jeremy notes, “A good tongue is more important.”
According to Moote’s research, we spend over five billion dollars a year in penile-enhancement products. As Moote puts it, “That’s more than the entire budget for the Red Cross.” Within this context, it seems our culture is more concerned with blood flow to the male member than it is with blood flow to those who need it to survive. All of a sudden, the idea that a man’s view of his penis could be of the same magnitude as life-and-death begins to, well, take shape.
Moote then takes his adventure overseas to a place where men apparently have, on average, the smallest penises in the world: Korea. If there is any question about whether his problem is personal or cultural, he will find the answer there. When he arrives, he is surprised to find that, despite the figures, Korea is rather phallocentric. There are sculpture parks dedicated to penises, penis statues outdoors, and animal penises on many restaurant menus. After speaking with locals, he learns that their cultural interest in the penis has much less to do with size than with virility and strength. He begins to recognize the healthier outlook they have developed socially, possibly owing to their generally smaller members. The opinion seems to be that the penis is a source of strength unto itself, regardless of its measurements.
South Korean Penis Statues
Penis Festival, South Korea
Moote also frames the concept of penis size in a biological context, citing Sexual Selection as an evolutionary reason why humans tend to have penises much larger than functionally necessary to survive. As the journey trudges on, Moote appears to find more reasons to obsess about his penis size than reasons why it matters. This paradox begs the viewer to question whether Moote’s exotic adventure ultimately results in a Moote point.
One thing is certain: Moote may have a below-average sized penis, but he has far above-average sized balls. Both courageous in his honesty and refreshingly down-to-earth in his exchanges with others, Moote becomes an essential voice in this ongoing, controversial debate. Unhung Hero may be just the type of necessary dick-tum from which we learn to shed this unnecessary stigma.
Unhung Hero was released on November 26, 2013.