With their chant of 'empowerment, not endowment', Small Penis Support Group members hope to convince the world that size doesn't matter. But can a little really go a long way? In the name of research, Mark Ellwood attends a brief meeting

Any man who claims that he doesn't wish his penis were larger is lying: hung like a baseball bat or a double-A battery, we all know it could be bigger. We also know that, despite spammed promises of pills to put meat on our members, there's no way, surgical or otherwise, to go from earthworm to anaconda.

But finally there's an off-line answer to the perennial problem of size: the Small Penis Support Group, launched last autumn by Robert Woodworth. He founded the group because, a little on the small side himself, he was tired of having to endure dinner-party debate about why big is so much better. A few sessions with Woodworth and co are guaranteed to help restore your cockiness, even if they can do nothing to change the size of your penis.

The group, which meets at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Centre in Manhattan's Greenwich Village, where Woodworth works, is officially named "What Is Small, Anyway?" Most meetings - including the one I attended - spend ample time debating that topic. Of course my friend Tom, who used to sell penile implants for a living, has the answer: in the medical world, the dealbreaking size is 5in. Anything smaller and it's too tiny to treat. Despite holding the Holy Grail of How Small Is Too Small, he refused point blank to come along to the session with me, even when I explained he was in a position to be a missionary of sexual mercy.

The whole operation is rather like a splinter of the Rotary Club, only with a penchant for dirty talk. There's plenty of time wasted on admin and introductions; much frantic note- taking and task delegation; and ample debate over the annual general meeting (or what passes for one). But instead of fundraisers and good causes, discussion here centres on foreskins and group sex: one man, a tiny, wiry ringer for Sex and the City's Stanford Blatch, confesses to being most conscious of his shortcomings whenever he's at an orgy - as if group sex is as ordinary as grocery shopping is for the rest of us.

It might feel like the Masons at first, but when the moderator asks in his honeyed voice, "So when did you first realise your penis was so small?" it's clear this is a rather different kind of secret society. Most of the 16 or so men mumble that it was an adolescent, after-sports shower thing; while one, a stiff sergeant-major type in his late sixties, says that, thanks to his sex-phobic Victorian parents, he knew nothing about either size or sex until he joined the army. But the supportive mood is quickly broken when Chris, a chatty photographer whose under-endowment clearly doesn't stretch as far as his ego, starts talking. First, he boasts about the full-frontal self-portrait he once used as a Christmas card and then he explains his own problem; Chris has what's known, apparently, as a "surprise package" - a penis tiny when flaccid but huge once erect. I'd fretted that there might be a Masons-style spot-check at the door to see if we were all part of the brotherhood - less a handshake, more a frisk - and had prepared accordingly; listening to Chris complain about his deceptively large penis, I find myself wishing there had been. At least then we might have been spared his swagger.

Woodworth spends most of the session tucked in the corner, lobbing questions and calming concerns. A jowly bloodhound of a man admits he came simply to find out if there was any guaranteed enhancer of either length or girth; he's visibly crushed when Woodworth says no. In fact, the Stanford lookalike chips in to warn that penis pumps can cause permanent damage and leave blisters all over your organ; amid shivers, he footnotes his expertise by flagging himself as a bodyworker.

Another youngish guy, who nervously shreds the plastic lid of his coffee cup while he talks, explains that he only came because his therapist insisted; and then recalls how the ad campaign for the movie Godzilla was particularly painful, with its giant, taunting posters claiming that "Size Does Matter".

Woodworth runs through a few reassuring websites, and prompts a flurry of furious note-taking: he highly recommends www.smalldickmagazine.com, a community for men with tiny penises and those who love them, and even features personal ads; and www.measurection.com, a site with ample space devoted to the basic question "What is small, anyway?"

Most of the remainder of the meeting is not about personal penis problems, though - no doubt in part to prevent Chris from spouting more tosh such as, "Asserting my masculinity with a small dick is something I want to do." Instead, we discuss what form the big bash that Woodworth has planned for next month should take.

Long-term members - those who have not missed a meeting since the group was launched last October - are keen for a social mixer (read: dating according to penis size). Stanford even suggests a "6in & Under" sex party; it will redress the balance of so-called "8in & Over" parties, popular on the Manhattan gay scene, which are open only to those who are amply endowed. A few attendees are tapped to research potential venues, while a maverick who suggests a massage seminar is tasked with planning an alternative. With that, the group is over and I scurry out of the door and head to a bar for a stiff drink.

For me, sitting with the group and talking about sexual shortcomings for so long was like stepping in a stranger's bathwater; and for all the fighting talk of "Empowerment, Not Endowment", the session was oddly depressing. Why had no one reassured these men (or loved them enough) to explain that there was more to life, sex and self-esteem than longing for a penis so big it needs its own passport? Or as founder of greatboy friends.com and US Elle columnist, E Jean Carroll puts it: "If gay men spent as much time on their careers as they do thinking about their penis size they could be running the world right now. They're obsessed with it - as obsessed about their penises as straight women are about their weight. It's stupid. Men with small penises are usually better lovers than men with large penises because they go the extra distance."

If only these men would listen to Carroll and hear more of her explosive revelations - instead, they seem to believe that by accepting their penis size, they'll be able to accept themselves; when in fact, only the reverse is true.

Bad company? 10 of the world's most unlikely self-help groups

Type the words "self-help" or "support group" into Google and you'll get over 3.5 million hits - and they are not all about overcoming the sauce or a gambling problem. Here are some of the more bizarre offerings. Help is out there...

Alien Abduction Experience Claiming to be the world's largest alien-abduction support group, AAE (www.abduct.com) is a one-stop-shop for believers, with a great section on alien-implant removal.

Tapestry Against Polygamy Salt Lake City, home to the Mormons and polygamy capital of the USA, has some 50,000 polygamous family members. If you're one them perhaps its time to join this support group at www.polygamy.org.

Procrastination Do you spend your life dilly-dallying? Then join a thriving community of like-minded postponers at www.procrastinate.net firms.com which offers handy hints on how to avoid avoidance. Could be worth a look. At some point.

Marijuana Anonymous It's a little surprising but one of the world's most chilled-out activities has its own 12-step recovery programme to free the weed at www.marijuana-anonymous.org.

The Large Penis Support Group It may have started off as a joke, but long-schlong sufferers will find solace at www.lpsg.org from the heavy burden they must carry around with them.

Toilet Phobia Parcopresis is the inability to defecate when other people are nearby. Sufferers come to home.freeuk.net/parcopresis to seek advice.

Internet Addiction Support Group An on-line community centre for Net addicts? Isn't that a bit like holding an AA meeting in a pub? (www.netaddiction.com)

Mocha Moms Being a successful housewife is a full-time job - how do they do it? Luckily www.mochamoms.org explains all for those who need some light to be shed on the mysterious phenomenon.

Hoarding If you're having problems chucking out your chintz then visit health.groups.yahoo.com/ group/messiness-and-hoarding, a meeting place for messy individuals.

Pinocchia A forum for people with enormous schnozzes to berate the lengths of their appendages (www.pinocchia.com). The best of its kind by a nose.

For information on the Small Penis Support Goup 'Whats Is Small, Anyway' visit www.gaycenter.org

By Adam Jacques