Miguel didn’t have any desire to try and grow his penis until he broke it. The fateful moment happened in January 2020, during a particularly vigorous session of anal sex with his then-wife. Although he experienced ongoing pain after the incident, and difficulty maintaining an erection, Miguel’s doctor wrote off his attempts to get help as a mental health issue. That was, of course, until his penis started to bend.
A visit to a urologist confirmed Miguel’s worst fears: He had developed a condition called Peyronie’s disease—a buildup of scar tissue in the penis which causes curved and painful erections, making sex almost impossible. Miguel’s marriage deteriorated, his wife started sleeping in a separate bedroom. His penis shrunk because of the curvature. He was desperate to speed up the healing process.
When his doctor recommended trying something called traction—a penis stretching technique achieved by placing one’s genitals in a vice-like contraption to extend its length—he felt he had nothing to lose. “It kind of sucks. You’ve got to literally sit for like six hours a day with this thing on your dick—but luckily I work from home, so it ended up working out for me,” Miguel, who is now 37 and lives in California where he works as a programmer, told The Daily Beast. (Miguel asked The Daily Beast to withhold his last name for privacy reasons.)
It took a month of those six-hour stretching sessions—conducted from the comfort of his desk at home, and sometimes even in the midst of zoom meetings if his camera was off—for Miguel to fix the curvature of his penis. When he realized it had started “working even better and faster than before,” he decided to continue.
Now, almost three years later, he claims to have added two-and-a-half inches in length, and just under an inch of girth, to his penis, bringing it to a grand total of eight inches in length and six inches in circumference. Still, the stretching sessions continue.
“If I’m at home working and I’m not doing it, I feel like I’m wasting my time because I could be stretching. I get the shakes if I don’t do it,” said Miguel, who has since left his ex-wife and re-entered the dating market. “I don't think that’s a form of addiction? Maybe it is. But if I’m not doing it, I feel like I’m being unproductive.”
Miguel is one of 62,500 people who subscribe to r/gettingbigger, the online Reddit community for men who want to enlarge their penises through a variety of vigilante techniques. It has tripled in size in the last year—a rate of growth that will make it one of the biggest subreddits on the platform if its expansion steadily continues—and its rapid rise raises questions about the root cause of its ever-increasing popularity, and whether such activities are safe.
According to BD, founder and moderator of r/gettingbigger, the flourishing group is the largest member of a network of penis enlargement communities that have existed on the internet for years—and it’s more popular than people realize. “In the past three months, we got sixty million views,” BD, a 26-year-old software developer and penis enlargement YouTuber from Pennsylvania, told The Daily Beast. (BD also asked that his full name be withheld for privacy reasons.)
Those who are active in the community believe that the techniques offer mental health benefits that outweigh, and are entirely separate from, the end-goal of permanently extending their penises. “I would say it’s very similar to getting positive results at a fitness center if you decide you want to get in better shape,” Benjamin Clark, a 44-year-old penis enlargement enthusiast from Georgia, told The Daily Beast. Clark has even been selling his own penis enlargement contraption—a penis stretcher and weight-hanging device called The MaleHanger—since 2012.
“You start looking a little better in the mirror. You feel a little better about yourself,” he said. “It’s not so much an addiction. It’s the satisfaction that comes from it.”
BD noted that those feelings can increase confidence outside of the bedroom. “Having that trump card in the back of your pocket that you are well endowed just gives you that extra gusto in day-to-day life,” he said.
According to the experts, though, all is not what it seems in the world of penis enlargement. Dr. William Brant, a Utah-based urologist with a special interest in sexual health issues who has been practicing for more than 20 years, told The Daily Beast that many men are simply correcting high muscle tone in their penises—tension which makes muscles smaller than average and inflexible—that gives them the appearance of being “smaller” while flaccid.
“For the most part, men are seeing that their flaccid length is becoming closer to their erect length, rather than actually having a longer penis,” Brant explained. Of course, successful stretching can come with some of the benefits that many members of r/gettingbigger report. “Anxiety, lack of confidence—these things can lead to erectile dysfunction,” Brant added. “Once the man feels better about his penis size, he’ll have the full potential of his erectile function.”
In other words, his erection will seem larger, even though that isn’t physically possible.
Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze?
That hasn’t stopped people from trying—and the techniques are not for the faint hearted. Men use vacuum pumps to engorge their penises with blood, use traction devices to stretch out their penises physically, and some even use special rigs to dangle weights from their genitals to make them bigger. One man on r/gettingbigger posted claims that he gained a total of two inches after hanging 40lb weights from his penis, although he hasn’t provided any evidence to back up this assertion.
The lack of medical endorsement for such techniques is perhaps because of the inherent risks that come with it. Men regularly use r/gettingbigger to post pictures of their purple, bruised penises that have darkened from using penis pumps, friction-burned penises, or to express concerns about potential nerve damage or lost sensation in their penis as a result of using these methods, which sometimes lasts for months. The subreddit even has a penis injury autobot, which sends responses to worried members facing injured genitals.
Even Miguel has suffered from such effects. “Because of the vacuum, you develop this big-ass blister on your dick,” he said. “I actually have a bit of a scar from one.”
It’s no surprise you won’t find doctors lining up to say these practices are all good and well. “Doctors aren’t going to suggest it, because if someone goes home and hurts themselves, the doctor will be liable,” noted Clark, who claims he has gained “two inches and five-eighths” in length and “one-and-a-quarter” inches in circumference from roughly 10 years of consolidated training, resulting in a total size of seven-and-a-half inches long and six-and-a-quarter inches around.
Brant, meanwhile, said that the risks of engaging in penis-growing techniques should not be taken lightly, and listed burst blood vessels, destruction of the penis’ erectile mechanism, torn muscles, and loss of sensation through nerve damage and possible side effects.
“If you hang a heavy weight from your penis, it’s likely to do more than stretch. It’s likely to actually injure, tear things or potentially cause unrecoverable issues. Nerves do not like to be stretched,” he said. “I’ve even seen permanent damage from over-use of these vacuum devices or heavy weights.”
Although Brant feels that men have undertaken such risks “for as long as they have existed,” he noted that the widespread use of pornography amongst men may be exacerbating the issue.
“If a man’s view of what is normal is based on pornographic actors—who are not chosen to be normal, regular men—then of course they’re going to think that they are inadequate,” Brant added. “There’s lots of data showing that men in general actually have no idea what a normal penis length is. They usually overestimate normal size by quite a lot.”
It’s something that BD is working actively to combat, by producing charts to educate people on the average size of a penis, guides on how camera angles and viewpoints can change the appearance of a penis, and even dildo-based line-ups to help people see how much can be changed by just a few inches of growth. He also runs a YouTube channel to further promote the knowledge he’s acquired on penis enlargement.
“We want to make sure people understand what the average is. If they realize they don’t need to be 10 inches long, they won’t hurt themselves trying to get to it,” he said. “This is more about self-empowerment than trying to live up to expectations.”
Although Miguel also believes in spreading the word—he has a penis enlargement YouTube channel, too—his hope is that the community doesn’t expand too much.
“Honestly, I wouldn't want it to go mainstream. I want the people that get injured to know about it, but if it goes mainstream, then we’re back to being average,” he said. “Which defeats the whole purpose, right?”