In July 2017, the 55-year-old decorator, from London, became one of a growing number of British men to have a surgical penis enlargement. Talk of enhancement was once the preserve of promotional spam mail for bizarre-looking pills and pumps; now, it is serious clinical business. British clinics, which have taken consultancy rooms in Harley Street and in UK cities including Manchester, Sheffield, Birmingham and Leeds, report record numbers of patients calling on their services. One practice, the London Centre for Aesthetic Surgery, has gone from performing a handful of penis procedures annually when it opened in 1990 to more than 250 in 2017. Between 2013 and 2017, members of the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery carried out 45,604 penis enhancements worldwide. Previous numbers are unknown; the procedure was considered such a minority concern that it wasn’t included in surveys. This increase in demand seemingly caters to a growing anxiety about penis size, but it is by no means a risk-free procedure. For Alistair, dreams of a larger penis were overtaken by infections, lumps and an erection that no longer rises above a 45-degree angle. And he is not alone. In recent years, the General Medical Council has recorded stories of “wonky penises” and erectile dysfunction following surgery. In Stockholm, last summer, a 30-year-old man died after suffering a cardiac arrest following an operation to enlarge his penis.
In a last brief conversation with Alistair, he asks if I would ever consider going under the knife. I tell him I’ve seen such a bewildering array of shapes and sizes over the past few weeks, I don’t even know what normal is any more. If it does the job nature intended, I say, that should be enough. For many men wanting an enlargement, it’s probably not so much about what’s in their pants as what, somewhere along the way, has got into their minds – and that can’t be fixed by a fat injection and a severed ligament.