This article originally appeared on VICE Germany
Volker Wittkamp is 33 and says he's handled over 6,000 penises in his life. For professional reasons. He's a urologist in a clinic near Cologne, Germany. He doesn't just diagnose and perform surgery on his patients' penises, he also wrote the book on them. In Fit im Schritt – Wissenswertes von Urologen, which roughly translates to "A Healthy Crotch – Things Your Urologist Wants You to Know", he writes about his adventures in urology. It's been translated into French, Polish, Dutch and Norwegian, in case you'd like catch up with those adventures.
Generally, urologists are not as highly regarded as, say, neurologists, and Dr Wittkamp says he spends the first half of most parties he attends explaining why he decided to devote his life to incontinence and fractured dicks. But usually, that attitude changes after a few beers, when suddenly everyone is dying to hear his medical horror stories or asks for penis-related advice "for a friend".
I didn't want to wait for a party to bump into a urologist, so I got in touch with Dr Wittkamp to ask him some questions. For journalistic purposes only, of course.
VICE: What's the weirdest thing you've ever had to remove from someone's urethra?
Volker Wittkamp: A pipe cleaner – a long piece of wire covered with tufted yarn. There's a small chance the patient was very passionate about cleaning, but it's more likely he did it for sexual stimulation. And I had a patient once who had injected his penis with hot paraffin wax to make it look bigger. I had to surgically remove the hardened pieces. In any major city clinic, at least once a month you'll see a patient with something in his urethra that's not supposed to be there.
Of course, urologists around the world share their best stories. A Swiss doctor once told me about a patient who regularly came in about a bladder infection. It took a few months, but the doctor finally found out that his patient worked in a fetish bar, and often shot drinks up his urethra so he could piss them out before serving it to his customers. That's not good news for your bladder.
Do you start to develop a complex after seeing so many penises every day?
No, I'm definitely not the most well-endowed man, but I'm within the average. And studies say women generally care more about the diameter and overall appearance of a penis than length, anyway. The smallest penis I have ever seen was six centimetres long, in an erect state.
Is it really a thing that some guys put their dicks in vacuum cleaners?
Yes, I've seen one case of that – the patient told me he was cleaning up cat hair when he stumbled and it got sucked in. However it happens, it's a very bad idea to stick your member in a vacuum cleaner. The pressure can cause blood vessels to burst, and it can get particularly dangerous when the penis comes too close to the fan inside.
What's the worst state you've ever seen someone's junk in?
The worst I've seen was a severe testicular inflammation. It had spread within a few hours, and the skin on my patient's testicles had rapidly turned black and leathery. They looked like they were made of burnt pieces of paper. We had to immediately amputate the man's scrotum and half of his penis, as well as tissue from his leg and abdomen. That was bad.
And I think it's always astonishing to see penile fractures. Broken penises actually look like medium-sized aubergines – so it's a bit unsettling to me that people use the aubergine emoji as a phallic symbol when they're sexting. I would say the cob of corn looks a lot more like it.
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What's the most ridiculous way you've seen someone attempt to improve their performance in bed?
I had a patient who had inserted the head of a toothbrush into his penis. He had kept it in his mouth for two days first, to let his body "get used to it" – and he had then made an incision in his penis and pushed it under the skin. All of that, just hoping he'd be able to stimulate his partner better. It obviously became inflamed.
What made you decide to specialise in the peen?
That's a misconception – a urologist deals with kidneys, testicles, the urethra, the prostate and bladders. I also see female patients for their bladder infections. When I had to specialise, my girlfriend said that urology would be a good fit for me because I'm pretty easygoing and can see the humour in things. And I think she had a point – it's important to be a bit laid-back when you're dealing with the most intimate parts of your patients' bodies.
After all the raging effects of STIs I imagine you've seen in your career, do you ever dare to have sex without a condom?
I have a steady girlfriend and we have safe sex, but without condoms. But before that, I'd never sleep with someone without a condom – STIs are seriously on the rise. Most can be treated, but some are pesky, persistent and very contagious – like genital warts, for example. They're these lightly-coloured moles formed together like little cauliflowers. The biggest one I've ever seen was the size of a tennis ball.
Men with permanent boners – cool or painful?
Oh, it's awful. In the case of a prolonged erection, the blood that rushed to the penis can't flow back. Eventually, the blood is deprived of oxygen, which can damage the tissue or even be life-threatening. To treat it, I have to drain blood by puncturing the penis with a large syringe – either at the base or through the glans. In many clinics, the pressure in the penis is built by wrapping and inflating a children's blood pressure monitor around it. So aside from the pain, that also means you'll have this colourful cuff with cartoon animals around your member.
Can you tell how often someone has sex by the size of their balls?
No, that's a myth. Testicles are totally different from person to person. But the phenomenon of blue balls is actually a thing – testicles can swell up when someone hasn't had sex in a long time.
Do you grab some patients firmer by the balls than others?
No, I don't treat someone differently just because I don't like them. But I have raised an eyebrow or two at some patients who came in. Once, one of my patients was worried that something was terribly wrong, because he had suddenly noticed a line running from his foreskin to his perineum. That line is called the perineal raphe and everyone has it – everyone. And I'm always fascinated by the lengths people go to hoping to improve their erections – rings, injections, dubious drugs. You can laugh at me for being a urologist all you want, but people really need to be better informed about these things.