For most men, having a smaller-than-average penis is cause for embarrassment. For Patrick Moote, it was inspiration.
To be clear, Moote wasn't always comfortable talking about his relative shortcomings. But as the subject of the documentary Unhung Hero, now in select theaters for a limited release, he's had to put it all out there emotionally — for better or worse.
"I think weighing the pros and cons for me is happening more now that it's all finished and I'm looking at it, and being like, 'Oh my God, was this a good idea, or was this just a crazy, insane thing to do?'" he told BuzzFeed. "I think if we'd been weighing the pros and cons a lot in the beginning, I would have bailed."
In person, Moote retains some of the neurotic charm he exhibits on screen — it's what one expects from someone who does stand-up comedy. But he's also more visibly secure than he is in Unhung Hero, perhaps owing to so much candid discussion of something he once kept under wraps.
Film or no film, the question of penis size was not something Moote could avoid. The writer-comedian had already earned some notoriety when his 2011 basketball game proposal was rejected: video of Moote's then-girlfriend turning him down went viral, giving Moote the kind of temporary internet celebrity no one wants. Her reason for not marrying Moote: His penis wasn't big enough for her.
"It's really rare that people get into a situation like mine where someone is like, 'Yes, your penis is a little too small,'" Moote noted. "But why are we all so insecure about it?"
That's the question Moote hoped to answer along with his friend and Unhung Hero's director Brian Spitz. Together, the duo traveled around the world to uncover different cultural standards for penis size, the universal nature of male penis anxiety, and whether medical science can offer a solution to men dissatisfied by what biology has given them.
At the same time, Moote saw doctors about his specific issue, at which point he learned that he's just slightly below average for a man of his height, weight, and ethnicity. He also tried various penis enlargement products and techniques, none of which had any significant impact on his size. It's worth noting that Moote never actually discloses what that size is.
"I've measured my penis at this point about a thousand times and it fluctuates," he said. "Obviously you're not doing it when it's at its smallest, but even when it's at its largest, there's still a quarter or an eighth of an inch of fluctuation depending on how hard I jam the ruler into my abdomen."
More to the point, Moote says that his specific size is irrelevant. Moote and Spitz discussed whether he should go full-frontal in the documentary, but they ultimately decided that reveal took away from what they were trying to say with the film.
"It really wasn't the point, and it almost felt like it went against what the theme of the film was," Moote said. "If we were gonna do that, it would throw the wrong message out there, which is, here it is, judge me, evaluate me, do what you will. When in reality, it doesn't matter."
Today, Moote is over trying to change the size of his penis — at this point, he's more concerned with changing people's minds about how little size actually matters and how big of a role it plays in insecurity among men. In making Unhung Hero, he was amazed by how many people were eager to talk about the size issue — as long as someone else brought it up first.
"People have verbal blue balls about this situation," Moote said, "because everybody wants to talk about it, and I've seen that."
It's a complicated topic, as Moote knows well. But the more people talk about it, the easier it is. Just as he has been able to exorcise his own demons through the process of making the film, he hopes viewers will experience similar feelings of self-acceptance. Or at least they will know they're not alone in feeling inadequate.
"What I hope is that a dialogue will start, that people will start talking about it," Moote explained, "because I really think that things that we're insecure about, when you start talking about them, and make them open — it diffuses the ability that it has to hurt you because you're owning it and you're accepting it."
And self-acceptance is important. For one thing, when it comes to penis size, you're pretty much limited to what you have. Moote met several individuals who claimed to have had success with various penis enlargement pills and procedures, but his personal experience wasn't as exhilarating.
What Moote realized as he was painfully pumping up his penis with no visible results, was that all his effort wasn't actually getting him anywhere. "It was gonna be a lot easier for me to work on me than it was gonna be to work on my body physically," he reflected.
Besides, even if a man is able to slightly increase the size of his penis, how much does that actually change him as a person? Moote would suggest not much. While Unhung Hero chronicles one particular fixation, he admitted to feeling occasionally insecure about his hair and his weight.
"That insecurity, that feeling that you're not good enough, it's never focused on one thing," Moote said. "And once you take the spotlight off something, it's gonna end up on something else. And that's kind of what I started to realize, too, as I was doing it. I'm going through all this stuff to try to fix this one problem, and what started to pop up in the back of my mind a lot was, What's next?"
Part of why Moote didn't get into the specifics of his penis — think of it as "just a handful," he advised, paraphrasing a urologist he visited — is that he wants Unhung Hero to be a more universal story of insecurity, both how devastating such anxiety can be and how ultimately meaningless it all is.
Of course, it doesn't feel that way at the time. Moote may be comfortable with his body now, but he went through a major transformation over the course of making the film. And not everyone can dissect and push past their personal anxieties in a documentary.
Perhaps, at least, they can take comfort in Moote's sizable journey.
"Some of these insecurities that you feel are manufactured by a system that is built to kind of break us down a little bit and make us feel like we need more," he said. "I really hope that [Unhung Hero] can change people, but what I know it can do is change their perspective on themselves and on society — and why they feel the way that they feel."