Until a few years ago, Tom Hubbard didn't put much stock in penis enlargement.
"I'd never heard of it, assumed it wasn't possible," he says. "I started listening to [motivational speaker] Brian Tracy tapes, and one question he asked was, `What's the one thing you'd want if you didn't know it was impossible?' Despite my embarrassment, after some reflection I realized I wanted a bigger dick, period."
Newly inspired, he looked into the possibilities. After four months of squeezing, slapping, and stretching his penis, Tom Hubbard (not his real name) became a believer.
"It's been a magical, empowering `personal growth' experience," Hubbard writes, of the inch or so he's gained. Indeed, Hubbard was so won over that he launched a free Web site devoted to the subject. Judging from the hundreds of thousands of men who have logged on to All About Penis Enlargement, Hubbard was not alone in his desire for a bigger dick. Not by a long shot.
"Almost all guys are convinced that their penises are not large enough," says Derek Polonsky, a sex therapist in Brookline. "This is something that guys have struggled with for ages."
Aline Zoldbrod, a Lexington-based sex therapist, agrees. "Penis size," she says, "is men's number-one concern."
Traditionally, however, it hasn't been one that men are willing to talk openly about. It's a very rare occurrence indeed to have a man lean across a table and confide, I have a small penis. Even today, when boob jobs are discussed more openly than nose jobs were a decade ago, penis enlargement maintains its aura of furtive shame -- one area where men have proved far more self-conscious about body image than women. As Hubbard puts it, quoting Thoreau, "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation."
But this may be changing.
Over the past year, Americans have been privy to a parade of high-profile peckers -- beginning, of course, with the Starr Report, which put the presidential tackle up for public perusal, and gaining momentum when Bob Dole discussed his shortcomings in TV spots for Viagra. With each prime-time mention of erectile dysfunction, each front-page account of the commander-in-chief's penile peccadilloes, the taboo surrounding public discussion of the male unmentionables has been further undermined.
Indeed, men's quiet desperation became something of a cacophony last year when organizers of a golf tournament in Sanctuary Cove, Australia, offered penis-enlargement surgery for the male competitor who hit the longest drive. The tournament proved so popular that the Australian government has moved to ban cosmetic-surgery incentives in sports.
"People are definitely becoming more willing to talk openly about it," says E. Douglas Whitehead, president of the American Academy of Phalloplasty Surgeons. "It's definitely out in the open right now."Polonsky attributes the penile bigger-is-better credo to what he calls "the male-engineering model of sex -- namely, that you have to have a large piston moving inside the cylinder; the bigger the piston, the better the operation."
Polonsky's analogy is apt, but man's obsession with size predates the industrial revolution. Visitors to Dorset, England, are treated to the spectacle of the Cernes Abbas Giant (circa second century AD), a 180-foot figure cut into a chalk hillside, sporting a 25-foot erect todger. Japanese pillow books are lavishly illustrated with guys sporting thigh-size hard-ons. The Kama Sutra is packed with handsomely endowed lovers (or the "Ushvah," the stallion man). Roman-era art is rife with images of the supernaturally sized deity Priapus. From the obelisks of ancient Egypt to the skyscrapers of New York, phallic imagery has dominated the popular imagination for millennia.