Does Size Matter?
The Adventures of ‘Unhung Hero’
Penis size is an issue that a lot of men worry about, but few discuss publicly, so I commend Patrick Moote, the star of the film, for his honest exploration of this topic. The questions he asks in the documentary are the same ones that I answer all the time in my work as a sexuality educator: Does size matter? Do penis enhancement pills work? What about penis pumps? Patrick interviews lots of people (including some of the godparents of the modern sex-positive movement, Carol Queen, Robert Lawrence and Annie Sprinkle) and offers himself up as a test subject for many different size enhancement treatments, from the seemingly mundane to the extreme.
This is kind of a spoiler, but since it’s the same thing that I tell people all the time, I’m going to say it anyway: none of this shit works. Patrick subjects himself to months of pills, pumps and jelqing, with no significant change to show for it. I have never sold penis enhancement pills of any kind in my store, even though people ask for them daily, because they are completely unregulated and untested. Not only do they not have an effect on penis size, but they can actually be dangerous—the FDA has placed at least 36 “herbal” penis pills on its warning list. These pills are a perfect example of a product that preys on people’s insecurities for profit. For a long time, I didn’t sell penis pumps in my store, either. Eventually, we began to carry them, because some people enjoy using them for masturbation or to temporarily increase blood flow to the penis, but I always warn customers who purchase them that they will not permanently change penis size, and I loathe that the packaging for most pumps seems to imply that they will.
From my perspective, the real issue here is that male sexuality in mainstream U.S. culture has been completely reduced to the penis. The size and hardness of a man’s erection is seen to be the sum total of his sexual worth. This goes hand in hand with the fact that when most people talk about “sex,” they mean penis-in-vagina penetration—also really reductive. Several of the people Patrick interviews for Unhung Hero allude to this—pointing out that many women wish that their partners would perform oral sex more often, for instance, or noting that for anal penetration, a smaller penis can be preferable to a larger one. One interviewee says that she has a foot fetish and cares much more about feet than she does about penises. The range of consensual, pleasurable sexual activities that people can take part in is so vast that it’s a shame that so many men spend so much time worrying over a single aspect of it.
Yes, penis size does matter—sometimes, for some activities, to some people. But bigger is not always better. As I wrote in a previous column, smaller dildos outsell larger ones in my store. Some of our most popular dildos are 4 inches to 5 inches long and 1 inch to 1.25 inches in diameter, slightly smaller than the average human penis. Not everyone is a size queen.
I could write a whole other column about why the “bigger is better” myth exists (the rise of porn culture and the fact that larger penises are easier to shoot on film, for one). For now, I’m glad that Unhung Hero has been so well received and has hopefully made it easier to talk about this myth. I was really pleased to see an almost-full house during the screening I attended and the enthusiastic reaction of the audience.
Laura Anne Stuart owns the Tool Shed, an erotic boutique on Milwaukee’s East Side. She has a master’s degree in public health and has worked as a sexuality educator for more than fifteen years. Want Laura to answer your questions in SEXPress? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Not all questions received will be answered in the column, and Laura cannot provide personal answers to questions that do not appear here. Questions sent to this address may be reproduced in this column, both in print and online, and may be edited for clarity and content.