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As long as there have been penises, there have been men willing to go to extreme lengths to make them bigger, convinced that what nature gave them is inadequate. One of the oldest penis-enlargement techniques is jelqing, a penis stretching routine that allegedly dates back to ancient times in the Middle East.
- Jelqing is a penis enlargement technique that involves pulling and stretching the penis with the aim of making it larger.
- Many sites detail jelqing routines and claim it can increase penis size.
- Jelqing has not been scientifically shown to permanently enlarge the penis.
- Doctors say jelqing can cause damage to the penis, including blood-vessel tears and erectile dysfunction.
Aside from the fact that the word seems to be missing a vowel, doctors say jelqing lacks something more essential to the health of your penis: Safety and efficacy. We’ll get to that in a moment. But first:
What is jelqing?
Jelqing is an exercise performed with the intent of enlarging the penis. When jelqing, a man pulls or massages his penis with fingers or a specially designed device (“milking,” in jelqing parlance). The idea is that, like the principle behind muscle-building, you’ll stretch the penile tissue, creating micro-tears, and the area will thicken and expand as it repairs itself. (A significant hitch in the theory: The penis isn’t the same as, say, your bicep. It’s not a muscle.)
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Yet there’s no shortage of information online about jelqing, from YouTube videos to Reddit discussions. “Jelqing is a phenomenon,” says Seth Cohen, MD, a urologist with NYU Langone Health in New York City. “There are about eight gazillion videos on YouTube about how to appropriately jelq your penis.”
Case in point: A seriously NSFW five-minute YouTube Jelqing demo titled “Proof You Can Get a Larger Penis” was posted in 2016 and has racked up 26 million views. The purveyor claims to have added three inches to his erect girth in two years of daily jelqing. Elsewhere on social media, dedicated jelqers say that jelqing can create firmer erections and improve erectile dysfunction.
There isn’t much scientific evidence that any of this is true.
How do you jelq?
There are a few variations on jelqing. Going by the sites dedicated to the technique, the consensus seems to be this:
- Make an “OK” sign, or a pinching gesture, with your index finger and thumb.
- Lubricate the penis and achieve a partial erection.
- Using your fingers, stretch the penis and pull downward, from the base of your penis to the head.
There are also some contraptions available online that can be used for jelqing, sold under names like “the Penilizer.” These devices grip the penis between traction rollers or plastic arms. (On Amazon, one of them brings up a similarly shaped “canning jar lifter” under related products; it’s used to remove mason jars from boiling water.)
Does jelqing work?
There have been no formal clinical trials on the effectiveness of jelqing. But the data that has been reported isn’t that impressive.
In 2018, a urologist working for PhalloGauge Medical, a site that sells penis extenders as sex toys, conducted a study on jelqing’s effectiveness on penis enlargement. He enlisted seven men to do 200 jelqing strokes daily for three months and asked them to measure their penises along the way. At the end of the study, the average length gain was 0.13 inches, and the average girth increase 0.3 inches. “The clear conclusion is that jelqing exercise does not have a significant effect on erect penis size enlargement,” he said (Raz, 2008).
Risks of jelqing
And then there’s the fact that jelqing comes with no small risk of injury. Let’s step back and take a look at the anatomy of the penis, and what can go wrong therein.
The penis is filled with spongy tissue called the corpus cavernosum and the corpus spongiosum. During arousal, these areas fill with blood and expand, producing an erection. That blood flows through two arteries, one on other side of the penis, called the cavernosal arteries. During an erection, those arteries dilate, maximizing blood flow into the penis while compressing blood vessels on the outside to prevent blood from draining out. The shaft and the glans of the penis contain thousands of tiny nerves that produce feelings of sexual pleasure.
Jelqing can jack up the entire delicate system. Side effects can include bruising, swelling, numbness and permanent damage, including erectile dysfunction. “I’ve had plenty of patients come to see me, post-jelqing, with neurological tears. So now they have a numb penis, or tearing and overstretching of the arteries and veins, so they have permanent ED,” says Cohen. “If you tear the microvasculature or micro-neurological input to the penis, no one can correct that. You can’t open up the skin, find what’s torn and sew it together—it’s not like suturing Lebron James’ ligament after he pulls a biceps tendon. These guys have done permanent damage, and some of them don’t recover very well.”
Does penis enlargement work?
In terms of permanent results, penis enlargement surgery is the surest bet. A number of surgeries are available—from snipping the penis’s internal ligament, to inserting a permanent implant—that will increase length and girth.
(Read more about how to make your penis bigger.)
Just like “male enhancement” supplements, the vast majority of nonsurgical penis enlargement methods such as penis pumps and jelqing haven’t been proven to produce permanent results. And they may do more harm than good.
There is evidence that one nonsurgical method can be effective in making the penis longer: Wearing a traction device. That’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like—you put your unit in a small stretching rack and wear it under your clothes for several hours a day.
“Nearly anything can be stretched in the body, including the penis, and that has been done for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years,” says Landon Trost, MD, a urologist with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, who developed a traction device called RestoreX to help men with Peyronie’s Disease, a condition in which the penis becomes unnaturally bent.
A study published in the British Journal of Urology in 2008 found that after six months of wearing a penile extender for four hours a day, 15 men gained 2.3 centimeters (0.9 inches) in flaccid length and 1.7 centimeters (0.67 inches) stretched. No significant difference in penile girth was detected (Gontero, 2009).
But before you put your dick in traction to gain less than an inch, at best, ask yourself: Is it really worth it? “At the end of the day,” says Cohen, “I want to ask these guys, is this something your partner wants, or something you thought they wanted? Often, it’s something we falsely believe our partner wants, but in actuality they don’t give a shit. They just want sex.”
Do you have penis dysmorphia?
Penis enlargement options seem to be everywhere online, because the industry preys on ancient male insecurities that modern culture has only made worse. Porn has caused some men to develop unrealistic expectations and disordered thinking that psychologists call “small penis anxiety” or “penis dysmorphia syndrome”—the irrational, unshakable belief that you just don’t measure up.
“This is something that gets stuck in our heads—you watch too much porn, and all the porn stars have these massive penises. But those are often also augmented or injected with different substances to give them an artificial erection,” says Cohen. “So don’t believe what you see on TV.”
Don’t let porn—which is, by definition, fake—put a damper on your self-esteem and very real sex life. This may sound a bit corny, but it’s been true since well before the first person dreamed up jelqing: Developing emotional intimacy with your partner—and communicating honestly and openly about what you both like, in and out of bed—goes a lot further toward great sex than the characteristics of any particular part of your anatomy.