LIKE many people, I get about a dozen emails a day bearing news good and bad. The bad is that mypenis is too small, too soft and lacking the endurance to satisfy a fruit fly. The good is I can build a longer, stronger and everlasting erection for a few hundred dollars — by taking miracle pills.
Example: "Get ready to be stopped by women in the street. Your entire image will emanate increased size! This is what you always needed to lead a happier, more fulfilling life."
What's being promised is akin to Jack's magic beans, except penis-enlargement pills don't work so spectacularly. To get the extra inches requires at least a six-month commitment. But the pills need to be taken with an exercise program — "jelq" — including drills similar to stretching hamstrings before jogging. To see what it takes to become a Mr Big, go to enlargepenisguide.com. You'll find a nude man, a fairly happy man one imagines, pretending to be a clock, with what appears to be a baby's arm grafted to his pubic bone as the minute hand.
By the time I found this impressive fellow, I'd already paid $106 for a month's supply of SizePro (chosen because of its professional-sounding name) and followed these instructions: "Type your name, the number of inches you want to gain, and the reason(s) you want to gain those inches in the blanks below. And read the completed statement out loud to reinforce the commitment that will lead to your ultimate success."
And so my colleagues heard me pledge earnestly: "I, John Elder, have decided I want to gain two inches in length and one inch in girth (I felt modest ambition would minimise disappointment). My reasons are vanity. And I'm committed to a good penis-pill system until I reach my desired gains."
If I hadn't made this pledge, I could have abandoned the project — particularly after spotting Mr Baby Arm, whom I presume is also trying to improve himself. And that's the rub. If you're born with one of these ridiculous organs, there are times when just about every man feels short-changed.
The average size of an erect penis is about 15.24 centimetres — six inches in the old money. (When talking about penis size, it's traditional to use inches.) The sad thing is it seems there are many men living fretfully with a ruler in one hand and a world of hope in the other. To meet some of these people, return to http://enlargepenisguide.com — and log on to the "progress reports" forum. You'll find men apparently taking the pills, diligently jelqing (stretching a flaccid penis) and sharing how it's hanging. Like Nicky: "I'm 21, and, measured from the pelvic bone, the length of my penis is around 7.5 inches, but I've always wanted to be large like a porn star. I've been doing the exercise a few days now …"
Occasionally, someone claims spectacular results. The simple reason is that the pills — herbal aphrodisiacs, not muscle-building proteins — give little more than an illusion of growth by concentrating blood in the otherwise shrivelled underbelly. But the real joke is that the more anxious one becomes about penis size, the more it is likely to shrink.
"The curious thing about our society, most of the time we pretend that the penis doesn't shrink," says David Mitchell, a doctor and a medical anthropologist. "In fact, the penis doesn't have a set flaccid size. It's actually meaningless to measure the size of the penis because it varies from minute to minute according to the temperature and one's state of mind. The trouble is, if you get anxious, it only makes it smaller, to the point where it can disappear … in cases where anxiety spirals into a panic attack."
Dr Mitchell has researched a recent outbreak of these attacks — known as "shrinking penis disease" — on the Indonesian island of Flores, where black magic is widely practised. In these instances, the sufferer believes he will die if his penis disappears. The last outbreak in a modern society occurred in Singapore in 1962, following a rumour that eating pork vaccinated against swine fever would cause shrinking penis disease.
"There were people rushing through the streets holding their penises … some of them using chopsticks," Dr Mitchell says. "As soon as they hit the hospital and started to relax, they came back to normal."
Dr Mitchell says the disease could re-emerge in the Western world. "It could come back again in our society if someone spread the right stories around," he says.
Chris Fox, of La Trobe University, is doing a PhD on penis size and its role in body image. So far, he has interviewed 15 men aged 20 to 75. "The short answer is that every man at some point in his life worries about the size of his penis," Mr Fox says. "If we don't like our penis we won't enjoy sex. For people with a pathological issue with penis size, it will affect their sex life.
"In some cases it will affect how they behave around other men. And one has to remember that most people make their comparison with a flaccid penis — at the urin