The unspeakable mass
- Jul 16, 2004
Nope not another spam email, more a man with too much time on his hands and a girl friend who says size does matter:
Mike Salvini is an evangelist for natural penis enlargement, a weird and scientifically unproven way of upsizing the male member. And thousands of men are going to great lengths to follow him.
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By Peter Rubin
March 24, 2005 | At 6:30 each morning, Mike Salvini wakes up and pads downstairs to check his e-mail. That's always how he starts his day, because someone out there might need help. Could be this someone hadn't warmed up sufficiently, or had pulled too hard or bent himself at a strange angle, but now something's wrong. And no man likes to have pain shooting up the shaft of his penis. So Mike tries to answer questions as often as he can, to reassure, to coax, to motivate. And then he goes into the bathroom, eases himself onto the toilet, places a length of industrial plastic pipe across his thighs, pulls his penis up and over the pipe and slooooowly cranks it forward, like a winch.
With each millimeter, he can feel the skin stretch, masking the slow seismic drift of internal tissue. Another tug. Now hold. One, two ... He wrestles the monster for 60 long seconds before releasing the tension. This is the tunica traction stretch, the first exercise of Mike's day: Eighteen hours and three workouts later, he will fall into bed, a fraction closer to his ultimate goal. He once had a healthy 6-and-a-half-inch erection; now he sports a 10-and-a-half-inch heart-stopper. Stretching himself along a ruler, he damn near exhausts its hash marks.
To most people, Mike Salvini might appear to be, well, a freak. Besides the fact that he's a recovering obsessive-compulsive heroin addict with agoraphobia, who in their right mind stretches his penis over a length of plastic pipe? But Mike Salvini is a hero and an inspiration to thousands of men who dream of building their own fearsome endowments -- not because of how big he is, but because of how far he's come. He's not Mike Salvini to them, though; he's Double Long Daddy, guru of natural penis enlargement. And before he calls it quits, he wants to have the largest dick in the world.
Men today can pump up their traps and glutes, their pecs and abs. They can strip almost every ounce of body fat, train the fast-twitch muscle fibers in their calves. But society's approval of male body transformation stops at changing the size of your penis. From the very first sex-ed filmstrip in grade school to the advanced biology curriculum in grad school, men are told to be happy with what they're born with. Sixty-five years ago Alfred Kinsey decreed that phallic dimensions between five and seven inches were within the great continuum known as "average," and since then those measurements have confined our lives. Only recently have men like Mike Salvini dared to turn their backs on "average," let alone talk freely about it.
In fact, thousands of men across America are obsessed with getting bigger penises. They describe themselves as being part of the natural penis enlargement "community" -- "P.E." to its practitioners -- and they are spread across various forums and chat rooms, places with names like Thunder's Place, Big Al's and Mike Salvini's Matters of Size. P.E. forums are fraternities, worlds of experimentation and encouragement, where men with online monikers like "Dino9x7" and "Soon2b9" will go to any length to get to any length.
Well, almost. They're rational men, after all. And those ads in the back of the magazines? Those late-night Enzyte TV spots that helped their parent company generate projected sales of $240 million last year? Hokum, says the Center for Science in the Public Interest. You simply cannot make your penis larger by taking a supplement (Enzyte parent company Berkeley Premiere Nutraceuticals knows that too, taking such claims off their ads. Nor can you reliably do so through surgical means, says Dr. Gary J. Alter, a plastic surgeon based in Beverly Hills, Calif. Not unless you want what he describes as "penile distortion, fat nodules and lumps, and irregularity."
P.E. practitioners know all this, which is why they call what they do "natural" penis enlargement: no pills, no surgery, no snake oil. There might be a gray-market cottage industry riding the coattails of Cialis and Levitra, but P.E.ers want no part of it. In fact, many see these spam-fueled businesses as a stumbling block to their legitimate form of enlargement. "My biggest problem is dealing with all the other bullshit out there," says Salvini. "Having people see a clear line between what I'm doing, and pills and patches and all the other bullshit. We get tossed into that same pile, because people aren't educated enough to see that there's a difference."
Still, the P.E. movement has absolutely zero legitimacy in the eyes of science. No one in the American medical community has yet deigned to study P.E.; speaking softly and carrying a bigger stick is still folly. "The penis is a beautifully designed anatomical marvel that has evolved through millions of years," says Dr. J. Francois Eid, director of the Advanced Urological Care Center in New York. "It's immature, arrogant even, to think that we can do better." Making one's penis bigger through exercise, he says, is akin to making one's nose bigger through exercise -- and about as likely to happen.
The urologists at Boston University's Institute for Sexual Medicine refused even to comment on P.E. for this story. According to a spokesperson, "the topic is not to their liking." Dr. Ira Sharlip of the American Urological Association was willing to consider the possibilities. "Nobody knows the answer" to whether or not natural exercises could increase one's penis size, he said, "but I'd imagine that up to some reasonable limit the spongy tissue" -- more on this later -- "could expand." Even the most grudging concessions, though, come with a stern caveat: "I don't think you can conclude that [P.E. is] medically sound," Sharlip said, "just because there are numerous anecdotal experiences with it."
"There's something about P.E. that doesn't make sense," Mike readily admits. "How can you take a penis and make it bigger?" But he and the rest of the P.E. practitioners are convinced you can. Anecdotal experiences are what they rely on, how they keep each other going. While they'd love to see their beliefs validated, most P.E.ers are perfectly content to keep flying under the radar. If everyone catches on, averages will rise, and they won't be so special anymore. Still, they're tired of being dismissed by skeptics, of being lumped in with the creams and magical elixirs. "Let them believe what they want," wrote "Sundown" on Matters of Size, "those with faith and effort are reeking [sic] the benefits." A P.E.er named "Supra" responded, "let me pull down my pants on CNN and lets [sic] see what they say about PE."
Anger aside, some of P.E.'s other advocates are hardly whom you'd expect. Bib -- or "Bigger Is Better" -- is a 48-year-old Texas real estate salesman who agreed to be interviewed only if his real name wasn't used. Bib loves his wife and kids. And thanks to a routine that involves hanging 45 pounds of weight from his member for up to seven hours at a time -- working from home grants him the necessary privacy and time -- he boasts a 10-and-a-half-inch erection. "This has completely changed my life," he says, "on many, many different fronts." Bib was a virgin when he married because he was afraid to let any woman see his 1-inch flaccid penis. Not long ago, he found himself standing in front of a seating section at a basketball game, scanning the crowd for his wife. As his eyes flicked across the many female faces, he was certain they were all staring at his crotch. His wife doesn't believe him, but Bib knows what he saw. Now, he can't wear sweat pants in public anymore. "It's pretty neat to have to worry about the bulge when you go out," he says.
The penis might be designed to reach for the sky, but anatomically speaking, it is not built to grow. It's not a muscle, but a series of chambers and veins bound by a fibrous sheath -- a marvelous tool, supremely adaptable to changes of heart and climate. It lives in a state of constant flux, responding with ease to the onrushing variables of circulation, comfort and libido.
When a healthy man becomes aroused, two spongy chambers known as corpora cavernosa expand with the flow of blood and press against a smooth-muscle sheath, the tunica albuginea. This is the determinant of penile girth. In P.E. theory, forcing blood into the corpora cavernosa will extend the tunica's capacity over time and ultimately enlarge the penis. So the old-school cornerstone of P.E. is an exercise known as jelqing: gripping the base of the partially erect penis with the thumb and forefinger in a tight OK sign, and pulling upward to the head. Milking yourself, in a sense. In conjunction with various stretching exercises that target the ligaments of the penis and the tunica, jelqing and its many variants form the foundation of a P.E. routine. (A typical beginning P.E. routine, as dictated by Mike Salvini, might include 300 jelqs a day.) According to "Luvdadus," a Southern physician and active P.E.er, such exercises take advantage of the regenerative properties of ligaments, muscles and tendons. "For there to be permanent lengthening," he says, "there has to be some breakage in the covalent bonds of the collagen." This takes a great deal of time; some men report gains in as little as a month, some slave over their penises for a year or more without seeing any significant progress.
The first rudimentary training routines started circulating on the Internet in the mid-'90s, and as more and more men have become part of the conversation and taken up training, more and more exercises are added to the canon. Like theories and comets, they are often named after their discoverers. So a P.E.er looking to add extra girth might work in a set of Uli Squeezes or Horse440 Squeezes, an exercise in which you tourniquet the base of a partially erect penis with one hand, then slide the other hand in an OK grip down from the head. This is done, like any resistance training, in sets of 10 reps. (Due warning: Putting your one and only through the paces can leave you with thrombosed veins and strained ligaments. To avoid the trip to Genital Hospital, P.E. proponents recommend applying heat to your penis for five full minutes before every workout.) The result is perhaps best articulated by "WillB7" of Thunder's Place who tested the exercise soon after "Horse440" unveiled it. "Holy shit!" he wrote. "Tried these horse squeezes last night and my shaft expanded tremendously; it looked like [a] Boa Constrictor after swallowing an elephant." While some message board users are prone to hyperbole, many of them post pictures to back up their claims.
For men to seek such physical extremity is nothing new; a look in any weight room will find a handful of specimens who have transformed themselves into sleek V-shaped gladiators. But even weight lifting was dismissed once as the crazy pursuit of 98-pound weaklings. It needed a champion -- a Jack LaLanne, a Charles Atlas, a Joe Weider -- to codify it, package it, take it mainstream. Mike Salvini wants to be that man for P.E. "I feel like the world should know about it," he says. "It should be a clean, out-of-the-back-alley business." And while spreading the P.E. gospel to a skeptical world is a tremendous challenge for almost anyone, imagine how much harder it is for someone who can't always find the courage to leave the house.
There's a boyishness lurking in Mike Salvini's face, thanks in large part to eyelashes so long and curled that they almost touch his cheeks when he opens his eyes wide. He sits on his couch in a sleeveless T-shirt and basketball shorts, his slender legs crossed at the knee; their delicateness is all the more surprising in contrast to a beefy torso. Tattoos on both shoulders speak to his wild past as a drunken, howling frontman for a hardcore metal band; he shows you videotapes of an old performance, and you notice a frenzy in his eyes. He was a solidly built man then, in his 20s, and now, at 36, the extra weight he carries in his neck and belly is as much due to the medication he takes (the antidepressant Seroquel) as to the sedentary life of an agoraphobic. His dark brown hair is slicked back into a ponytail. As he explained once in a forum discussion, he keeps it that way because he likes it long, but thanks to the obsessive-compulsive disorder he hates knowing that it's there; the ponytail keeps it off his face and out of his head.
And lord knows there's plenty in his head. When he was 16, Double Long Daddy was a middle-school dropout with a drinking problem. (He left school after the eighth grade because he learned the administrators at his Catholic school had withheld his above-average IQ scores, leaving him to feel like a remedial outcast.) Also, he could not stop changing his clothes. He weighed 105 pounds and so hated his body that he tried to conceal it beneath layer upon layer of fabric. For hours at a time, he'd lock himself in the bathroom, adjusting, tweaking, stripping down and starting over. He had lived this way for years, washing his hands, counting things, dressing for a winter hike even when it was 90 degrees outside.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a tricky beast. You do your best to keep it in check, but the demons keep right on coming, and sometimes alcohol and drugs are the only way to muzzle their insistent whisper. So Mike got high, and he finally stopped -- stopped counting, stopped washing, stopped spending hours in the bathroom. For the next 15 years, he bounced between rehab and relapses, empty bottles and car crashes, painkillers and heroin. He finally cleaned himself up, only to revisit the demons. Lying in bed at night, he'd think of the cable TV remote, 8 and three-quarters inches long. Wait ... no it's not. It might be 7. And though he had measured every item in the house, he'd go downstairs to find the remote and set himself at ease.
Medication (the prescribed kind) helped, but it also killed his hard-on. So Mike was intrigued when he found a Web site that offered to strengthen his erection -- intrigued enough to start jelqing, hundreds of times a day. "After about a month," he says, "I started noticing changes." One day at work he went to the bathroom; when he sat down on the toilet, his penis hit the porcelain of the bowl. He went home and got out the ruler -- he'd gained half an inch. And when he looked at the underside of his penis, he saw a stretch mark that was exactly a half-inch long. It's become his own version of a tree trunk's rings, a personal growth chart that keeps his faith.
Today Mike spends 18 hours a day spreading the gospel of P.E. "I'm submerged in penis," he says with a laugh. "It's my full-time job." He's filmed a DVD of his self-designed exercises -- "Matters of Size: The Ultimate Guide to Penis Enlargement" -- that will be distributed in a few weeks by Vivid Entertainment. His Web site Matters of Size has 40,000 registered users and offers paying members videos, diagrams and one-on-one tutelage over private message and e-mail -- along with softcore pinup shots of his girlfriend Jen, a teacher and former dancer he met in rehab four years ago. (Jen and Mike also stage neo-Vargas photo shoots in their living room. When I visited their home in Western Massachusetts last summer, it was just after noon on a Sunday; Jen was wearing Mary Janes, white knee-high fishnet stockings, a schoolgirl blouse and braided pigtails.)
Mike currently practices P.E. for six hours every day and he's on what he calls his Phase Five Routine, which boasts seven monstrous-sounding exercises like "Slow Squash Jelqs" and "Isolated Compression Squeezes." As big as he's gotten, he refuses to stand up with an erection. When I ask him why, he just laughs: "Oh, I'm quirky. You don't want to go into that part of my mind."
Despite his lack of formal education, a rogue intellect has driven Mike to undertake a number of informal studies on such P.E.-related subjects as penile misrepresentation in pornography and body dysmorphic disorder, an anorexia-like condition that plagues a person with a skewed sense of his or her own appearance. Mike, not surprisingly, suffers from BDD. Occasionally he will reach for a ruler to measure his gains, and end up double- and triple-checking for an hour because he thinks he calibrated incorrectly. At one point, he was measuring himself so often that the chafing edge of the ruler severed his frenulum, the piece of skin that connects the head to the shaft.
Mike dubbed himself Double Long Daddy for a purely literal reason: His flaccid penis is twice what it used to be. After seeing a picture of it online, the porn legend Ron Jeremy e-mailed him to see if he was interested in doing adult films. (He was not.) When I see Mike on his couch, legs crossed in such a confining way, I find it hard to believe he can sit down without causing himself immeasurable discomfort. He keeps his penis tucked between his legs and under a buttock. When he stands and bends to pick something up, I can glimpse it poking at the nylon of his shorts.
"Whenever we're out, women always stare at it," says Jen, with something approaching pride in her voice. Clearly, she is pleased with Mike's penis. She uses the word "cock" a lot. And "dick." And "veins." Mike uses those words, too, but he also rattles off clinical terms: suspensory ligament, frenulum, meatus. This is the lingua franca of the movement.
Indeed, to browse through the various P.E. forums is to enter a rudimentary anatomy course. It's also to listen in on a motivational seminar. Men open up to each other about the shame they've felt at the urinal, of deflating sexual encounters, of the fear that consumes them every time they expose themselves to ridicule. They confess to a desire to reshape their lives. "I would have imagined that a lot of the men on these forums would be smallish guys who maybe have an axe to grind with women," says "Luvdadus," "but that's not the case. There's a lot of support." The support doesn't extend into the real world, however; like so many communities that flourish online, P.E. thrives in part because of its anonymity.
These are men who think a great deal about their penises; like Mike, they are submerged. But what concerns Dr. Sharlip is why men feel the need to raise the bar in the first place. Of those who come to him for advice, he says, "the very great majority -- 99 percent -- have normal penile size. It's a psychological problem more than a physical one."
Mike denies that his obsessions with enlarging his penis stem from some primordial trauma. "It wasn't a huge emotional drama I was trying to settle," Mike says. "What guy's not going to want to go out and make his dick bigger?"
Bigger in his case means 13.6 inches BPEL (bone-pressed erect length) -- measured along the top from the pubic bone to the fully loaded tip. Properly documented, this would be the largest erect penis in the world. To record the moment, Mike would need a new ruler. "Now that's an anxiety attack," he says. "A 15-inch ruler. I don't want that in my bathroom." It would, rather than validate his size, taunt him with the other inch and a half.
As man after man boasts online of a double-digit P.E. goal, the question presents itself: How much is too much? Veterans are quick to point out that you have to know when to stop. After all, you can't take off a half-inch if the woman you're with can't ... accommodate you. Bib's gains, for example, took some acclimation. "At first I did not know how to use the thing," he says with a dry laugh. "It can be absolutely great, but you do have to point it in the right direction."
Chances are Double Long Daddy will never run out of pupils. He continues to mentor dozens of men who write to him seeking help, as well as the paying members of Matters of Size. (The site does not yet make money, but Mike expects that sales from the DVD will change that. For now, he lives off savings and Jen's salary.) For free, he will design a routine for the one-armed guy with a 4-inch penis, and one for the 68-year-old man with Peyronie's Disease, a condition that causes a severely bent phallus. A man once e-mailed him from Japan wanting to come live under his roof for a week of personal coaching; Mike said no, but continues to mentor the man in one-on-one video messaging. He might not need that 15-inch ruler yet, but he has no doubt that someday he will. For now, he's happy simply to spread the word about the wonders of P.E. "I became less and less embarrassed and more and more proud as time went on," he says. "I'm still uncomfortable about showing you my penis, but talking about it is easier."
His remarks underscore one of the real reasons I came to visit: verification. After all, pictures can always be doctored; proving your story is increasingly difficult in an age of Photoshop-spawned trompe l'oeil suspicion. Mike was OK with the arrangement, if a little nervous. When he opened the door to greet me, he had said, "Sorry if I'm a little woozy. I took a Viagra before you came so you can get a good measurement."
Three hours later, there's nothing left to talk about. "Moment of truth," he says now with a grin. "Let me just get ready." He walks into the bathroom with Jen. Waiting in the adjacent kitchen, I try not to listen to their soft rustlings. "How do they do this in porno movies?" Mike calls out.
A moment passes. He calls me in. He's not satisfied with the partial erection he's managed to raise. He grabs a handful of Vaseline, Jen faces the wall and drops her thong, and I exit with haste. Another moment passes. And another.
"OK -- hurry!"
He is sitting on the toilet, shirt off, shorts around his ankles, red-faced. His right hand holds a ruler and his left ... well, his left hand seems to be choking some otherworldly tentacle. The thing's the size of a paper towel roll, but looks perfectly healthy.
"Check the ruler," he says in a faintly strangled tone. Leaning forward gingerly, I confirm that his bone-pressed penis is indeed 10 and a half inches.
As the blood drains back to the rest of his body, Mike twists his penis over and points to the stretch mark. And, sure enough, it is there, and it is nearly 5 inches long, pink and angry, a symbol of everything a man can aspire to.