Wilkinson is the automotive correspondent of Conde Nast Traveler magazine, and
a frequent contributor to Aviation History and Military History magazines. He
also is the author of MAN
AND MACHINE: THE BEST OF STEPHAN WILKINSON
and the memoir THE
GOLD-PLATED PORSCHE: HOW I SANK A SMALL FORTUNE INTO A USED CAR AND OTHER MISADVENTURES.
He lives in Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York with his wife, writer Susan Crandell.
piece that follows is one of a pair which Stephan and wife Susan Crandell wrote
for the book OVER
THE HILL AND BETWEEN THE SHEETS: SEX, LOVE AND LUST IN MIDDLE AGE
after Stephan's radical prostatectomy. These excellent pieces show clearly some
of the differences between the way men and women regard the issue and are well
worth reading. Susan's contribution is entitled WHAT'S
SEX GOT TO DO WITH IT?
an urban legend that the Inuits have 400 words for snow, but it's absolutely true
that the online encyclopedia Wikipedia lists 650 synonyms in English alone (okay,
648 in English and 2 in Yiddish) for a single small piece of male anatomy. Call
it dick, prick or willy, johnson or peter, schlong, schwantz, stiffy, pecker,
dong, unit, package, dork, one-eyed snake, trouser hose, beaver cleaver, wang,
woody, or wiener, it's all the same thing. A penis. Like so many things sexual,
the male reproductive tool has far more euphemisms than it needs, perhaps because
people talk about those forbidden things so much that they get tired of using
the same old word.
Actually, I didn't really talk-or certainly write-all
that much about my own penis until I no longer had one.
It isn't entirely accurate,
that assertion about my penis, but it's close. I still have one, hut it's a shadow
of its former self, a puppy dick peeking shyly out of a tangled bush, and it no
I had a prostatectomy at sixty, the all-too-common operation
performed to excise prostate cancer. In the majority of cases, particularly among
men in their late fifties or older, the procedure also snips the nerve that provokes
an erection. No erection, no sex. At least, no standard, conventional, in-and-out
Maybe I should have had radiation treatment, or chemotherapy, or the
newly popular seed implantation, a form of precision nuclear zapping that involves
the minimally invasive injection of tiny radioactive capsules into the cancerous
prostate, though all of those procedures carry the risk of impotence as well.
No sense what-iffing, though, because I didn't. My wife and I-and it best be a
mutual decision-opted for full-frontal surgery.
I frankly don't do anything
without my wife's approval, in large part because she's so much smarter and more
mature than I am despite being sixteen years younger. We'd been married for eighteen
years when 1 had my prosta
tectomy, and sex had ranged from a frantic twice
a day to a placid twice a month. Not because Susan isn't just as physically appealing
as she was when we met-she a long-legged, miniskirted, job-hunting Middlebury
grad and me a once-divorced magazine editor who persuaded my boss to hire her-but
because even though she spent more than twenty hours a week at the gym and had
the body of a twenty-five-year-old athlete, in a sense we were having too much
fun doing lots of other things to bother with a lot of sex.
I wasn't surprised
that Susan favored surgery. She's decisive and a rationalist. And I suspect she
talked it over with our daughter, then seventeen, (Brook grew up learning that
families do not have secrets.)
My wife has a friend whose husband was recently
about to undergo a prostatectomy, and Susan confided to her that I'd been impotent
since my surgery. "[ don't care about that happening," her friend said. "Maybe
I would if I were twenty, but right now, I just want that damn tumor gone." After
the operation, her husband turned out to be one of the lucky ones who retained
"erectile function," as the polite phrase has it. "Tell you the truth, 1 was secretly
hoping that he wouldn't," Susan's friend later admitted. "It's been a long marriage
Okay, some things men would rather not know.
One thing they
don't bother to tell you before prostate surgery is that even if you can still
get erections, a prostatectomy will shorten your dick. No, they don't cut the
head off, but the effect is the same.
The prostate gland is usually described
as being about the size of a walnut-let's say an inch in diameter, though I've
seen them twice as big in medical exhibits-and it surrounds the urethra, which
is the tube leading to and through the penis, through which passes urine as well
as the ejaculate that is produced by the prostate. Cut the prostate out and, like
slicing a leaky piece out of an old garden hose, you're also eliminating an inch
or two of the urethra. Now the doc has to reattach the two severed ends of the
tube, and he takes the slack with which to do it not from your internals, where
there's no give, but from the external penis, essentially pulling it that much
closer to your belly. Like shorter.
It didn't really bother me afterward,
at least not the way Fin sure the disfigurement of a radical mastectomy would
traumatize a woman. After all, my dick didn't work anymore in any case, and certainly
Susan was cool enough not to mention it.
After my operation, I went to
a highly regarded sexologist/urologist for possible help, the kind of guy who's
in every talk-show address book for when they need a dick doc to talk about the
latest ED pill. (Viagra and the like, incidentally, are useless for people like
me. It the nerve that phones ahead the erection request is missing, there's not
much that pharmacology can do. Well, except for one interesting semicure that
I'll get to.) The sexpert didn't actually laugh when he saw my penis, but he did
say. "Hmmm, that's some substantial atrophy." Thanks, Doc.
Here's how we
manipulated my poor little peter after Viagra proved powerless:
tried the pump, which has to be one of the most hilarious devices this side of
the Arawak penis sheath. The Pump is a transparent plastic can that you put over
your limp dick, holding it as airtightly as possible against your hairy abdomen
while hysterically wobbling a handle much like one of those things that evacuates
the air to save a half-empty bottle of wine. Somehow, the substantially reduced
atmospheric pressure this creates inside the plastic can draws a trickle of extra
blood into the spongy core of the penis, and the result is a semierection,
you pop the can off your sort-of stiffy, you then have to quickly slide a tight
rubber band down to the base of the penis to keep the extra blood from draining
back out. If everything goes reasonably well, you hobble from the bathroom back
into the bedroom, bent over from the pain and embarrassment, and achieve penetration.
(The pressure needed to part the typical National Bureau of Standards vagina is
three and a half pounds. I suppose you could make a small weight and balance it
atop your artificial erection. If the flesh is stiffly willing, you're good to
go. If it crumples, more pumping is called for.)
Though the Pump worked,
it was rather like having intercourse with a manufactured penis, and it put me
in mind of a friend's remark when we were gossiping about a physically unattractive
woman we both knew. "I wouldn't fuck her with your dick," my friend said. I ultimately
decided I wouldn't fuck my wife with the Pump's dick and turned to the next choice:
Many people have a needle phobia, and the thought of poking
a hollow, stainless steel syringe into their lap rocket curls their toes, straightens
their hair, and makes their teeth itch. But needlesticks don't bother me a bit,
so Susan and I moved to the next level, which was for her to gently inject 10cc
of something called Caverject through a hair-thin needle of the kind used by diabetics
to give themselves daily insulin injections straight into the corpus cav-ernosum
to chemically excite an erection.
It worked, and it hurt about as much
as a mosquito bite, but it also put me in mind of yet another friend to whom I'd
gone for advice because I'd been told that he too had a can't-get-it-up problem.
His dysfunction was emotional, not surgical, but he also had tried the injection
solution. "Oh, jeez," Jerry said, "you mix up the cocktail of meds, you get the
needle ready, you fill the syringe and do the whole thing, and then, fine, you
fuck your wife. If Sharon Stone came through the bedroom door, I'd do it again
in a heartbeat, but otherwise, it's a waste of time."
I had run out of
answers. Actually, there was one left, but neither Susan nor I wanted to consider
it: a penile implant. This is in fact an ancient solution, and the original implants
were a transplanted piece of rib that literally gave you a permanently stiff penis.
Modern implants can be similarly stiff-but-bendable artificial boners, so they
can be tucked away between bedroom bouts. But the gold standard for transplantable
objects is the inflatable, flexible bladder, like a skinny hot dog, that takes
up residence inside the penis, alongside the urethra. It's pumped up, foof-foof-foof-foof,
by a little bulb that is put into-where else?-the otherwise-useless scrotum. We
imagined the foreplay opportunities-"No, honey, that's the pump, not a testicle"-but
decided the risk of that much surgical intervention wasn't worth the Roman candle.
(The operation typically costs more than twenty thousand dollars, and if complications
arise, which can occur from shifting of the implant, the expense of repairing
the device can be even greater.)
Because I'm open about my impotence, friends
have quietly come to me and asked for prostatectomy advice, which of course I'm
happy to provide, for what it's worth. Perhaps the strangest such contact I had
was with an acquaintance who told me his father had been biopsied and found to
have early-stage prostate cancer. He didn't want to even discuss surgery or any
other treatment, though. Didn't care if he died, or how painful it might be, because
he couldn't imagine not being able to ejaculate.
I'm hardly alone in possessing
minimal equipment. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, there's hardly a
man alive who doesn't secretly-or openly-believe that bigger is better, though
few actually are well endowed.
Evidence to the contrary? Well, Michelangelo's
David has probably the most famous and certainly most visible dick in the world,
and scaled down to life-size, it probably goes a good three and a half flaccid
inches. Michelangelo supposedly was gay, in which case you wouldn't think he'd
be particularly reticent about sculpting a grand wiener.
In fact, no legitimate
artwork that I can think of, with the exception of Robert Mapplethorpe's photography,
shows a schlong anything like what men imagine every other guy is packing. Hercules,
Adam, David, Leonardo da Vinci's famous proportionate Vitruvian Man . . . all
are classically depicted with penes that make it apparent why codpieces-initially
simply a jockstrap-like piece of clothing--were embellished to exaggerate the
size of the wearer's unit: There wasn't much there in the first place.
the occasional exception to the size-matters rule. I recently read in The' Week
magazine that Latin singer Enrique Iglesias, the boyfriend of tennis hottie Anna
Kournikova, is considering endorsing a line of extra-small condoms for men as
slightly hung as he says he is. "I can never find extra-small condoms, and I know
from experience that it's really embarrassing," he said. Embarrassing to not find
them or embarrassing to have to ask for them?
Lord knows I daren't do more
than hint at the possibility that athlete/novelist/movie-star-handsome manly man
John Irving is minimally hung, since he was a nationally-ranked collegiate wrestler
not that long ago and could kick my skinny ass. But his spectacular novel Until
I Find You is a presumptively drawn-from-life, personal, 8oo-page evocation of
the adventures of a small-dicked boy-man who eventually has inventive sex with
every woman who comes within a block of him.
Fact is, the average erect
penis is only five and a half inches long, and even that number is suspect, since
men with larger schlongs are more likely to participate in measurement studies
than are Thumbelinas. ("Do you know why women can't estimate measurements?" my
brother Leland once said, in the only dirty joke that holder of a Harvard Divinity
School degree has ever told me. "Because all their lives, they've been told this
is ten inches," he said, holding a thumb and forefinger five inches apart.)
never been a locker-room pecker, never given much thought to the natural endowment
of other men, but it certainly seems to be a matter of fascination to many guys.
Okay, I'm an Internet pecker: There's a Web site, www.imagesofsize.com, that offers
three thousand close-up photos of penes-which, pronounced "peenies," is a plural
of penis, if you want to win a bar bet-of every size, shape, acute angle, and
race. The angular dangle is called Peyronie's disease, a term we learned when
Monica Lewinsky announced that the First Dick had a distinctive shape. But what
is particularly interesting about the site is the number of pictures of men with
the tiniest peepees you can imagine. I'm talking an inch . . . half an inch ...
an inch erect, even. It's reassuring to many of us to see that others have the
same or even less to work with than we do.
Talk to women who are willing
to be honest about what works for them, and you'll find that if anything, circumference
is more pleasurable than length. Having one's cervix slammed isn't particularly
desirable, apparently. What matters infinitely more than length, girth, or circumference
is, in fact, distance. The long-distance runners are definitely not lonely when
if comes to sex.
Watch a good porn-film performer bring to multiple orgasms
a woman he's just met that morning and whose name he doesn't remember, and you
know that size is not what impresses. And not just for women. As far as porn producers
are concerned, the real moneymakers are actors who not only can produce serial
ejaculations but also can come on command. I had a guy with a five-inch erection,
one porn-film producer recently posted on an Internet sex-film bulletin board,
and I used him constantly, if only as a stand-in for the money shot. He saved
me thousands of dollars a day of shooting.} could do two films in the time it
normally took to do one. If you can come over and over and do it exactly when
1 say so, your porn career is assured.
My porn career never even got started,
but if it had, perhaps I'd have resorted to the marketers of various mechanical
devices intended to increase penis size. They often refer to the penis as a muscle
that needs to be exercised in order to get bigger and stronger. If that were true,
men who masturbated constantly would be the best-hung of all. The penis, of course,
is no more a muscle than is the brain. The heart is a muscle. Pecs and abs are
muscles. The penis is a simple machine, a tubular sponge that uses hydraulic fluid-blood-to
enable its work. The only muscles involved are those in the lower back that do
the manly thrusting.
Still, lots of men want to lengthen their penes, and
marketers have come up with an array of ways to give the appearance of doing so,
though in fact you can no more increase penis size than you can build brainpower
or improve your eyesight. There are pumps, there are regimens that involve walking
around with weights hung from the member-presumably involving front-pleated, wide-legged
pants-and there are manipulations you can do that involve jerking your poor Johnson
in and out and from side to side hard enough to "break down the internal cellular
structure so that it regrows larger and longer."
Wow. Thank goodness that's
something 1 no longer have to consider as an option.
Of course, there are
lots of more pleasant things I can no longer consider as options either. Yes,
such as intercourse. But into its third decade, our marriage has-like Susan's
gym friend's-been a long one. We've moved far beyond the time when the conjunction
of soft and hard flesh, friction in the dark, and exchanging bodily fluids often
seemed to be the point of it all. Besides, there are other ways to make love.
And look on the good side: Now nobody has to sleep on the wet spot.
for me, ultimately, the pee in penis has become the organ's sole meaning. My little
dork has become an exceedingly simple tool, no longer a machine, through which
I urinate. Works for me.