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The Super-Common Penis Problem Nobody’s Talking About

About 20 percent of men have pearly penile papules, but it’s often mistaken for an STI

In 2020, we must strive toward greater dick acceptance. We’ve made great improvements when it comes to size, girth and curvature, but as humanity advances, we must be bold and brave. We must accept various… textures. 

In short, it’s time for the men who bear pearly penile papules to step forth and admit that, yes, their penis has tiny little bumps that look like zits, and yes, it’s normal. 

According to physician Philip Buffington of the Urology Group, about 20 percent of you have this, to a degree varying all the way from very tiny bumps that are barely visible to prominent lesions, and somehow I’m not hearing about it until now. Honestly, what the fuck, guys? 

I first encountered the term “pearly penile papules” while perusing Reddit, when I came across a post in a subreddit for sex workers from a prospective customer who asked, “I want to get an escort for the first time and I’m clean and everything but I have something called pearly penile papules which gets confused for an STD but it’s not. Will this make you want to cancel?”

All the women who replied confirmed that they’d seen it before, and knew it was normal. (Side note: sex workers should really be the ones teaching sex ed.)

But a further dig through Reddit shows that tons of guys share a similar concern when it comes to sex, paid or otherwise: Will women understand that this is a harmless skin abnormality, and not a sexually transmitted infection?

How do I explain to this girl that I have pearly penile papules (PPP)? from sex

Pearly Penile Papules from sex

According to Buffington, this concern isn’t entirely unwarranted, as PPP can look similar to other transmittable infections, but ultimately, it’s “only harmful in that it can scare someone into thinking that he has an STD, such as HPV.” The problem, then, isn’t PPP itself, but the fact that no one seems to talk about it. To the untrained eye, PPP can have a similar appearance to “condyloma acuminate, which are venereal warts caused by HPV, or molluscum contagiosum, infectious umbilicated lesions caused by a DNA poxvirus,” says Buffington. “However, pearly penile papules are fairly easy to distinguish since they appear linear and symmetric, and are only located along the coronal sulcus, which is the conical tip of the penis.” 

It’s also important to note that many women either don’t notice or don’t care. While men might not be shouting about PPP from the rooftops, I’ve never even heard a whisper of it from my gal pals. “I’ve been with three girls, and none of them even mentioned or noticed it. The extra ridges might even make sex feel better,” opined one optimistic Reddit user when trying to reassure an anxious PPP-having virgin, who was asking how to tell a girl about the condition. “I think just being honest with whomever you are with would be fine. I know myself that if the person I was with told me this about themselves I wouldn’t walk out,” suggests another

But even with the reassurance that most people don’t notice, plenty of men are still seeking methods of removal. “I’ve had PPP ever since I can remember, it always affected my sex life until I got into a committed relationship, now I don’t care,” wrote one sex-haver on the subreddit r/sex. “However it doesn’t look very nice, and me and the girlfriend make Pornhub videos together which makes closeups very difficult as I have to hide them in order to avoid disgusted comments from viewers.” 

One commenter suggested using sandpaper. “You joke, but I’ve actually done that,” the original poster replied. “I’ve even taken nail clippers to them.” Alternatively, some have suggested DIY-soldering. “I burnt mine with a soldering iron. You need lidocaine cream at 5 percent… It’s important to be precise and point and wait just a little. They pop, make noise and leave a hole after that,” wrote one guy on Reddit

As insane as that last part is, unfortunately, the actual medical process of PPP removal doesn’t sound substantially less unpleasant. “Ablative therapy can be used, including laser, cryoablation and cauterization,” says Buffington. Because these treatments are cosmetic, they might not even be covered by insurance, meaning you’re paying out of pocket to shoot some laser fire beams at your dick.

A better option, then, would be just to accept it. This means that all of us, as a society, ought to accept it, as well. Can body positivity extend to what are basically harmless dick zits? 

Only time will tell.