If there's one thing every man is supposed to desire, it's a girthy dick. Large penises have been venerated (albeit misguidedly) since the ancient Greeks sang songs to golden, 180-foot-long phalluses. Today, a cornucopia of pills, pumps, and stretchers claim to plump, lengthen, and engorge whatever you've got downstairs (though it's highly probable that you're only imagining your penis is micro-sized).
Some of these products are clearly torture devices in disguise, likely dreamed up by frat brothers on acid trips. But one day, while I was admiring the lives of my Instagram friends, a slick ad popped up for something called Stealth. The company's website, which features a scruffy man in sunglasses idling in a classic car, makes penile enhancement seem chill, an NBD method for boosting your confidence. In this case, the tools involved include a black tube of fabric that slides over your manhood and a silicon corkscrew that hangs on top, giving your anatomy what the company calls "extension training," while creating a bulge big enough to provide a comfortable perch for a wayward pigeon.
In fact, Stealth is just one of a wide range of so-called "stretchers" — some of which are far more elaborate. The TLC Tugger, for one, attaches to the head of your penis via a custom-sized suction cup and uses a pulley system to stretch it out. The company recommends that you wear it eight to twelve hours per day. No thanks!
Stealth, as its name would suggest, is more discreet; the $120 system that arrived at my doorstep consisted of what appeared to be a finger puppet, a silicone paperweight, and two latex sheaths that seemed to have been fished out of a dumpster at the Tom of Finland house.
For a while, I stared at the deeply unchill coil and wondered what I had gotten myself into. It is a fundamental truth that penile enhancement techniques, no matter the marketing, feel akin to some kind of intense male coming-of-age ceremony.
Sure enough, after securing the black tube and twisting the coil on top, the bulge in my underwear looked freakish. Twirling daintily from side-to-side, I asked myself: Did I feel more like a man now? No, I felt like I was stuck in a mattress coil. But I decided to continue with my daily tasks as if nothing was amiss.
Thing is, walking your dog with a mattress coil in your pants is about as comfortable as it sounds. Rounding the first corner, there was already significant slippage. Maybe I'd sized it wrong because the coil went rogue, fleeing from my crotch to gently nuzzle my inner thigh. The grazing felt slightly sensual, but the bulge was in a place that couldn't be explained away.
The grazing felt slightly sensual, but the bulge was in a place that couldn't be explained away.
I was considering how best to open my pants and rearrange when I realized I was within eyesight of a neighbor. By now my stupid skinny jeans were starting to slide down my legs, propelled by the giant slinky. I darted home to regroup.
Some light Googling led me to believe I'd not fitted the corkscrew "correctly," but after following the instructions more closely and walking around my apartment, I started to feel a deep ache — as if I was causing irreparable damage.
On the penile enlargement forum, "Matters of Size," user touchmyjunk claims that Stealth is so comfortable that he can wear it longer than its competitor, a "penis tube" called Divosuits which is meant to "elongate the penis all day."
"Sometimes I actually combine the two, sliding a few layers of divosuit on top of the stealth to add more compression and rigidity. And sometimes I will put a thick o-ring around the stealth base for an hour or so after a workout," he writes.
Doctors are skeptical of such claims. Thomas J. Walsh, a urologist at the University of Washington, believes there's little benefit to penis stretching devices. "The evidence that you can durably lengthen the penis with any form of stretching device is really nonexistent," he said.
Believe me, if we had found a way to reliably and safely and effectively lengthen the size of the male phallus, we would have done that a long time ago.
He only recommends stretching devices to patients as a form of rehabilitation when they've suffered illnesses or disease processes in the penis. Even then, he said, the devices simply help men achieve the length they had before the disease, but don't radically increase their natural length.
For the rest of us, Walsh warns, stretching devices can do more damage than good. "We see some men develop nerve damage, bruising, tearing of the skin, loss of sensation in the head of the penis," he said. "Most of these things are temporary, but one could imagine misusing a device where you're essentially applying a tourniquet to the head of the penis and putting tension on it," he added more ominously. "Believe me, if we had found a way to reliably and safely and effectively lengthen the size of the male phallus, we would have done that a long time ago."
Some research indicates that stretching devices may work when used regularly over long (and surely uncomfortable) periods of time. In 2010, a study found that after six months of daily use for less than four hours a day, respondents reported "a significant gain in length of 2.3 and 1.7 cm for the flaccid and stretched penis, respectively," but no significant change in penile girth.
But many of the men who use these devices probably don't need to. "Penile dysmorphic disorder," characterized by the belief that one's penis is small despite all evidence to the contrary, is a real condition that researchers are starting to treat as seriously as body dysmorphic disorder.
In the past, companies have gotten into hot water for marketing their devices to men desperate for an extra half-inch. In 2014, the FDA sent a warning letter to MegaVac systems, makers of a penis vacuum pump device, chastising the company for failing to adequately maintain its device history records, as well as for making the false claim that their product was "FDA Approved" for penile lengthening when it was only approved for improving erections.
Stealth doesn't include an "FDA Approved" sticker, and it's also careful not to explicitly call itself a penis lengthener, instead saying that the device "targets inner ligaments of your penis to gain length faster." (According to Walsh, there are no ligaments in your penis.) The only disclaimer on the site is a vague warning that Stealth does not accept any risk of liability or liability for improper use of their products. In an emailed statement to Broadly, a representative from Stealth said, "We do not make any claims as to the efficacy of our products as Penis Enlargement is not a science in which such claims can be made."
How many dicks have been harmed by these devices? Walsh told me he hasn't come across patients who've caused irreparable damage to their manhood by using a stretcher, but it was hard to say for sure. "The ones who've injured themselves could be too embarrassed to come forward," he said.
As for me, I'm totally fine! (I hope.) And the Stealth now sits on my desk. It really does make for an excellent paperweight.