In a world obsessed with looks and size, it seems men are no exception.
At first, headlines warned about men’s rapid weight loss – dubbed “manorexia”. But more recently, there’s been a debate about “bigorexia. It’s more formally known as Muscle Dysmorphia – a disorder in which a person becomes obsessed with the idea that they’re not muscular or “big” enough.
But, it’s not the only muscle that many men wish was bigger. Enter the love muscle, (OK technically it’s an organ). The penis is often seen as the epitome of one’s manhood.
That’s why 39 year-old Peter* recently underwent penile enlargement surgery. After a string of unsuccessful relationships, Peter says his size was “the reason women kept walking away.” Although no one explicitly said that in their breakup spiel, he’s convinced of it.
After a few consultations with local surgeons, in January, Peter flew to Bangkok for the procedure because he says it was less costly to have it done abroad.
In Australia, penile lengthening and penile thickening can cost anywhere between $12,000 to $35,000. However package deals are offered online for Aussie men to travel to Asia, stay at nice hotels and have the operation all for approximately $10,000.
Six months on, Peter is happy with the outcome, although he doesn’t want to disclose his before and after measurements.
Australian plastic and cosmetic surgeons often see men like Peter, desperate to get more girth and length. Dr Colin Moore who heads up the Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgeons says the procedure is on the rise. It dropped off a bit during the GFC, but renewed interest in the surgery has seen his calendar booked up for this procedure.
Since the early 1970s, penile lengthening surgery has been performed for males with severe shortening due to birth abnormalities, trauma or surgery that has gone badly. At this time, it was largely restricted to the paediatric world.
Cosmetic surgery to increase penile or thickness, began in the Australia by the late 1980s, and long term results were beginning to be achieved both in length and girth – purely for aesthetic reasons.
The results vary from patient to patient, however an extra 2.5cm to 7cm can be achieved in length (when erect) and the diameter of a penis can be enlarged by up to 2cm.
Dr Colin Moore says the four hour procedure attracts, “All sorts of people, tradesmen, doctors, lawyers, even journalists.”
It’s a view echoed by plastic surgeon Dr David Caminer who says he sees men of “all ages, income brackets, from builders to barristers.”
Dr Caminer says he is often telling clients that their size is more “normal” than they realise. He tells me, it’s “often in their heads. And there’s nothing wrong with their penis”. But for some reason, men are feeling increasing pressure to have a “substantial package”.
A 2002 study published in the International Journal of Impotence Research documented 67 men who came to a university hospital in Italy complaining of having a short penis. However, none of the patients fell into the category of a short penis. They were all of average size.
This begs the question – what is “normal”? And when should someone worry about their penis size?
According to a 2001 study by a lifestyle condom company, medical staff measured flaccid and erect penises for 400 males. It was the first time an objective effort was made to discover what the “average” penis size is.
Their hands-on study found:
- the average erect penis length was 14.9cm
- the average erect girth 12.6cm
- the majority of men had an erect length which fell in the range of 13.3cm to 15.2cm
- only about 10 men out of the 300 had penises which measured 17.8 cms or more.
So while Peter opted for this type of surgery to help find a long term partner, Dr Colin Moore says he is seeing, “A trend of men having the penis enlargement surgery as a post -divorce ‘tidy-up’ much the same way women have facelifts. And they can cost about the same”.
He stresses that, “Sexual ability depends on technique and not so much on size. However there is no doubt that the increased self- confidence post operation can result in increased sexual ability.”
And local surgeons warn against going abroad for such an intricate procedure, “A current patient went to Thailand initially to have this surgery. You are meant to lay flat for two weeks afterwards, he flew back a few days after the operation. As a result there’s enormous swelling, he has lost all the skin on his shaft. While, the deal was meant to be a bargain, he has so far spent more than $34,000 fixing it.”
Yet a study by a couple of Urologists from the University of Turin in Italy goes one step further. They warn men against having this type of surgery altogether. Their research found there were high levels of complications and many men were still unhappy, post operation. They suggest men try non-invasive options like vacuum devices, and Botox injections.
But ideally, they want men to consider therapy to help them feel better about their bodies.
*Not his real name
What’s behind men’s desire to be bigger?
Does size really matter to you? Are women’s sexual expectations making men more insecure?
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*Antoinette Lattouf is a Ten News reporter. She’s an award winning and Walkley nominated journalist. She has worked at the SBS, ABC and Triple J. Antoinette is a mother and a wife. You can follow her on Twitter: @antoinette_TEN.