Does size penis matter or is too much importance being placed on it? The answer to both questions is yes. The results of the research outlined below aren’t necessarily contradictory but rather speak the often complicated relationship that people have with the penis or penises in their lives. Faulty dick data collection and the ubiquity of porn have also contributed to a lot of fretting about size. Now, in the cold light of day, let’s take a moment to unpack (or unfurl?) the many truths and half-truths about why size matters.
2015 penises are over an inch shorter than they were in 1948.
In reality, penises probably haven’t actually shrunk from their post World War Two high but rather, the way that data about penis size is gathered has vastly improved and pushed the average floorward.
When Alfred Kinsey did the first major study on the matter, he asked study participants to measure themselves. Those volunteers comprised of 3,500 college students. Not only is this cohort wholly unrepresentative of the general population, we might also expect that by accident or design, some of those numbers could have been inaccurate. In ‘48, Kinsey came up with an average erect length of 6.21” (15.77cm) and an average circumference of 4.85” (12.31cm).
Since Kinsey, a more representative sample of penises have been professionally measured—presumably by taciturn urologists brandishing cold metal rulers under unforgiving fluorescent tube lighting. You’d be forgiven for wondering of these conditions alone would account for the new average erect penile length reduced to 5.16 inches (13.10 cm) the average erect girth at 4.59 inches (11.66 cm). In truth, however, is more likely to do with larger and more demographically diverse sample sizes.
Anxiety about penis size is not correlated with actual size
A 2013 study by researcher David Veale found that even men who were average or above-average expressed feelings of inadequacy and self-consciousness when it came to their member. “Many men who come to see me with concerns about their size are average—sometimes, larger than average,” confirms Beverly Hills-based urologist James Elist. Veale and his team found that penis anxiety was highest among gay, bisexual, and older men. It’s theorized that the prevalence of penis shame among gay and bisexual men could be attributed to more numerous opportunities to compare body parts while in older men, that anxiety may be traced to the fact that…
Penises shrink over time
It may be that case that, as you get older, your penis and testicles will become slightly smaller. "If a man's erect penis is six inches long when he is in his 30s, it might be five or five-and-a-half inches when he reaches his 60s or 70s," says Philadelphia-based urologist Irwin Goldstein. You can blame it on the buildup of fatty deposits in your arteries reducing blood flow to your penis. This, he tells me, can cause withering of the muscle cells in the spongy tubes of erectile tissue inside your penis.
But wait, there’s more: Over time, scarring from repeated small injuries to your penis during sex or sports activities can cause scar tissue to build up. The buildup takes place in the formerly supple sheath that surrounds the spongy erectile tissues in your penis and may reduce overall size and limit the size of erections. I recently wrote something about ways to keep your dong youthful and in tip-top condition. Here.
The penises of gay men are reportedly bigger
A 1999 study published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior found that erect gay penises tend to be a third-of-an-inch longer than those of their heterosexual counterparts. Something worth noting: Despite coming 51 years after Kinsey’s study, researchers accepted self-reported measurements.
Yes, there’s a correct way to measure a penis
In fact, I wrote a whole article about the proper way to take a “bone pressed erect length” or BPEL reading. Here you go.
Women have a preference for larger than average penises
The unvarnished truth was revealed in this study. Researchers from the University of California and the University of New Mexico gave women 33 different-sized 3D penis models that were made of rigid, odorless, blue plastic to choose from. Then, they asked the 75 female study participants aged 18-65 to choose the model which represented their preferred penis size in a long-term partner. The average response was 6.3 inches (16 cm) in length and 4.8 inches (12.2 cm) around. Interestingly, for a one-time sexual experience, the average plastic penis the women chose was slightly larger at 6.4 inches (16.3 cm) long and 5.0 inches (12.7 cm) in circumference.
More from Tonic:
Regarding the short term/long term divergence, authors of the study theorized that: “[Women] might prefer a larger penis for short-term sex partly so the increased physical sensation compensates for the reduced psychological connection.”
They added that bigger may not always be better in the long term because “vaginal intercourse causes tears in the vaginal mucosa, so women might prefer a smaller penis less likely to stress their physiology for regular, long-term mates.”
Penile length can be increased non-surgically
If you want a longer penis and can deal with the reality of having your penis pulled like taffy for hours a day, you’re in luck. You can use the “traction method,” in which a penile extender stretches the penis. Over time the penis has been shown to lengthen. One Italian study found that this somewhat medieval method resulted in an average increase of 0.9 in. (2.3 cm) in length while flaccid, and 0.67 in. (1.7 cm) while erect.
The Penuma, a penile implant designed by aforementioned urologist James Elist can increase patient’s penile girth by over two inches. Indeed that was what it was intended to do. What Elist didn’t expect when he started implanting Penumas in 2004, was the extent to which the weight of the implant would bring out more of the internal penis outside of the body. Elist doesn’t guarantee the gain in length but says that most Penuma recipients see length as well as girth gains. I wrote about that too.
Oral makes it bigger
If you want a longer penis but don’t want to subject your penis to surgery or hours on the rack, you may be interested in a study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine which found that during oral sex, men reported larger penis measurements compared to other methods of arousal. Debby Herbenick, sex researcher, study lead, and co-author of the frankly underrated 2012 book Great in Bed (she co-authored it with me) told Live Science that: “We don't know if that means that when men have oral sex that it's more arousing and they get a bigger erection, or means that men who have bigger penises could be getting more oral sex in the first place."
The penises in porn are outliers
The large penis is ubiquitous in porn. The net result is that porn has completely warped our concept of what’s “normal,” especially the perception of heterosexual males who may seldom encounter an IRL erection besides their own. Porn stars are a self-selecting group. Their larger-than-average proportions and their ability to achieve and maintain erections in front of a production crew makes them a truly extraordinary bunch. Forget the Teddy Roosevelt quote about the utility of brandishing a big stick and focus instead on this musing: “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
…and they can cause body dysmorphia
Most men who seek treatment for the condition called “short penis” (smaller than 1.6 inches when flaccid and under 3 inches when erect) actually fall within normal penis size, according to one 2005 study. In the study of 92 men who sought treatment for short penis, researchers found that none qualified for the syndrome. When researchers looked at more than 50 studies spanning the course of 60 years, they found that 85 percent of women were satisfied with their partner’s penis size while only 55 percent of men felt good about their penises.
Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of Tonic delivered to your inbox.