Patrick Moote's Unhung Hero: Penis size has been a hot topic in recent weeks - but does length really matter?

Simon Usborne asks the experts – including a man who's made a film about his shortcomings

Patrick Moote knows what it's like to be ridiculed for having an allegedly small penis. At school, his tormentors brandished hooked little fingers, the international symbol for phallic deficiency, and called him "Paddy pickle dick".

The tag stuck, but the American comedian has hit back with a film, in a prominent week for diminutive organs. The other belongs to Max Clifford, who will be sentenced tomorrow for indecent assault. His crimes must not be trivialised, but what does the coverage of his trial, as well as Moote's documentary, reveal about society's obsession with size?

Assessments of Clifford's penis were presented as evidence at Southwark Crown Court, eliciting sniggers from jurors and journalists. One witness described it as "freakishly small". The defence attempted to claim these memories were false – proof that the women were lying. A witness described the accused as "enormous", while a doctor put his penis at 5.25ins, or about average. Clifford lost the case.

That Moote has a small penis is not in dispute. A urologist confirms as much in his film, Unhung Hero, classifying the 30-year-old as "low normal". Moote took the brave decision to make what he calls a "cockumentary" in response to those bullies. The insecurities they left him with came to a humiliating head in 2012 when, in a clip that went viral on YouTube and then on TV, his girlfriend fled his public marriage proposal at a basketball game. He later discovered the reason for her rejection: his penis was too small.

Patrick Moote's 'cockumentary' examines modern male anxiety Patrick Moote's 'cockumentary' examines modern male anxiety
Setting out to fix his problem, Moote travels the world in search of pills, pumps and – potentially – implants. He plays it for laughs, drinking turtle-testicle liqueur and meeting a porn star called Dale DaBone, but the film becomes a broader examination of modern male anxiety. "From the beginning, I knew this was something a lot of guys felt," he says by phone from the US. "By going out and disarming the topic with information, I thought that it would have a positive effect."

Why are we so hung up in the first place? Phillip Hodson is a psychotherapist and agony uncle. "You start with the fact that men like to measure everything, which ultimately derives from the competitive struggle to be top dog," he says. "We are the mensuration not menstruation sex." There are also evolutionary theories about penis size. In The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins writes: "It is not implausible that, with natural selection refining their diagnostic skills, females could glean all sorts of clues about a male's health… [from the] bearing of his penis." Perhaps as a result, Hodson says, Freud got it wrong on penis envy – "it's men who suffer from it, not women".

Popular culture, porn, and schoolboy humour only reinforce the idea that big is better. There is an irony, he adds, in the fragility of the male organ. He cites Gay Talese, the American author, who wrote: "It is very vulnerable even when made of stone, and the museums of the world are filled with Herculean figures brandishing penises that are chipped, clipped or completely chopped off."

Moote blames inner fragility on a new prudishness in the school changing room, which limits the exposure to other penises of many boys to images on computer screens or their imaginations. “It was horrible and extra confusing growing up because I didn’t know if what people were saying was even true,” he says. “I didn’t know what average was and the insecurity makes you second guess other things. Maybe I’m not as tall as I should be, not manly enough.”

Tracey Cox is a sex therapist and author who for several years used to run anonymous online clinics for men. “They could ask me anything they wanted but the same questions came up and number one was always, is my penis big enough? It’s still a symbol of manhood we cling to, and we still associate bigger with being a better man. Yet guys with below-average penises are often better in bed because they perfect other techniques. Men with large penises are the ones we should run a mile from.”

We may never know the truth about Clifford, and that's a good thing. Moote, meanwhile, says that he still wonders if making a film about his penis was sensible, but is happier now. He has a girlfriend who is happy, too, and says that since the film came out in the US earlier this year, "plenty of guys have hit me up on Facebook saying the movie made them feel better about themselves." To those who would still make fun, he offers: "I've already made a movie about my penis so you can't joke any more, it's bulletproof."

'Unhung Hero' is released today on iTunes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Service Desk Analyst- Desktop Support, Helpdesk, ITIL

    £20000 - £27000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

    Service Desk Analyst - (Active Directory, Support, London)

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst - (Active Di...

    Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

    £30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

    Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, VBA)

    £30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

    Day In a Page

    All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
    What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

    What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

    Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
    Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

    Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

    Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
    Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

    Radio 1’s new top ten

    The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
    Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

    Florence Knight's perfect picnic

    Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
    Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

    Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

    The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
    Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

    Mark Hix's summery soups

    Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
    Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

    Tim Sherwood column

    I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
    Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

    Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

    The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition