Organ Lessons

Surgeon genital's warning: A penis-enlargement operation can leave you scarred, lumpy and--yikes!--smaller

Lombardi's Restaurant at Arizona Center is deserted at 3:30 p.m. on a Wednesday, but David chooses a table off to the side, just to be safe. And while he doesn't normally drink at lunch, he's already fortified himself with a Royal and Seven.

He glances around, picks up a blue crayon, draws a smiley face on the doodle paper spread over the table. Dropping the crayon, he smiles weakly and orders another drink.

David's an outgoing guy--some might even classify him as a swinger--but it's not every day that he tells a total stranger about the elective surgery that left his penis scarred, numb, lumpy and leaky.

He's one of thousands of men--including many from the Phoenix area--who have had operations in the past couple of years to have their penises enlarged. And he's one of a growing number who say they were maimed in the process.

David wanted a wider, stronger penis for his girlfriends who like wild sex. He snickers. "Girls don't know that it's not a bone, it's just an organ. Especially if they're drunk."

In 1993, the word was out in Los Angeles--or, rather, it was out in ads in the Los Angeles Times sports section: Dr. Melvyn Rosenstein offered a simple operation to enlarge the penis. A ligament attaching the penis to the abdominal wall would be cut and reattached at a lower point, offering up to three inches in added length. Fat from the stomach would be injected into the penis for added girth.

Surgery time: one hour. Recovery time: a week for most activities, a month for sex. Cost: $5,900.

A friend told David about the procedure, and he called for more information. After a half-dozen conversations with Rosenstein and his associates, David flew from Phoenix to L.A. and headed for Rosenstein's office--a medical building around the corner from the old MGM studios in Culver City. There, he offered up his private parts.

He opted for both procedures, even though he claims he was a healthy five inches long. "If he's gonna thicken it, obviously he's gotta lengthen it."

From the beginning, there were problems.
Despite Rosenstein's promises of a speedy recovery, David says he was bedridden for more than a month.

"I was telling people that I had a hernia. They didn't believe me, because a hernia only takes a couple weeks to heal."

David's a salesman; he worked the phone from his bed. His penis was so sore and heavy, he had to prop it up with a towel.

"It was so depressing," he says. "It was so bad. I could barely even go out. I had to force myself. To go out, I had to take about three Vicodins. Then I would drink a lot, to kill the pain. That's how I would do it."

Instead of being delighted with his enlarged penis--two inches longer, and 25 percent wider--David was horrified. He says he was given far more length than he asked for, and because the operation extends the flat area right above the penis outward, he had a half inch of pubic hair at the top of his shaft. "It looked terrible," he says.

Then the stitches where the ligament had been reattached dissolved, and the incision opened up, creating a painful and disconcerting dangle.

"I felt like--oh my gawd, John Bobbitt!--I was halfway there." David flew back to Rosenstein's office for emergency surgery, free of charge.

A few weeks later, the skin on top of the shaft of David's penis opened up, and fluid leaked out. He called Rosenstein again.

"He said it was juices oozing," David recalls as the waitress slips a steaming plate of shrimp, clams and pasta before him.

But David suspected it was the fat that had been injected into his penis. When the broken skin healed, it left a scar, a loose clump, and a loss of feeling along the top of the shaft.

It was six months before he could have sex--gingerly.
Through his pain and suffering, David remained loyal to Rosenstein.
Then he developed an odd-looking bubble on the tip of his penis. No problem, Rosenstein told him over the phone; it can be fixed in half an hour for $750.

David thought the repaiR>rs should be free.
"I hung up, and I called a lawyer right away," he says.
He filed a lawsuit against Rosenstein in early 1995. He wants at least $2 million.

New Times first wrote of Everyguy's quest for a salami-size penis two years ago ("A Groin Concern," January 5, 1994). Rosenstein's ads were appearing in the Arizona Republic, and he operated a Phoenix sales office where "medical assistants" peddled the promise of a bigger, better penis.

He attracted up to 20 Arizona clients a month.
Rosenstein was not the only urologist offering penis enlargements, but through the satellite sales offices around the country and shameless selfpromotion--he called himself Dr. Dick--he quickly became the most popular.

Now he's the most troubled.
More than 40 men like David have filed lawsuits against Rosenstein. There's even a woman suing him. Diane Cresci of Contra Costa, California, claims her husband, Peter, died of "drug toxicity" as a result of a Rosenstein penis enlargement in 1994.

Many others are too shy to come forward. But on a random morning in the Santa Monica court building, a Rosenstein patient is sighted, shuffling through files, sheepishly looking for an experienced lawyer among the many who represent former patients who have already sued the doctor.

This particular patient--a short man with a European accent and bloodshot eyes--says his penis is not as badly misshapen as some others.

How does he know? He sees them all the time at the gym in Los Angeles, he says.

In fact, there are so many allegedly botched penises out there that two cottage industries have sprung up as a result. Keith Schulner, a lawyer in Camarillo, California, represents 20 men who are suing Rosenstein.

And then there are the doctors who specialize in repairing bad penis-enlargement jobs. One, Dr. Gary Rheinschild of Anaheim, advertises his reconstructive services in the Los Angeles Times.

Of course, Rosenstein has been known to fix Rheinschild's enlargemR>ents-gone-awry, too.

But Rosenstein's not botching anyone's crotch anymore. Last month, the California Medical Board suspended Rosenstein's license to practice medicine in the state. In a ten-page "Findings of Fact," administrative law judge Samuel Reyes found Rosenstein was guilty of voluminous indiscretions, including:

* False advertising. In his ads, Rosenstein claimed that "most patients appear as if they have doubled in size" and that he was the "world's leading authority on penile surgery."

* Incomplete screening of clients. "Some surgeries were canceled only after patients in the operating room were discovered to have what appeared to be ... an active herpes outbreak, a prior augmentation surgery or a problematic hernia-repair scar," Reyes wrote.

* Less-than-sterile conditions. "Rarely were more than 15 minutes devoted to cleaning the operating room between procedures. As a result, blood was occasionally left on the floor; also, liposuctioned fat which had become airborne during operations sometimes remained on walls and cabinets."

* Disfigurement and infection of patients. Reyes documented the experiences of four patients, including one whose problems began in the recovery room with excruciating pain. The patient later met with Rosenstein, with the following complaints:

"He had a big, red, bulbous blister on the head of the penis; he could not touch or wash himself; he could hardly walk; he could not lay in bed; he could hardly urinate; he could not wear clothing; he could not stand any pressure on the groin area; hehad developed a foreskin which totally enveloped the penis; his penis was red and raw; the penis was slowly dripping a pinkish-red bloody substance and a butter-colored secretion; he was experiencing burning and stinging upon urination; he was not able to sleep; and he felt weak and sickly.

"[Rosenstein] examined the genitalia and told the patient that all was normal."

Rosenstein could not be reached for comment. Chris Solton, marketing directoR>r for the now-defunct Rosenstein Medical Group, tells New Times that Rosenstein is traveling in Europe, spreading the gospel about his penis-enlargement techniques.

Rosenstein has retired from surgery, Solton says, because he developed repetitive-stress injuries from performing up to ten penis enlargements a day.

Solton points to the large number of satisfied Rosenstein patients as proof that the guy's not all bad. "There's a thousand reasons for not having the perfect result," he says--many of them beyond the doctor's control.

Solton adds, "People will come up saying they have problems, you know, they lost their lover--whatever--their dog ran away. And all that stuff was happening beforehand. Now they just have something to blame it on."

The American Urological Association does not consider either the lengthening or widening techniques used by Rosenstein and other penis modifiers to be "safe or efficacious," according to a policy statement issued in 1994 and reaffirmed last September.

Yet thousands of men have gone under the knife--not just with Rosenstein, but with surgeons performing similar procedures in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Florida.

While David, the thirtysomething swinger, is certainly the stereotypical penile-enlargement candidate, others have a more surprising profile. Like Joe, a Phoenix businessman who has been married to the same woman for more than 20 years.

"I'm not like a freak of nature. I'm just a normal, middle-aged guy--great family, great wife," he says.

Joe's wife never complained about his physique, but Joe had always considered hispenis to be on the small side. So when he saw an ad promoting Dr. William Casey, a Burbank urologist who offers the same lengthening technique as Rosenstein, he splurged.

Because of excessive scarring, the surgery left Joe with a shorter erection.
"I had an erection-reduction operation!" he says incredulously.
(Casey says that scarring, which he admits is responsible for shorter erR>ections, is not uncommon; he recommends that patients wear penile weights and see him once a month for steroid injections designed to diminish scars. Joe gave up after his fifth steroid treatment.)

Joe eventually found Dr. Michael Chasin, aMesa urologist who specializes in sexual dysfunction. Chasin does not perform penile enlargements, although he has patients who wish their penises were bigger.

Chasin says, "What Rosenstein proved is that there's a tremendous number of patients out there who really are unhappy, and they've got a problem, and it should be addressed by mainstream medicine. Not necessarily by making it bigger, but at least by providing some counseling."

The Mesa urologist is disgusted by the penile-enlargement sales pitch. Most women just don't care, he insists.

"Basically, you need a penis that's maybe an inch and a half in length, and that's all you need, because most women receive sexual satisfaction from clitoral contact," Chasin says.

Indeed, ask Masters and Johnson or Cosmopolitan or Psychology Today, the verdict is unanimous: Penis size doesn't matter to women.

Of course, there are exceptions, such as the infamous vignette in Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, in which Zelda Fitzgerald tells her husband, F. Scott, that his penis isn't big enough to satisfy her.

According to Hemingway, Fitzgerald told him: "Zelda said that the way I was built I could never make any woman happy and that was what upset her originally. She said it was a matter of measurements. I have never felt the same since she said that and I have to know truly."

Upon viewing Fitzgerald's proffered penis, Hemingway assured his friend he was okay and advised him to check out other specimens at the Louvre. But one is left with the impression that Fitzgerald will always doubt his virility.

And therapists say it takes just one such experience--whether in the bedroom or the locker room--to seal a man's insecurity.

In the Twenties, one spoke delicately about such subjeR>cts. But the Nineties are shaping up as the Decade of the Penis. It's impossible to escape penis references--from the media's overzealous coverage ofJohn Wayne Bobbitt to the Seinfeld shrinkage episode, in which George Costanza is caught fresh out of chilling water with his swimming trunks down.

All of this discussion of penises has made men more self-conscious, says Peter Lehman, a film professor at the University of Arizona and the author of Running Scared: Masculinity and the Representation of the Male Body. Lehman says that in most cases, men have nothing to worry about.

According to a study conducted last year at the San Francisco General Hospital Medical Center, only two of every 100 men have a penis of a "subnormal" size--fewer than 2.8 inches in length and fewer than 3.5inches in girth when erect.

Esquire magazine echoed Lehman's sentiment last year, dubbing the syndrome "phallomania"--"a blossoming, cultlike obsession with the male sexual organs that encompasses men who lengthen their penises with weights or pumps, men who lament their circumcisions and join support groups to restore their foreskins, men who have saline solution injected into their scrotums to enlarge them, men who subscribe to Penis Power Quarterly and men who use weight-and-pulley rigs to stretch their penises while in bed at night."

From the Caramoja tribe of northern Uganda to the sadus of India, ritualistic penis enlargement has been practiced around the world, Esquire reported.

And now, in the United States, too, thanks to practitioners like Melvyn Rosenstein, a urologist educated at NYU Medical School in the 1960s who had practiced for years in California before delving into the lucrative enlargement business.

Chasin and many of his colleagues disapprove of the widening and lengthening procedures employed by Rosenstein. In many cases, fat injected into the penis is reabsorbed into the body, and sometimes it leaves lumps.

As for the lengthening, Chasin says, "cutting the ligament basicalR>ly doesn't give you a bigger penis. It just changes what we used to call as kids: the angle of the dangle."

Often, the procedure causes the point where the penis is anchored to the abdominal wall to drop down into the fleshy scrotum, creating the impression of an even smaller penis. And, Chasin and his colleagues add, the lengthening procedure never adds length to an erection. It only creates the impression, in the flaccid state, of a longer shaft.

"He says that he's enlarging the penis, and that's a blatant lie. Period. There are operations that can be done to enlarge a penis. This isn't one of them," Chasin says.

What would lengthen a penis? Chasin tries to draw a diagram, then gives up and rips a sheet of paper from a notebook, rolls it into a tube, and pulls scissors from his pocket.

The only way to get real length, he says, slicing the tube in half, is to cut the penis, transplant tissue to make it longer, and insert an implant.

Of course, that also makes the patient impotent.

Kent, an amateur body builder from Phoenix, saw Melvyn Rosenstein's ad in a muscle magazine a year and a half ago. He spoke on the phone to a sales representative, who compared penis-enlargement surgery to tooth extraction.

Then he spoke to Rosenstein, who told him the surgery wasn't too invasive, that recovery time was short and that he'd have minimal scarring--just a one-inch incision.

Kent decided to go for the lengthening option, even though his penis was already six inches long. His girlfriend's first question: "Why?"

"I said, 'Well, it sounds pretty easy and I've got some extra money now; it seems like there's no drawback.'"

He flew to Culver City for the operation. When he arrived, Kent found that another doctor, not Rosenstein, would be performing the operation. (He declines to share the doctor's name on the advice of his attorney, because he is preparing to file a lawsuit against the Rosenstein Medical Group.)

He woke up alone, in the recovery room.
R> "It's like everybody went home for the day."
Kent stayed there for an hour, groggy and sick, until finally an orderly came in. He asked about results, but the orderly didn't know anything. He gave Kent some medicine and sent him on his way.

He phoned the doctor the next day and was told he had gained an inch and a half. Kent waited a week, then took off his bandages.

"I had a lot more scarring than he had told me. I had about six inches of scars."

Kent bled for a month; Rosenstein's office kept telling him to bandage the area where the stitches had opened. He told them he was going to go to the emergency room.

He says he was told, "They are going to be horrified at what they see, because they have no understanding of what this procedure is."

After four months, Kent noticed more scarring. He saw no evidence of new length. In fact, he says, his penis was shrinking.

He returned to Culver City for a scar revision. "They told me I'm one of those rare people that heals with excessive scar tissue. And I don't believe that for a second, because I used to race motocross and I've actually got a few scars, and they're perfect."

He says he told the doctor, "'Quite frankly, my girlfriend is appalled at the way I look.' Igo, 'I look like some kind of Frankenstein/Bobbitt construction here.' And he goes, 'Well, you probably need another girlfriend.'"

Kent arrived home from the second trip and realized his sutures were again splitting. And this time, when he finally healed, he says, "I was really distorted. I didn't look normal at all."

He explains, "Normally on a guy, they've got the penis shaft and of course their testicles hang underneath. Now my shaft was coming from between my testicles."

It had been more than a year since the original operation. Kent had lost months of work, and he was running out of cash. He moved in with his parents so they could take care of him.

Kent returned to Culver City again, where doctors promised they'd make a small incision underneath the penis, to make it look as though he had a shaft again.

Instead, he says, "They cut me from just below the head of my penis to down underneath my testicle sac. They split me wide open."

Voice cracking, he says, "I took a look at it, and I almost had a heart attack. What they did to me was unbelievable.

"I kinda had a shaft back again, but it looked like if someone blew up one of those long, thin-type balloons they make animals out of, and then put a rubber band in the middle of it."

He called the doctor, who told him the skin had to be pulled extra tight because it would loosen.

And?
"Well, it did loosen up, because all of my stitches came out. And basically, I could at that time look down into my testicle sac."

He flew back to Los Angeles in 1996 and checked into a hotel near Rosenstein's office. He turned on the television and saw news accounts of Rosenstein's tussle with the California Medical Board.

"That scared me to death," Kent says. He found another doctor, and a lawyer. Reconstruction will take two years, at a cost of $6,000. He lost his girlfriend, too. And as for sex?

"I don't feel very good about myself, so I don't really let myself get in that position."

"Where are my raspberries?" David asks the waitress, tapping his spoon on the burnt sugar atop his creme brulee.

Doesn't come with fruit, he's told.
After three drinks, David's speech is a bit slurred. And he's getting friendly. You don't talk a lot, he says to the waitress. She smiles.

Does she have kids? No.
A boyfriend? No.
Married? No.
Where does she go out?

"I don't go out much," she says, still smiling but edging away from the table. When she comes back to take the check, he tries again to engage her, to no avail.

He leans across the white butcher paper, which is now adorned with crude pen depictions of his surgical woes. "Do you think she's a lesbian or something?" he asks.

David still dates, he still has sex, but says he's embarrassed about his penis. He tells the girls he needs therapy.

And no, it doesn't help to turn off the lights.
"Whether you turn off the light or not, you can feel it. You know it. It's kinda deformed."

He has a five-inch scar down the middle, two little ones on either side, and one on the top where the fat leaked out. Plus, his penis is lumpy and, because of the bubble on the end, he has to squeeze it after he urinates or risk walking out of the men's room with a wet spot on his trousers.

"It's like a faucet. You got a leak in the faucet and it's dripping," he says, shaking his head in disgust.

He's found a doctor in Beverly Hills who will perform reconstructive surgery--no guarantees--for $7,000.

"He's got credentials from the Mayo Clinic, so him I trust."
Despite all this, David doesn't regret his decision to get a penis enlargement. He just regrets his choice of doctors. It sounds like a case of colossal rationalization.

"If I'd'a had a clue, I wouldn't have done it--with him. Would I still do it again? Yeah.

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