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You’ve heard it before: So much of sex is mental. That’s particularly true for one of the biggest anxieties guys have about it—am I big enough? We can almost guarantee that this particular concern is all in your head.
A 2015 study of more than 15,000 men found that the average size of an erect penis is 5.16 inches (13.12 cm). The average girth (circumference) is 3.66 inches (9.31 cm). However, porn and pop culture have conspired to fluff up the numbers and done a real number on the male psyche in the process. Simply put, many men’s idea of where they fall on the spectrum of penis size is all out of whack. Consequently, to some men, anything bigger than what they’ve got is better and worth trying to achieve. One of the ways they go about it is with so-called penis enlargement pills.
- Many brands of penis enlargement pills (or “male enhancement pills”) are on the market, suggesting they can give you a bigger penis.
- They can’t.
- There’s no scientific evidence that such supplements are effective.
- A pill can’t alter the anatomical features responsible for penis size.
What are penis enlargement pills?
Penis enlargement pills are supplements that claim or suggest that taking them will give you a larger penis. They’re sold under a variety of brand names online and in supplement stores promising “male enhancement” or just straight-up penis enlargement.
They’re usually composed of a motley brew of vitamins, minerals, herbs, and supplements. There’s no scientific evidence that they work. “There are no supplements out there that are going to grow the size of your penis,” says Seth Cohen, MD, a urologist with NYU Langone Health in New York City.
Here’s why: The penis contains two tubes of spongy tissue called the corpus cavernosum. During an erection, this tissue fills with blood and stiffens, then reverts to its previous size and appearance after orgasm (or the erection just peaces out on its own). The amount and consistency of spongy tissue in your penis is, uh, firmly set post-puberty. That’s what determines the size of your erection, and there’s nothing a pill can do to change it.
Some alleged penis enlargement pills contain ingredients that may help you get an erection faster, or achieve one that’s a bit firmer than usual, but they can’t enlarge the corpus cavernosum and thus make you permanently bigger.
“Surgery is thus far the only proven scientific method for penile enlargement,” declared researchers in the Journal of Sexual and Marital Therapy (Nugteren, 2010). That is still largely true, with one potential exception (and that isn’t pills).
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Side effects and potential risks
Unlike pharmaceutical drugs, supplements aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. So you can’t be absolutely sure what’s in them, or that the ingredients are pure. Some “male enhancement” pills may contain traces of PDE5 inhibitors (medications that work like Viagra and Cialis), which can be dangerous if they contain too much, or if you have a health condition that precludes you from taking those drugs.
Additional penis enlargement methods
Traction devices. Penile extenders are traction devices that you strap to your flaccid penis and wear an extended time, usually several hours a day. This can result in an increase in the length of the penis, although it might take months to see results.
Vacuum pumps. Penis pumps (vacuum devices that coax blood flow into the penis) will cause an erection—and they’re sometimes used to treat erectile dysfunction—but they won’t permanently make your penis bigger. In a study published in the journal BJU International, 37 men used penis pumps for 20 minutes, three times a week, for six months. Researchers found that the participants’ mean penis length increased by only 0.3 cm (which was not statistically significant), the treatment was only 10% effective, and only 30% of the patients said they were satisfied (Aghamir, 2006).
Lotions. A number of lotions are sold online under poetic monikers like Plump, XPanse, and Mega Penis. Just like penis enlargement pills, they contain various vitamins, herbs, and supplements that claim to increase penis size. Just like penis enlargement pills, there’s no evidence they work, they’re not regulated by the FDA, and they could make your junk look like junk.
Penis enlargement surgery. Surgeons offer a variety of surgical procedures to enlarge the penis, from injecting it with fat or fillers, to cutting the suspensory ligament inside the body to make the penis hang lower and seem longer, to inserting a flexible implant. These procedures are expensive and potentially dangerous—so much so that a May 2019 study published in the journal Sexual Medicine Reviews advised men that penis surgery or penile augmentation is “ineffective and risky” and could put patients in the hands of “charlatans” (Marra, 2020).
Alternatives to penis enlargement pills
The penis-enlargement industry, such as it is, exists because male insecurity about size is age-old, and the Monster Dong demolition derby that is modern porn (which is seemingly everywhere) has done nothing to help men establish a more realistic, accepting attitude toward their penises and sex. In some cases, guys are so freaked out about their perceived inadequate size that they develop what psychologists call “small penis anxiety” or “penis dysmorphic disorder” (PDD)—the irrational belief that you can’t measure up (Veale, 2015).
The reality is, you can, and you very likely do. But if feelings about your body image are holding you back in the bedroom, you could be developing body dysmorphia. It’s a good idea to check in with a mental health professional who can help you work on those issues. That’ll give you more confidence, a better sex life, and a happier life overall.