This article originally appeared on VICE US
You can have a larger penis. This idea and every conceivable variant of it has been the opening gambit of innumerable spam emails and pop-up ads since about five minutes after the internet was invented. Products being indiscriminately pushed at men include pills, topical ointments, pumps, even tutorials on an ancient Arabic enlargement technique called jelqing. These varied approaches have one thing in common: a total lack of evidence to show that they provoke the significant, permanent size gains they promise.
Still, the emails keep coming and the pop-ups keep popping up. Perhaps that’s due to a growing body of evidence demonstrating that a penis that’s thicker and/or longer than average is desirable for the vast majority of people who’ve ever found themselves at either end of one.
That’s not to say that most people are dissatisfied with their own penis or the penis of their partner. In fact, one recent study showed that a whopping 85 percent of American men are satisfied with the hand they’d been dealt. Another study found that exactly the same proportion of women (86 percent) are also happy with what their partner is packing. But that same study—published in the journal Psychology of Men & Masculinity—found that 45 percent of men wanted to be larger.
It looks to me that the way questions are posed is producing data that can seem a little contradictory when comparing different studies. If, for instance, I was asked if I was satisfied with the size of my penis, I’d say "yes." If, on the other hand, I was asked if I’d like an extra inch or even two, I would say "yes, please." And not all of reasons why would have to do with my own opinion that having a larger-than-average penis would be neat.
Research from the University of California and the University of New Mexico showed that female study participants had preference for larger-than-average penises for long-term partners (hence the term “boyfriend dick”) and wanted the schlongs of more casual partners to be larger still. The study’s authors noted that: “Given that women typically experience more pleasurable and orgasmic sex in longer-term relationships, they might prefer a larger penis for short-term sex partly so the increased physical sensation compensates for the reduced psychological connection.”
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Other research has demonstrated that, up to a point, even flaccid penis size has an effect on how attractive men appear to women. It would be a safe bet to say that whoever manages to come up with a safe, affordable, and effective method of making penises bigger stands to make a fucking fortune.
Well it turns out that this technology was invented some time ago. It’s a simple penile traction device comprised of one plastic yoke that attaches to the head of the penis and another that sits at the base. The two metal rods that connect these two collars can be gradually lengthened by the user stretching the penis over time. Its efficacy at making penises longer has been confirmed in several peer-reviewed studies, and Amazon will be glad to sell you one for as little as $24.99. (Of course, there's always the Jaguar of extenders if you're feeling fancy, which ranges from $75 to $300.)
But based on these various penile traction devices’ Amazon rankings, no one’s getting Bezos-level rich by manufacturing them. That strikes me as odd given that a.) literally billions of people want a larger-than-average penis in their lives and b.) one of these contraptions and a little gumption will turn average-sized wangs into larger-than-average ones in a matter of a few months. Science says so.
Now, this is the only non-surgical method out there that's been shown to provoke gains in length. Users in one study published in the journal of the British Association of Urological Surgeons found that, on average, those who used a traction extender for four hours per day over over a six-month period increased their stretched penis length by 0.67 inches (1.7 cm). You’re right for thinking that a stretched flaccid penis has limited utility, but in studies, stretched flaccid length is often used as an approximation of erect penis length—maybe because mustering up a boner so your urologist can measure it is as tricky as you might think.
Other studies using varying stretching regimens replicated these results almost exactly. A gain of 0.67 inches might not sound like much, but to the guy with the average erect penis length of 5.17 inches (14.2 cm) it represents an increase of nearly 12 percent. On the height scale, it’s the difference between being 5’8” and 6’4”. Oh and if you’re thinking that 5.17 inches seems a little stingy based on what you’d previously heard about what constitutes average, note that the researchers who arrived at this figure were conducting a meta-analysis of studies in which 15,521 participants penises were measured by medical professionals using a standard method. Turns out that self-reported penis lengths are often rounded up and accurate data thrown out of whack because, well, men.
All this leads me to wonder why everyone isn’t stretching their dicks, either of their own volition or at the behest of their partner. It could be a messaging problem and people are simply unaware that an apparently effective penis-enlarging method exists. It could be that the prospect of wearing a presumably uncomfortable device for hours per day and months on end is wholly unappealing.
Or perhaps the issue is that traction won’t do anything to increase girth, which, according to one study, is the dimension that's more closely correlated with female satisfaction and orgasm frequency. Or maybe widespread adoption is being prevented by the fear of being outed as a stretcher. Or, is it simply because having a longer penis would indeed be neat but as a predictors of sexual satisfaction in both men and women, it lags far behind communication, intimacy, and a working knowledge of your partners’ anatomy.
While a combination of these rationales is what’s kept me from considering trying stretching, the idea that spending six months with my penis in traction could be an interesting follow-up article has begun to take root. While the pills, ointments, or pumps may not give men the gains they and/or their partners want, there’s an opportunity here to see if the the core premise of their marketing can—with a lot of time and effort—be proven out.
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