We had just fallen in love when Blake asked me how many sexual partners I’d had. It was Thanksgiving and we’d spent the day together, making our own meal of crab and prime rib, which we ate while watching Pixar movies—the perfect, low-pressure Thanksgiving. That night, we lounged on the couch, our stomachs full, legs entwined. I felt happy and excited and scared—that cocktail of emotions that accompanies a new relationship. At last I’d found an attractive, smart, creative person who seemed to have his life together. So, I simply answered with my number.
I could’ve guessed that my new boyfriend’s sexual history didn’t have as many chapters—or footnotes—as mine, but that didn’t matter to me. He’d spent most of his date-able years in a monogamous relationship while I was still playing the field. It was just how the numbers shook out, I figured; we were at different places in our lives. But Blake didn’t see things this way. In his mind, there were numbers that were too high, and mine was one of them.
The day before we got married, Blake insisted that I tell him, once and for all, how his penis measured up. We had been together for a year by then and I had spent much of that time, ever since that Thanksgiving, enduring interrogations about my sexual history. But this time, he literally backed me into a corner, yelling that I tell him the truth about his size—why couldn’t I just do that?—as if my experience made me some kind of phallus-measuring expert.
I was scared. Finally, I broke down and admitted that, in my inexpert opinion, he was on the smaller side of average. I felt ill. It was one of those things you just don’t say, no matter what, but Blake had a knack for getting me to speak the unspeakable—to not just cross my boundaries, but to erase them entirely.
The next day, we eloped.
We bought plain wedding bands at the mall on our way to the court house. I wore a lacey pink and white dress I’d pulled out of my closet and cried throughout the short ceremony, a knot in my stomach. Deep down, I knew marrying him wasn’t going to solve any of our problems.
Sure enough, a few days later, Blake brought up the idea of having his penis enlarged. Until then, I hadn’t even known such a thing was possible. But my husband had already done his research, spending hours in the darkest recesses of the internet where desperate, insecure men gather in chatrooms to discuss back-alley methods of augmenting their manhood. He had found a clinic in Mexico.
I begged Blake not to alter his body. I liked him the way he was, I said. He didn’t need a bigger penis. This was the truth: I’d never found any correlation between the size of a partner’s package and the quality of the sex we had. I’d also never dated anyone—or stopped dating someone—over such a detail. Besides, I have a chronic pain disorder that often makes intercourse painful. If Blake enlarged his penis, it could adversely affect our sex life.
He scoffed at this, citing a well-endowed partner of my past as proof that this didn’t matter, even though I had had many problems with pain and flare-ups during that relationship. Then he delivered his final, crushing manipulation: He was doing this for me.
This is what I really wanted, he said. After all, I’d fawned over other boyfriends’ penises, but not his. He knew about this, about the nicknames and inside jokes, because he’d snooped through my emails and gchats from the last few years—another abuse that started to feel pedestrian.
But while doubting his own sexual prowess, Blake was working overtime to shame mine. He claimed he’d told his friends how many people I’d slept with and that they’d asked if I had emotional problems. He confronted me with data on the national average of sex partners, further evidence that I was a slut, while he was simply slightly above average. He was exceptional, someone with wild oats still to sow, while I was a freak.
It was the ultimate form of gaslighting, a way of blaming me for the self-harm he inflicted.
So he flew to Mexico to have the procedure.
Not long after he arrived—having flown to a neighboring town and driven across the border by bus—clinicians injected some kind of solution into his penis, which would cause tremendous swelling and pain. After his first “treatment,” he made the long journey home with his penis tucked in a synthetic sleeve and wrapped in gauze, the organ so battered and bruised he wouldn’t let me see it.
Eventually, when the swelling subsided, Blake’s penis was permanently enlarged, both in its flaccid and erect states. But the solution inside it could settle unevenly, causing lumps or other irregularities. Furthermore, one treatment was not enough to make enough of a difference for him. Most patients visited the clinic two or three times, even though each trip costs a few thousand dollars.