Today in "relax, men" news comes a joint study from UCLA and the University of New Mexico on penis size. After allowing groups of women to select their ideal penis in various relationship contexts, it has been revealed that length and girth of most women's dream peen falls very near the statistical average.
The 75 women involved in the survey were given 33 blue, 3D-printed phalluses of varying lengths and girths and told to pick the ones that appealed most to them for a longterm relationship and for a one night stand. The women—who were told that the theoretical man attached to these potential penises was "kind, intelligent, funny, and has a great job"—generally selected a penis around 6.3" long and 4.8" around for dating, and 6.4" long, 5" around for a one-nighter.
We spoke to Dr. Nicole Prause, the head of the research team behind the study, about how to get your sex study past the academy, the future of 3D printed dildos, and what Husband Dick looks like.
BROADLY: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your work? How long have you been in this particular field?
Nicole Prause: I graduated with a PhD in Clinical Science from Indiana University. My concentrations were in neuroscience and statistics, which I have always used to study human sexual motivation in the lab. In 2007 I started the Sexual Psychophysiology and Affective Neuroscience lab as a faculty member and in 2015 started an arm for commercialization, to address some of the challenges of studying this topic in academia.
What kind of challenges?
We have had an ethics board refuse to allow us to conduct a study on orgasm. (There are two stories being written about this incident for Rolling Stone and the LA Times.) Grant reviewers regularly question whether anyone will volunteer for our studies, even though we have demonstrated that we never have problems recruiting participants (people love our studies, you can imagine). We have been prohibited from recruiting people seeking treatment for "porn addiction" because the ethics committee believed that showing them porn would cause them to relapse, while ethics boards in the UK do not prohibit this. The list goes on and on.
So how did this study come about?
It started when I met Geoffrey Miller as a research scientist at Mind Research Network, a neuroimaging facility in Albuquerque. I wanted to test predictors of pain that women experience during sex, which I thought should include an assessment of whether their partner's penis size was a factor. Geoffrey was interested in questions about penis size preferences in mate choice. A collaboration was born.
"Please don't call any penis the perfect penis."
The study revealed that women really only want a slightly larger than average penis size. Why do you think men are so hung up—pardon the pun—on length? What might be a better focus for men looking to attract a sexual partner?
With the exception of one investigator's data, which no one has been able to replicate, science has consistently shown girth is a stronger predictor of female preferences and satisfaction. It may be that surgeries for increasing length tend to have better outcomes, so men focus on length as something they can more likely affect. Limited just to physical attractiveness, many indicators of health that are at least somewhat under our control affect women's attraction. This includes things like weight, muscularity, skin pallor, and acne.
What do you think is the logic behind women wanting different sizes of penises for different kinds of relationships?
The vulva always tears with intercourse, intercourse pushes bacteria into the vagina, and intercourse with a condom pushes more bacteria into the vagina. A larger penis likely carries the risk of more pain and injury. However, women might tolerate this risk to receive the sexual pleasure benefits that are more likely the goal of a one-time partner. A larger penis probably brings the clitoral glans closer to the movement that happens with intercourse, while also moving the clitoris legs (crura) more than a smaller penis.
Would it be fair to call the most preferred penis size the Perfect Penis? Scientifically speaking, have we found Husband Dick?
Please don't call any penis the perfect penis. The point of the study is that the situation matters, and our next paper has data to suggest that the woman matters too. But yes, calling the one the Husband Penis seems appropriate and funny. Should the other one be the Lothario penis?
Where do Size Queens fit into this picture?
Oh, they are in our sample! If we consider "size queen" any woman who wants a large penis, then it could be either a feature of the woman's body (clitoris farther from the vaginal opening, etc.), a feature of the woman's experience (e.g., comfort requesting longer foreplay to make penetration pleasurable), or inexperience (e.g., has not had a long-term partner with a large penis). It is difficult to know how they came to have this preference.
A grim reading of your finding that women want a larger penis for a one-night stand seems to be that we don't really care about sexual pleasure in longterm relationships. Do you think that's true?
I would argue that sexual pleasure can come from emotional intimacy. Shocker, I know. We published a study showing that women's experienced sexual arousal aligns much better with their brain response than with their genital response. I hate that finding because it makes women sound like such…women… but it probably means that the intensity of sexual interactions comes more from central (brain) mechanisms than peripheral (genital) mechanisms for women.
What did you do with all the blue 3D printed penises after the study?
They are in a conference bag under my bed. No, they are not "in use", nor have they ever been. I'm taking them to a Nerd Nite talk with me. I plan to have these a very long time. I also hope they might be useful in intimidating undesirable mates.
From a social perspective, studies like this one may help men have a more realistic body image.
A great plan. Why did your research team put all the printable dick info online?
I hope other investigators will use the same models in future studies of penis size. They may even be useful to clinicians in conversations with their patients discussing desirable, versus likely, size change outcomes with surgery. Once you have the print files, it is very easy to borrow a 3D printer or pay a third party to print them cheaply. For science!
While it turns out men don't need to worry so much about length, do you think they should worry that women are going to start designing and printing their own perfectly proportioned penises?
I hear tell that there already are secret 3D print files for such purposes that my prudery prohibits me from sharing. There was much speculation when the [Hitachi] magic wand was becoming popular that vibrators would make men obsolete—hopefully perfectly-proportioned sex toys will not be perceived with the same threat level, which I'm pretty sure was "red" for vibrators.
What do studies like this one achieve?
From a research perspective, this study changes the bar for what will be acceptable to publish in the future. Hopefully, this means the science around penis size preferences will continue to improve from the questionnaire-only approach that dominated. From a social perspective, studies like this one may help men have a more realistic body image. The anticipated reaction of the sexual partner is a main concern that men have about their penis size, which is different from muscularity, head hair density, and other physical features more visible to everyone. Men who have sex with women should feel more comfortable with their current penis size knowing that there is tremendous variability in what women prefer even in different situations.
What are you working on now that this study is published?
I am using transcranial magnetic brain stimulation to alter sex drive permanently. Changing the world, 'n stuff.