Talking Body Image With Dr Gemma Sharp

Talking body image with Dr. Gemma Sharp

Talking Body Image With Dr Gemma Sharp

The Penis Podcast Episode 11  |  Follow on Spotify | Follow on Apple iTunes

DR GAV: Hi everybody, I’m Dr Gavin Scriven, people call me Dr Gav, and with me is the founder of the non-surgical penis augmentation procedure we call CALIBRE, Dr Jayson Oates.

DR JAYSON: Thanks Dr Gav, and together we are the dick doctors and we are going to be talking about all things penis. Our area of expertise is injectable penis augmentation. There’s a lot to talk about penises and together myself and Dr Gavin will be doing that.

DR GAV: Hello. Welcome, everybody. I’m Dr Gavin Scriven and this is The Penis Show. And with me today is my esteemed colleague, Dr Jayson Oates. And together we are the dick doctors. How are you going?

DR JAYSON: Hi, Dr Gav. Good to be speaking with you again and it is my great pleasure to be able to introduce to you and to everybody, Gemma Sharp, my occasional co-author and a National Health and Medical Research Council senior research fellow at Monash University, where she leads the team on body image research studies. She’s a clinical psychologist running her own private practice as well, which specialises in the treatment of body image disorders. Welcome, Gemma.

DR GEMMA: Thank you so much for having me, I’ve never been on a show called The Penis Show before or join the dick doctors. So, this is a new experience for me, so thank you for having me.

DR JAYSON: Now, you run The Body Image Research Group, so the first question that I have is, does a guy who wants a bigger penis, have a body image problem?

DR GEMMA: Well, I think it would depend on the person. I think some people may have body image issues and some people may not, but they clearly have a concern about a body part and that’s where I would take that conversation exploring. I suppose what may have led them to think that that it might be an issue, maybe they don’t even think it’s an issue at all and they just want it to be bigger. I think there are a myriad of answers to that question.

DR JAYSON: Ok, you got out of that very well. Is there any research or literature about guys who are wanting to have a bigger penis?

DR GEMMA: We’ve published quite a few articles in this field in Aesthetic Surgery Journal. If people want to read this literature, they can contact us and I’ll send it to them. (Link)

DR GEMMA: Wonderful! Because they’re actually freely accessible. When we started collaborating there wasn’t heaps in the literature, it just had more to do with how procedure was done rather than men’s perspectives. I think what we did well was giving men a voice as to their stories and their reasons, because the literature previously only addressed “Guy X wanted a bigger penis”, of course, that’s why he’s come. I would’ve liked to see a background. And what we found were a few different motivations. It probably comes as no surprise to your listeners that penis size often is related to a man’s sense of masculinity and sense of self, which was a big motivator. “I want to improve my self-esteem/self-confidence”. There were some with pretty bad experiences in sexual encounters where partners had told them they had a small penis. They felt like they couldn’t satisfy their partners, so they were trying to overcome those issues.

DR JAYSON: So women making terrible comments.

DR GEMMA: I really have to defend my gender here because it goes very much the other way with women surgeries and men’s comments.

DR JAYSON: So that’s how we first got in contact when we were doing research on female cosmetic genital surgery.

DR GEMMA: Exactly. I think it could be a sexual partner of any gender who can make those comments, I think because we don’t tend to show our genitals to many people. I don’t know about you guys.

DR JAYSON: I get to see a lot!

DR GEMMA: We had guys say all they wanted was to fill out a pair of swimmers better. So obviously there’s that aesthetics and then it’s just a combination of reasons as well. There’s no one reason. Every patient I spoke to, had a really unique story, and they were such good storytellers. It was an absolute joy to do that research.

DR JAYSON: Yes. Thank you for that. There’s also other research showing that dissatisfaction with penis size was actually very common. I think over 50 percent of guys in some of it!


DR JAYSON: And then frequently also their partners were not dissatisfied with the size.

DR GEMMA: So it really shows that mismatch, that not everyone’s partner is encouraging them get penile augmentation. They’re actually pretty satisfied, but the patient themselves is saying, no they aren’t. I think that speaks to broader societal factors around what a penis size means for a man’s sense of masculinity and his ability/ sexual prowess. So it’s not it’s not just partners. It’s that narrative we hear throughout our lives about penis size “bigger is better” and we know that the partners are not necessarily saying that.

DR JAYSON: Is bigger, better?

DR GEMMA: The research is equivocal, sometimes it says it is and sometimes it doesn’t. There’s no clear answer to that. I think patients themselves believe it which is what obviously is prompted them to come in and seek this treatment.

DR JAYSON: When we were discussing it in our most recent research project, with the psychologist at Curtin, one of the questions that came up was, why do guys want to have a bigger penis when they’ve already got a normal sized one and in the literature there were these comments that said “what they need is psychology and not augmentation”. So should guys be having psychology for their desire to have a bigger penis?

DR GEMMA: Well this speaks to a really broad discussion of how psychology and aesthetic plastic surgery should be working together, for all procedures. Having a psychologist on staff is a wonderful step that any practice can take. Sometimes a discussion with a psychologist might be the right choice for a patient post which the psych might conclude he would make a great candidate for it. In fact, that is the majority of recommendations we make. We are not gatekeepers to people getting procedures. We just want people to get the best outcomes based on their expectations. In fact, all of the patients I interviewed from your practice, I would have given the green light to go ahead. They had very realistic expectations and weren’t expecting penile augmentation to be the cure all for their relationship issues nor were they expecting to be a whole new man. They knew ultimately they were going to have a bigger penis and that’s what I want. So that’s what psychologists do really, just check if there are there any underlying psychological disorders and do their expectations match what they’re going to receive. If there’s no disorders and they match up, then we give them the green light. We think you’ll really benefit from this.

DR JAYSON: So in this case, thinking outside of the penis realm, I’ve been sending a few client to the psychologist to see if they’re advised against it.

DR GEMMA: You’re already screening them aren’t you, Jason? If you had a psychologist on staff, then you just do it as routine and where you’re trying to pick up on them maybe having an underlying psychological disorder like body dysmorphic disorder, where we know they’re never going to be happy no matter how many procedures they have. It’s unethical to perform these procedures anyway on someone with BDD. So I think you’re kind of already doing it yourself.

DR JAYSON: Absolutely. Dr Gav. Bringing you in here, what’s your experience with the patients, motivations and psychological type issues that we need to be thinking about?

DR GAV: It’s really interesting hearing what Gemma was saying, because I really agree with everything she just said. Obviously, it’s come from the research and our procedures anyway. It makes sense. From a personal point of view, in my experience with my clients, whatever Gemma said about having an individual reason, every single reason is different is so true. Everyone has a great story and their own motivation to have the procedure. It’s not a singular reason. Just because they want a bigger penis, there always seems to be a personal motivation behind it and when you look into it, I think for myself, I am screening to see if that personal motivation is maybe not very healthy from a psychological point of view. For example, if someone’s got clear signs of depression/anxiety, and they’re looking for something to alleviate those symptoms, cosmetic procedures is not the answer. That’s definitely always in the back of my mind. I think with Gemma mentioning bad experiences and partners saying they weren’t a satisfactory size, unfortunately, I do have a lot of guys telling me that story. I’ve had bad experiences. I have a lot of male clients who have come out of messy divorces and bad breakups who are really low in confidence/self-esteem come in. That’s where I’m really concerned and worried for my clients because I feel like they’re in a vulnerable state emotionally and psychologically and they do need to seek some kind of help from a psychologist during that time. And coming to me as a first point of call for penis augmentation is not the best step forward. Yes and Gemma has her hand up.

DR GEMMA: I think like what you’re saying is really appropriate. What you could find is that they see a psychologist and then we alleviate some of those depression anxiety symptoms. They might still come back to you for the procedure and that’s great, too. I think that’s a really good outcome, preparing someone well for the procedure, but by addressing some of those relationship issues. They might visit them (psychologist) and it’s still something they want to do. And from our side, they are in a really good position to do that now.

DR GAV: Yeah, 100 percent. We just want to make sure they’re in the right state of mind, consenting to a procedure with the right expectations and doing it for the right reasons. Also a lot of my guys are quite insightful, they actually say “I know I’ve come out of a bad breakup and I’ve had bad experiences but I know I’m not here to fix all of that. I just think it’s a great procedure and I want to get a bigger penis”. So I’ve got to give credit to the patients as well, they understand that.

DR JAYSON: And they are a bit freer now to make that decision to go and do it.

DR GAV: Exactly!

DR JAYSON: And we don’t make guys go and see a psychologist before they buy a Porsche, which is the other thing. Maybe they should-

DR GEMMA: Porsches aren’t a medical procedure. So I think it’s maybe a bit lower risk.

DR GAV: It’s much more financial risk though.

DR JAYSON: -So maybe after a breakup they’re looking for that new lease, so they go off and buy a Porsche. I often say to guys, having CALIBRE is a lot cheaper than buying a Porsche. So it is that sort of balance, isn’t it? Sometimes, the more intensely a patient is wanting to have the procedure, the more value that they place on it, the more concern that we need to have as doctors as to whether this is the right way for them to go, because they’re more likely to be the people who are going to have body dysmorphic disorder. They’re going to have ongoing concerns and not be satisfied, whereas patients who tend to be the happiest are the guys who have a laugh at the thought of CALIBRE “wow, a bigger penis, who doesn’t want to have a bigger penis?” It’s something that they’re interested in, but for them life doesn’t revolve around the size of the penis. Whereas for the dissatisfied lot, their life revolves around the size of their penis. Those are the ones that I find we need to be more concerned about who show those signs of underlying body dysmorphic disorder.

DR GEMMA: Yeah. I mean, our diagnostic criteria is the body part concern impacts other areas of functioning like their work lives, relationships and social life, etc. So that really does tick that box of BDD.

DR JAYSON: To so many clients I’ve said “you don’t need it, the vast majority of guys have got totally normal average size penises. This is a desire. You can go and see a psychologist and they can work through this with you and you won’t have that concern and worry about it anymore. Or we can make your penis bigger”. And they all say “just make my penis bigger.” That’s your experience? Is that your experience too Gavin?

DR JAYSON: That’s 100 percent my experience. Just to add to what we were saying before about those guys having gone through maybe bad experiences or trying to go through some self-improvement in their own lives, it is the one thing I look for in guys often which I see as a good sign that they’re focusing on themselves and saying, “now I’ve got a bit more time to myself”. I can improve things in my own life. I’m eating healthier, I’m exercising more, etc. And they seem to be flourishing in all different areas of their life, and on top of that, they’re going “I’d like to get a larger penis because I can” and have the time and the freedom to do it. So I see that positive side as well with guys coming out of those bad experiences. It’s not all negative, but yes, certainly I have seen clients who I do mention it whether they should be getting some more help from a professional psychologist just to work through those issues and by all means, come back and have a chat to me as well in the future about  the penis augmentation. It’s not off the cards, it’s just they’re going through a rough time.

DR JAYSON: I guess the other problem is, especially in a COVID world. You can’t get to see a psychologist anyway because they’re all fully booked and it’s just impossible to get in and see them.

DR GEMMA: There’s some there’s some truth to that. I mean, it’s good and bad. There are lots of people seeking treatment, but we are a bit overwhelmed. Telehealth has really helped us open up more place. I think without it, we would have been in a lot of trouble. I think with patients you’re recommending, what we can do is maybe a one off session just to get them going and then follow up with them when we’ve got some space. I don’t think your patients might be thinking “oh, I need to sit down on a couch for years and the person will be there smoking a pipe”.

DR JAYSON: Isn’t that what you do??

DR GEMMA: It really isn’t. And I think what you could talk about is the benefits of just a single session of having a chat about these issues, because often we do make quite a bit of progress in that single session for these very specific issues. Particularly because I’m not saying I’m going to cure your relationship issues and all your childhood trauma. We’re just seeing your suitability for this procedure and what might help you get to be suitable for it.

DR GAVIN: Just wary of time and obviously, I’d love to speak about this for forever with you, Gem, because it’s fascinating. But I think one of the things I and a lot of our clients would be interested in as well, and I know Jayson and myself have done some research into this, is having found a good candidate and they’ve gone ahead with the procedure. What are the psychosocial outcomes for these guys that you’ve found? How do they feel after getting a procedure like this? What’s the common outcome?

DR GEMMA: Usually they feel their self-confidence increase, particularly in those kind of locker room situations where they might have previously covered up with a towel. They don’t feel they need to now and they might feel a bit more confident in their relationships, etc. The effects are not enormous, as you might expect. I don’t think we could expect an entirely new life, but the effects are moderate and people do tend to benefit. I think probably what does happen in research is that we tend to get the happy customers. They’re the ones most likely to tell their stories. I think with CALIBRE, people always want that more permanent fix that is often mentioned, like “I have to come back”. But I actually think that’s a good thing because it gives you a chance to monitor how they’re going and assess that psychosocial functioning when they come back for their top ups. It’s actually really great that it’s not permanent. You guys have different thoughts on that, but I think it’s a really good opportunity to keep monitoring these patients.

DR JAYSON: We don’t really have the injectable options here in Australia for doing permanent augmentation. We’ve been doing this for over five years now and we have a couple of different products. And one is a considerably longer lasting product. If we had the availability of the permanent product, I’m not sure I’d be jumping into using it either, mainly for that idea that if you use a temporary product, if you have an issue or problem, then it can be reversed. But in Tijuana (Mexico) there’s a clinic that is very successful in using permanent products and maybe we’ll try and get them onto the show at some point and talk about what they’re doing. Thank you very much, that’s been really insightful. Perhaps we will get you back again and see if we can focus on some more of these issues, because it is an important thing. It’s certainly something that we get criticised about is should this procedure be available at all. But I do nose jobs and facelifts we inject products into people’s lips. And personally, I don’t see sort of any great difference from doing those procedures to doing a penis augmentation. If you style your hair, match your belt to your shoes, if you’re focusing on how you present yourself to the world, that maybe this isn’t such a huge leap in being different. It’s more the medical sort of side. And there’s certainly something special about genital areas that we need to be thoughtful about. But I don’t think we need to be just so reticent that we can’t even consider this as a treatment. That’s why we started all this five, six years ago.

DR GAVIN: And just to add to that, a lot of the guys I talk to benefit from just being able to talk about it. They say they don’t talk to their friends or parents about their penis. So they coming and finally talking to someone like yourself and you’re approachable. As it’s an uncomfortable topic. We sit down and frankly talk about it. Even if they didn’t go ahead with the procedure, they feel it’s nice to be able to talk about it and about their concerns because they must have had them their entire lives going without talking about it to anyone.

DR JAYSON: We’re amateur psychologists.

DR GAVIN: But it’s a topic that’s worth discussing and also that these clients obviously, we know that we get some kind of benefit from a psychosocial point of view from the procedure. But at the same time, it’s really important to consider the reasons behind why they’re getting it and the current psychological, emotional state that they’re in, but that applies to any cosmetic procedures.

DR JAYSON: Well, thank you very much, Dr Gemma. It was great having you here, finally getting you to come and speak to everybody on the Penis Show and Penis podcast. Thanks, Dr Gav. And we will have to get together again soon and on another penis topic to talk about.

DR GAVIN: Excellent. Well, we’re the dick doctors. It’s been the Penis Show. Don’t forget, guys, confidence changes everything. And thanks so much, Gemma. That was fantastic and lovely to have you on the show.

DR GEMMA: Thank you so much for having me. It’s been a pleasure.

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