The Girth and Length Debate

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by Randall S. Frederick

Q: What are your thoughts on penis size?

A: Well, penises don’t really do much for me since I’m mostly straight, but pretty consistently, I hear my lady friends saying girth/width is more important than length “as long as I can do something with it. Don’t have a little thumb in your pants and think that’s going to do something for me.” I think makes sense, given the shape and form of the vagina. A thicker penis tends to flare out the vaginal lips and make the clitoris more prominent, increasing the chances for pleasurable intercourse.

I think it’s important, in discussing penis size, to say there are always going to be preferences, but for the most part your sexual partner is willing to work with you. I know guys who will say they “have to have” a woman with a hair color, eye color, or big breasts and they are perfectly content with someone who doesn’t fit that description at all. Having a small penis or a big penis really is something worth noting, since most men have about a five to six inch erection. Really, the average is between 4.7 and 6.3 inches, so whether you’re well endowed or have a little peeny, it’s important to work out a way to satisfy and be satisfied by your partner(s). Regardless, it’s not the end of a relationship. The size of vaginas differs too, according to Brook McFadden, M.D., assistant professor in the division of female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery at The Ohio State University. McFadden did a study last year (2015) confirming a 2005 study conducted by Jillian Lloyd. Lloyd’s findings, published under  “Female genital appearance: normality unfolds” in the May 2005 issue of the British Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology found that the average length of a vagina is 9.6 centimeters (about the length of a tube of lip gloss), with the range between 6.5 and 12.5 centimeters. As for the width, the most recent research is from a 1995 (yes, seriously!) paper in Obstetrics & Gynecology called “Vaginal anatomy and sexual function.” Still, even though neither study is “recent”, McFadden is comfortable with its assertion that vaginal diameter is 2.1 to 3.5 centimeters. “One thing to note is that only two women with diameters of 2.1 were sexually active, and both had pain with intercourse,” says McFadden. Unless your partner experiences pain with sex or an inability to use tampons or even get your period, they likely fall into the normal range for both width and length. Of course, a vagina’s width and length adjust during intercourse to better accommodate what the vagina is dealing with, which needs to be said, but chances are, like Goldilocks, you’re somebody’s “just right.”

Your question is bit (echem) short, but I want to say that men worry about their penis size more than their partners. The women I know talk to me about the abilities of the men they have sex with more than the size of their package. According to a study published in the British Journal of Urology International, 45% of men think their penis is too small while 85% of women are “satisfied” with the size of that same penis. That same study concluded that the anxiety men experience is unfounded. A “small” penis, according to the study, is 2.8 inches flaccid and 4.7 inches erect are not that common. Of course they exist (mainly in North Korea), but it is more than likely your size is absolutely adequate, even “satisfactory.” If you still have doubts, I like an article by Vanessa Marin showing good positions for small penises. Check it out here.

A few notes on small(er…ish) penises:

Small penises are best suited for long term relationships

Men with small penises are often conditioned toward long-term relationships because of the diminished likelihood of multiple partnerships. Additionally, these men tend to make up for their “shortcomings” in other ways – actively seeking partners with diminished sexual interest or seeking new avenues of sexual pleasure (ex: cunnilingus, toys, kinks, etc.) Brian Moylan has some really good advice for women dating men with smaller penises on Gawker.

Girth, not length… well, okay, maybe length too

A 2014 study states “ girth, not length, matters for one-time partners, but not for long-term ones” and overall, women in the study preferred penises at 6.5 inches in length. In other words, penis size matters for some women and some types of orgasms, but “researchers found women who have frequent vaginal orgasms are more likely than other women to say they climax more easily with men who are well-endowed. This could be attributed to the ability of a longer penis to stimulate the entire length of the vagina and the cervix… penis size does matter, but it’s all contingent on the women, the type of sexual relationship, and the orgasm.”

Less than 1% of men have a “micropenis”

A clinically defined  “micropenis” is a penis which has a SPL (stretched penis length) of 3 and ⅔ inches or less, according to pediatric urologist Lane S. Palmer, MD, chief of pediatric urology at Cohen Children’s Medical Center, New Hyde Park, N.Y. That means, when the penis is either gently pulled out while stimulated or erect and measured from the pubic bone to the tip of the penis, anything above 3.23 inches (and under 6.48 inches), according to Palmer’s study, exceeds the limits of “micropenis” status . I’ve known men (again, around 1 out of every 100 or so guys) who are below this measurement and, surprisingly, they accept their fate with a great measure of humor saying they incorporate it into their sex life through humiliation play and femdom (female domination), or even adopt it into their relationship with pet names like “little man” or – in one instance – “Napoleon.” David Veale of King’s College of London says this kind of acceptance is atypical. “Quite a few [men] have been teased about their size either by an ex-partner or in the showers as an adolescent. It’s an emotional feeling.” While surgery to extend or “grow” the penis is a very real possibility and is becoming more popular, there are serious risks to those kind of operations – namely, that damage of nerves or tissue could make the penis larger but perpetually unable to achieve and maintain an erection.

Penis Anxiety does not correlate with penis size

I always think it’s important to say this again – anything above 3.23 inches qualifies you as being out of the “micropenis” category. Still, to echo the study published in the British Journal of Urology International, 45% of men think their penis is too small. Penis anxiety is frequent among men who fear “that they would be rejected or end up alone because of their penis size. They also had anxiety about being naked around women and other men… [or] that people would be able to see the shape of their penis even when they have their pants on.”

North Korea has the highest number of micropenises

In an informal study conducted last year by website BodyRock, it was determined that out of the 80 countries they researched, the global average penis size is 5.5 inches. South America is the most well hung continent at 6.36 inches, Democratic Republic of the Congo is the most well hung country at 7.1 inches on average, while North Korea is the smallest average at 3.8 inches.  “Americans didn’t even reach the global average and find themselves in 61st place out of 80.” Notably, only 3% of men worldwide are above 8 inches, and only 6% of men worldwide “need” extra large condoms.

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As strange or amusing as this might sound at first, I believe one of the best things anyone who wonders about or has questions about penis size should look at photos of penises – as many as you can stand. Don’t look at porn; look at the candid photos, the “dick pics”, the nude body and you will begin to see where the penis you have, or one you know, ranks in the big picture. MensFAQ has a really great starter gallery here that’s worth checking out.

It’s not on tiny peenies, though. Statistically speaking, there are more men with huge penises (3% worldwide) than there are men with micropenises (less than 1%) and that bigger is not always better – especially for relationships. Unlike lesser endowed men who show a high degree of relational engagement, according to Nicole Prause, PhD., the Principal Investigator for the Sexual Psychophysiology and Affective Neuroscience (SPAN) Laboratory, “women were more likely to have an outside partner when their male partner had a larger penis. We found that 2.6% of women in one of our studies ended a relationship with a partner, in part, because their partner had a penis they felt was too large.”

Because men with larger penises are often conceived of as the ideal by both men and women, there’s not a lot for me to add here. Bigger penises can “hit the mark” better, but also can do more damage to the partner they are penetrating. Instead of trying to find ways to “help it fit” we might better spend our time here saying that there, just like with small penises, there should be an effort to prepare ahead of time and find positions that complement both partners.

Preparation

When it comes to more well-endowed men, they need to prepare ahead of time. Stop the swagger and get serious with your partner. Let them see it, touch it, and get over that first initial shock of wondering how, even if, they want to do business with you. I hate to phrase it this way, but “Don’t be stupid.” If you know you’re big, buy lube ahead of time. Stimulate your partner. Have them stimulate you. Get comfortable with each other. Forget whatever you saw in the porn movies where the guy just glides right in – take it slow, communicate, and see what feels right for you both. I suggest the receiving partner should have at least one orgasm before even trying penetration, since the muscles and tissues will be relaxed, arousal will be higher, the bodily will have natural lubrication, and the vagina will be naturally dilated.

Lube, lube, lube

I can’t say this enough: use lube. Like… an unreasonable amount. Whatever amount of lube you use, when you start to think, “This is enough” – go ahead and use some more. Take it slow. It it hurts, stop immediately since vaginal (and especially anal) tearing is a very real possibility. Jenny Block, author of O Wow: Discovering Your Ultimate Orgasm says “If you take your time and make sure you are properly lubricated and extremely aroused, you will have a much better chance of making it work.”

Breathe and take it easy

Work on relaxing and breathing deeply, especially if you’ve tried and feel like things aren’t working. Sometimes, sex with larger penises will take time. It just will. So, if you don’t get it on the first try, that’s okay. Spend time enjoying each other’s bodies, even pleasuring each other in non-penetrative ways through toys, oral and manual sex, or some other form of sex play. As Gabrielle Moss of Bustle writes, “Enormous penises sound great on paper, of course… [but] in the worst cases, I personally have experienced a painful, tearing feeling while a too-big penis entered my vagina; I’ve experienced post-sex chafing, rawness, stinging, and, on one terrible occasion, I yowled in pain while peeing in a Starbucks bathroom a few hours after a particularly un-lubed encounter with a massive dong.”

Don’t rush it

Finding the right position for penetration can be very helpful, but that will differ among couples. Sometimes shallow thrusting is the best you’ll do until a few encounters together. So-called experts are quick to say that the vagina is “very resilient” and “can stretch to accommodate giving birth” but what they fail to mention is that women who give birth have already spent months with the body adjusting for that purpose. Their hips spread out, for instance, and this isn’t an overnight thing. It takes weeks, even months, for the female body to adjust and prepare for a child (or children) to come out of them through the vagina. That might sound like an exaggerated example, but never rush things. If it hurts, stop immediately and try again later. Pain makes the pelvic floor muscles tighten to protect the vagina from pain and things can get shut down instantaneously if that happens.

Try a new position

While we’re on the topic of “trying again later”, try a new position. Spooning often works, as will the receiving partner lying on their stomach or back with legs together on the bed. Visual this with me: if you try a position where she’s spread-eagle, all of the tissue around the vagina is stretched out toward the outstretched thighs. What you want is for all of the tissue to be relaxed and ready to use every centimeter of tissue to surround the penis. More, the clitoris can be better stimulated in these positions (and god help you if you’re paying attention to and worshiping that clitoris!) which will help increase arousal and possibility for success. Also, keep in mind that positions which allow for full thrusting but shallow penetration can still be very stimulating. If the partner with the penis insists on putting their entire penis inside of you, that can sometimes be physically impossible.

It’s okay to say if something isn’t working. Whether your partner is too big or too small, there’s no shame in saying “this just isn’t for me.” You might upset your penis-owning friend, but that’s okay. They will get over it. You never have to feel bad about personal safety and saying what works (or doesn’t work) for you.

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