Dear Dr. Date,We’…

Dear Dr. Date,
We’ve heard enough about breast implants lately — but what we want to know is what is up with penile implants? What are they, how do they work, etc.? Is an implant for enlargement the same as an implant for erectile dysfunction?
— Curious

Penile implants can be broken down into two basic categories: implants that add to stimulation and implants that attempt to correct for impotence. The most common implants in America are used to correct impotence.
Impotence can be caused by many factors such as stress, trauma or physical injury. Treatment of impotence varies depending on the cause. When physical injury has left the penis unable to become erect, implants are a possible, but often costly, solution. One option is to have two malleable cylinders inserted into the shaft of the penis. This leaves the penis in a permanently semi-rigid state. Like a flexible drinking straw, the penis is simply bent into the necessary position.
Another type of implant involves two inflatable cylinders, a pump and a reservoir. The reservoir is inserted into the scrotum and connected to both the inflatable cylinders and the pump. The reservoir contains a fluid that is pumped into the two inflatable cylinders in the shaft of the penis, making the penis rigid when necessary.
The basic concept of penile implants — making the penis erect — can be seen in the rather odd field of penile splints that were first patented in the beginning of this century. From Hoag Levins’ fascinating book “American Sex Machines: The Hidden History of Sex at the U.S. Patent Office”:
“In 1906, Thaddeus W. Williams obtained a patent for a tubular rubber splint device that functioned like an artificial penis. Mounted on a base that fits against the body, the conical shape was angled at the same general tilt as an erect penis. The user simply inserted his own flaccid organ inside the device.”
Many similar devices followed including Robert C. Barrie’s spiral spring penile splint. Barrie’s splint looks as though it were fashioned out of a metal clothes hanger. The base is a wire coil spring that is inserted over the shaft of the penis and fits tightly against the body. A penis-length wire extends out from the coil and has a penis width ring on the end which holds the penis out in a somewhat-erect manner. Although these devices were patented, they did not necessarily see great commercial success.
Implants have also been used throughout history to both decorate the penis and enhance its ability to stimulate. Grains of sand, small stones, pearls and gilded shapes have all been inserted under the skin of the penis to give it an interesting texture and appearance.