Salon, the online magazine, ran an article recently on the topic of penis enlargement. The phrase “penis enlargement,” in addition to being delightfully fun to say or write over and over again, is familiar (of course) to all of us from our email inboxes. Judging from the spam that I receive, I would estimate that most of America needs to refinance its mortgage, has a small penis, and has difficulty maintaining an erection. It’s a sorry state of affairs.

My wife and I are fortunate (and I truly pray that her mother never reads this) in that we are quite satisfied with each other’s physical attributes. When she forwarded me the link to the aforementioned article, she enclosed a note saying simply: “Please do not enlarge your penis.” I have made it very clear to her on numerous occasions that if she were to augment her breasts in any way I would be much displeased.

I understand being dissatisfied with one’s body. For about the first 24 years of my life, I was a pretty scrawny kid. I certainly would have preferred less twiggy legs, less bony wrists, broader shoulders, straighter hair, a smaller nose, and so on. Some of those things, I recognized, could be obtained with a rigorous program of diet and exercise, but I candidly told myself that that wasn’t going to happen and over-compensated with a winning personality. So although I certainly had body-related insecurities, I’ve never really given much thought to, nor had insecurity related to, the magnitude, shall we say, of my own particular … magnitude.

I know that a lot of guys are insecure about their penises. Well, I guess I should clarify that I believe that a lot of guys are. I can’t really recall ever discussing it with any of my male friends. The showers at my summer camp were communal, and certainly I, and other guys, felt uncomfortable at first with the process not because we were worried about being assessed and judged negatively, but simply because given the choice, wouldn’t you prefer to perform your daily ablutions without an audience? In fact, the only penis-size comments I remember from those camp showers were along the lines of “Dude, check out so-and-so, he’s huge!” I don’t think anyone was made fun of because of his size, large or small.

(A brief aside to comment on the injustice that the boys’ showers were a big open communal area, while the girls’ showers had individual stalls with curtains. Why?)

I can’t imagine that the hype over penis size started with women. My female informant tells me that most of her peers are perfectly satisfied with an average-sized penis, and that size in and of itself is not a turn-on. This must come as terrible news to the penis enlargers out there, or to men with big penises who still can’t get a date.

Now, obviously a man wants to be pleasing to his partner, and insecurity about exposing one’s self is perfectly natural. Being naked in front of someone is a vulnerable enough position even without having your naked bits judged on their own merits. And the sex act itself is surrounded (at first, at least) with so much awkwardness and doubt that it’s understandable that a man might worry about his performance. Obviously, the precise physical compatibilities between two people factor pretty significantly into how well a sexual relationship progresses, and if one partner is unsatisfied with the extent, so to speak, of his or her partner’s endeavors — shall we say — that will weigh heavily over them both. If your girlfriend or boyfriend tells you that you’re too small to satisfy them (a scenario I suspect is fairly uncommon), being driven to seek out penis enlargement methods (or a new girlfriend or boyfriend) is at least rational.

What isn’t rational is what I think must be the uniquely American desire to be big for bigness’s sake. There’s something not quite right, I opine, with someone who looks at a ruler and sees a challenge to his manhood.

While I will concede that there are probably women (and men) who prefer a partner with a large penis, I have to believe that one eventually reaches a point of diminishing returns. This big, good; any bigger, not so good. Setting aside the problem of inconvenience for the man himself (at some of the advertised sizes, I’d think you’d have trouble dressing in a way that doesn’t cause discomfort to the pants region), eventually you’re risking discomfort for your partner, aren’t you? Put as plainly as possible, one never sees advertisements for vaginal enlargement, which one might expect (from a purely heterosexist point of view) to be the natural counterpart to an outbreak of enlarged penises.

The process of “natural penis enlargement” described in the article sounds off-putting, to say the least, what with the stretching, and the bending, and the pulling, and the twisting, and the weights…. I might suggest that if one is going to spend all day manipulating one’s penis, there are far more enjoyable things that one could be doing to it.

And at whom is this targeted, anyway? I have to believe the prime demographic is single, slightly depressed men who’ve convinced themselves that it’s their penis size that has been holding them back from ever finding true love. This logic is pretty warped, since the only way for someone to adequately judge you on your penis size is for him (or her) to see you naked, and if you’re naked with her (or him) you’re already doing pretty well, I have to think.

If a man is already in a relationship, what benefit does penis enlargement provide? If my partner ever said to me, “Matt, things are going pretty well, but to be honest I’d really be happier if you had a bigger penis,” I’d spend my time online looking for dating sites, rather then penis enlargement methods, if you see what I mean.

If he isn’t in a relationship, does he really think that a bigger dick will help him get first dates? I’d think you’d have to spend a lot of time in Speedos which, outside of a swimming environment, might strike people as odd. And even if our hypothetical guy manages to get someone to sleep with him, what makes him think that a below-the-belt upgrade will help things along? Is the idea that someone will eventually say, “well, his personality sucks, but you should see the size of that schlong”?

Every time an email arrives in my inbox advertising a process by which to “make it huge” I get a little sad, thinking of some poor, average-dicked fellow who fears that, if someone is going to the trouble of sending out these offers, there must be people responding to them, and he’ll soon be the only man left who isn’t carrying the equivalent of a Polish kielbasa in his pants. He’s sitting there, with his second mortgage, and his illicitly obtained Cialis, looking at some freakishly-endowed porn star, and thinking “that could be me.”

My friend, you don’t want that to be you. Find someone to embrace the penis you have, not the penis you see on the internet, or simply embrace it yourself. But — and I can’t overemphasize this — embrace it gently.