December 31, 2002 Volume 38 Issue 46
SPECIAL REPORT: MEN'S HEALTH
Men willing to shed blood to get 'the look'
Men choose to go under knife just to be more normal
By Celia Milne
Ten years ago Dr. Robert Stubbs' cosmetic surgery practice
was made up of 75% women and 25% men. Now it's about 50/50. "We
had to change the dÉcor in the waiting room," he laughs.
"It's now hunting and leather and pictures of horses."
Dr. Stubbs is a certified plastic surgeon and director of the Cosmetic Surgicentre in Toronto. Though he performs many procedures "from nose to toes," he is best known for the penis lengthening procedure he pioneered in Toronto after learning it from a professor of plastic surgery at the University of Beijing in 1993. The demand for penis lengthening in Canada?hundreds of calls a day?surprised him.
"I became infamous for penis lengthening. It got dumped in my lap. I didn't really want that."
Still, Dr. Stubbs isn't shy about this work. He published results of his first 300 procedures in the Canadian Journal of Plastic Surgery in 1997 and the article became "the number one hit plastic surgery article around the world."
The penis-lengthening craze has somewhat subsided now. As Dr. Stubbs explains it, five years ago he was sued by a former patient whose postoperative penis weights fell off while he was receiving a diploma at convocation. Though the case was thrown out of court, "word got out" that the operation involves traction after surgery, and the procedure didn't seem as desirable. Dr. Stubbs reckons he has done 550 procedures by now, and demand is still high: He turns down about 85% of requests for medical reasons.
Although the popularity of penis lengthening has plateaued, cosmetic surgery in men is hot, hot, hot. Men account for 20% of surgical procedures done by members of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. The most popular cosmetic surgeries in guys are nose reshaping, liposuction, eyelid surgery, hair transplantation and breast reduction. In the realm of non-surgical procedures, men flock to doctors for Botox, chemical peels, collagen injections, laser hair removal and microdermabrasion. Guys are also keen to pamper themselves; Maclean's recently reported 30% of spa guests are now male.
The phenomenon of guys improving their looks through cosmetic surgery is relatively new in the mainstream. "More and more average guys are saying, 'It's an option for me.' The guy beside you on the bus, at work or at church is willing to research it," says Dr. Stubbs. "Gay men tended to embrace surgery long before heterosexual men. Now, heterosexual men are prepared to see their own blood and get stuck with needles."
Is this all about vanity? "Cosmetic surgery is always about vanity, sure!" says Dr. Mark Solomon, who practises plastic surgery outside Philadelphia and is co-editor of the book Male Esthetic Surgery. "Men are seeking cosmetic surgery of all types more than before," he says. "It is more acceptable."
In Dr. Solomon's practice, about one-third of patients are men. Many of them, he says, have been sent as guinea pigs for their wives, who are interested in having cosmetic surgery. Men will typically come for "little procedures many times" as opposed to having everything done at once. For instance, they'll do their eyelids, and come back six months later for a neck lift and then breast or abdomen liposuction, says Dr. Solomon. They are also more decisive than his female patients. "Most men, their minds are made up. Let's go do it. If they've gotten to this point, they're ready. They're primed." Men have a reputation for not giving themselves enough time to recover. "They jump back to life too quickly," says Dr. Solomon.
Impatience is one of the things that got them there in the first place. "They want to be the best they can be. Going to the gym, they are not going to get the contour you can get surgically. I don't think Canadians are different. We live in a world that puts a premium on the best?the smartest, the richest, the strongest, the best-looking. It goes in line with all of that."
Dr. Stubbs admits these kinds of procedures are only popular when times are good.
"During times of peace and affluence, people look at that aspect of their existence," he says. But he finds, unlike Dr. Solomon, most of his clients aren't trying to be the best but merely fixing something that has always bothered them.
"Ninety-nine point nine per cent of men get cosmetic surgery because they want to enhance something and feel better. Not that they want to stand out, just blend in."
Mysteriously, in males, the effort of blending in is often focused below the belt. "Male machismo is always centred around the pelvic area," says Dr. Stubbs, who offers several genital improvements, such as testicular implants, foreskin restoration, adult circumcision, penis lengthening, penis fat injection and scrotum reduction. Dr. Solomon does genital surgery on men as well. He calls it "breast augmentation for men."
"It's all about self-image, not sexual function," he says. "They tell me they want to look better endowed when they put on a bathing suit."
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