The other night I saw a TV commercial where two guys wearing overcoats go to a “streaking party.” Five beautiful women wearing bathrobes open the door. The guys flash them; the women look down at the men’s equipment and don’t react. The guys get nervous and close their coats.
You can’t get through one day these days without a reference to penis size. It’s always been talked about, of course, but previously there was at least a sense of madcap fun: think of playboy Porfirio Rubirosa, whose infamous “giant pepper mill” Truman Capote likened to “an 11-inch cafe au lait sinker as thick as a man’s wrist.” Now penis size has become something of a giddy cultural obsession. In addition to constant reminders-on television, in movies, on giant billboard underwear ads and magazine headlines that scream “SORRY GUYS: SIZE MATTERS!”-men learn of their probable shortcomings every morning in the form of spam.
“Are you hung like a gnat?”
“Want to add three inches and fatten up your pipe?”
“Hey you! Want a huge trouser snake, an enormous Johnson, a purple oak?”
Delete, delete, delete.
“Like to trade in that little twinky for a massive beast?”
And so on.
Not true five, 10 years ago.
But what about the flip side, I’ve started to wonder: How come no one ever talks about a woman’s “size”? Every straight man knows-even if he doesn’t dare mention this to his wife or girlfriend-that ladies’ packages come in different sizes. And we’re not talking about external aesthetic differences: We’re talking about … the Grip.
I decided to ask men and women about this serious issue. I was convinced I’d have some apple-tini’s tossed in my face by women. And while I did end up being thrown out of two bars by surly bartenders, no woman I asked about the topic slapped me or told me to buzz off.
The men, of course, were easy. I bumped into Marc Spitz, a novelist, at a party recently. He was wearing shades and a velvet suit jacket.
“It does matter,” he said. “It matters a lot. It matters more than people say. It matters in a way that’s so severe that women have not owned up to their responsibility. The fit goes two ways; it’s a two-way street. It’s such a serious issue that when you find someone who fits you perfectly, you’re thanking God. You think, ‘ This is a keeper.’”
In Eve Ensler’s hugely successful play, The Vagina Monologues , there’s a lot of information on the funny names women give their “chatty” vaginas (powderbox, coochie snorcher, Gladys Siegelman) and what a vagina might wear (a tutu, a slicker, high heels, a Mets cap), but there’s hardly a mention of vagina size. The play did a lot to remove the shame and taboo from talking about vaginas; celebrities like Calista Flockhart, Jane Fonda and Donna Hanover angled to join the revolving cast. When Glenn Close acted in a benefit performance of the play at Madison Square Garden in 2001, she got the audience of 18,000 to chant ” cunt! ” over and over. Thanks in part to Ms. Ensler, a Cunt Workshop was started at Wesleyan University.
So I put fresh batteries in my tape recorder and went out into the night. First stop: a fancy Fifth Avenue party.
“I’ve thought about penis size,” said Francine Maroukian, author of the just-published Town and Country Elegant Entertaining , as Central Park stretched out below us. “I’ve had a vagina my whole life, and I don’t sit around and think, ‘Wow, is my vagina too big or too small?’ I only think about it in terms of what’s going to be entering it: Is it going to be too big or too small?”
Helen Gurley Brown-the original Cosmo girl!-was also at the party, wearing a pink Chanel suit. “I don’t think, for women, the size of her vagina is an issue, ever ,” she said. “Because she can fit anything into her, no problem. But all the propaganda about penis size not making a difference-I think that’s just propaganda, because it does make a difference.”
On another night, at Library Bar on Avenue A, I met a voluptuous lady who said she was an Australian porn star named Cherie Lamour.
“You could fill this bar up with women and they’ll talk about penis size until they’re blue in the face,” said Ms. Lamour. “They’ll never, ever discuss the size of their vagina. It’s all on the guys. It’s amazing! I think the score needs to be evened, because all these women bitch about penis size. Men get a very raw deal.”
Ms. Lamour also made a point that I’d heard from several men: It doesn’t seem to matter how many men a woman has slept with, or even if she’s had kids-neither seems to impact the coziness of the clench.
The next day I called my friend Hampton Stevens, a freelance writer in Kansas City. He told me a story:
“I’m sitting at the Free State Brewery and this gorgeous girl from the North Shore-perfect and petite, looks like Alyssa Milano-is walking across the room. As usual, heads turn, jaws drop. She owns the place. As she passes, the guy I’m sitting next to leans in and whispers, ‘My roommate slept with her. Floppy woo .’ He said he felt like he was like having sex with a glass of water. From then on, her spell on me was broken.”
That night, I went up to actress Chloë Sevigny at a party in Soho.
“They come in all shapes and sizes,” she said. “Unfortunately, now what’s in vogue is very small.” She said she’d heard that Greta Garbo was “always very embarrassed” about being “really big down there,” and that she’d recently asked her gynecologist about surgeries that make women smaller and tighter, “because I was curious about it.”
I asked Ms. Sevigny if she ever worried about her, uh … ?
” No ,” she said, with a big smile.
Macaulay Culkin, Ms. Sevigny’s co-star in Party Monster, was sitting nearby.
“Um, honestly, I haven’t put a whole lot of thought into it,” he said. “The whole proposition kind of frightens me, in fact-just thinking about it and talking about it in a newspaper. I guess any person who says it doesn’t make a difference is lying.”
Had it ever been an issue for him?
“Not that I can speak of,” Mr. Culkin said. “I try to be a gentleman.”
“What seems to be more of a concern is penis size,” said Dr. Ilene Fischer, of the Murray Hill OB-GYN center. She said she doesn’t think women have to worry about vagina size unless they’ve had children. “Honestly, I’ve never heard anybody say anything about it, ever, ” she said. “Never.”
I called Dian Hanson, the former editor of Leg Show and Juggs, another woman who’s has seen a lot of women up close.
“Of course there’s vaginal variation, and probably as much as penile variation,” she said from Los Angeles, where she’s an editor at Taschen books.
“I think women can pretty smugly go about their lives not worrying about it,” she said. “Because, historically, guys are so happy to be allowed in there that if the walls are a little loose, they’re just going to adjust their thrust and think they have a small penis.”
She did say that heavy women tend to be tighter.
“You’re going to see the most cavernous ones on little, tiny, slender women,” she said. “This is where, to the pornographer, these things become apparent: You say to the girl, ‘O.K., bend over, put your chest on the bed and let your butt stick up in the air.’ These little skinny girls? That thing will blow up like a balloon. She gets in that position, her belly drops forward-you can hear the suction. It will open right up.
“Let’s hear it for the fat girls on this one!” she added.
Tad Low, the co-creator of VH1′s Pop Up Video , told me he was once with a super-skinny model type and it was “cavernous.”
“I couldn’t feel it. It numbed me out completely,” he said. “It was like you woke up on the Amtrak after sleeping on your arm-that’s what it felt like.”
I tracked down Dr. David Matlock, who founded the Laser Vaginal Rejuvenation Institute of Los Angeles in Beverly Hills and who specializes in “designer vaginas” which, he said, would enhance sexual gratification. For about $7,000, a woman can get her vagina tightened; he told me that, starting in November, he’ll offer a five-minute procedure called “the G-Shot,” which “amplifies” the female G-spot so it’s easier to find.
Most of his patients have had children, which leaves vaginal muscles “relaxed,” he said. But he also gets women who haven’t had kids.
“If a woman wants to be 16 again, I can do it,” he said. “Sixteen, 18 or as if she never had children, I can do it. Sexual gratification is directly related to the amount of frictional force generated, period. That’s it. So we can do that. We can do that.
“Petite is in,” he added.
After California, the highest number of his patients come from New York, he said. He added that in recent years he’s trained a number of doctors around the country.
“There is no question there’s a big trend,” said Dr. Edward Jacobson of the Laser Vaginal Rejuvenation Institute of Greenwich, Conn. “It’s sort of coming out of the closet. It’s basically where breast augmentation was 30 years ago.”
I met actress Jackie Clarke, 28, for a drink in Chelsea. Last year she wrote and performed Mail Order Family , a one-woman show at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. The original title had been Big Vagina Monologues , but, Ms. Clarke said, Ms. Ensler’s lawyers made her change it. In the show, she had a riff about her “crazy” father, who had married a Filipino woman whom he’d ordered from a catalog.
“I guess I was 8 or 9 at the time,” she said. “And my stepmother had visited the gynecologist, and she was crying in the kitchen. Apparently, the doctor had made her feel really bad because he was complaining how she was too small and his medical tools wouldn’t fit inside of her.
“So my dad just started going off trying to make my stepmom feel better. He kept saying, ‘What do you want to be, an American woman? You know, American women, by the time they’re 30, they have mustaches and enormous vaginas. Enormous, floppy vaginas!’
“So she’s feeling a little better, and I’m starting to get a little antsy, because I know I’m a full-fledged American and all I can see myself as is a 30-year-old woman with a handlebar mustache and just a gaping oasis canyon of a vagina.”
Now that she’s all grown up, she said, “I’ve never had any complaints. I think if a guy’s complaining, he’s probably too tiny.”
Later, at the restaurant 66, I found myself sitting across from hair-salon owner Joel Warren and his Asian model girlfriend.
“I’ve always thought it was not fair to pick on men and not talk about women,” he said. “It’s a big thing. Why would you talk about a man’s size, when a woman’s size is just as important? Sometimes you don’t feel man enough, when you’re like, ‘I can’t feel anything.’”
Dean Winters, an actor who played Ryan O’Reily on the HBO series Oz , joined me for a cigarette outside; he said he agreed with me “a hundred percent.”
“Every guy at some point in his career has been with a woman and it was like making love to a glass of water,” he said. “I remember one time, I really felt like I was just seriously yodeling into the abyss.”
He agreed that a woman’s having had kids was not the deciding factor.
“I remember being with a woman who had two kids and being terrified going into the ordeal,” he said. “And then being pleasantly surprised and, for a few minutes there, thinking I was with a 17-year-old.”
Back inside, I slipped into a small birthday party for the actress Naomi Watts. Glenn Close was there! I approached her-the woman who had gotten 18,000 people to stand up in Madison Square Garden and chant “cunt!”-and asked her about the issue of vagina size. She looked at me with disgust. Could you blame her?