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Sex with Dr. Jess


June 9, 2009

Does Size Matter?

Measuring tape

I don’t have a penis and I’ve never wanted one. As a woman, I’m subject to impossible pressures with regard to my physical makeup, but I can’t even begin to fathom the anxieties associated with penis size. While it may not factor heavily along the path to enlightenment and it doesn’t seem to matter to most women, men are socialized to obsess about the size of their penises. Joking, bragging, worrying, strategic shaving, lying and measuring are common symptoms of this cultural fixation that reduces men to the size of their members.

Studies of men who worry that their penises are too small overwhelmingly indicate that their anxieties are unfounded. They often underestimate their own size or overestimate perceptions of normal penis size. More importantly, they miscalculate the degree to which their sexual partners desire a larger penis. Research indicates that 85 percent of women are happy with their partner’s penis size in comparison to only 55 percent of men who report satisfaction with their own size.

Studies that have attempted to determine and reproduce estimations for average penis size have resulted in a mixed bag of results due to challenges of methodology. Who should do the measuring? What measurement instrument is most reliable? Where should the measurement begin? What position should the penis take during measurement? Despite these limitations, a review of over fifty studies suggests that the average length of an erect penis is approximately 5.5 inches. Self-measurements tend to be higher than those conducted by researchers.

While some men are “show-ers” and have larger flaccid penises that expand proportionally less when erect, others are considered “growers” who have smaller flaccid penises that grow much larger during erection. There is a much wider range in flaccid penis size making it an unreliable predictor of its full length during erection.

But does size matter? From a sexological perspective, penis size has very little impact on the sexual pleasure of the penis-bearer or his partner. For men having vaginal sex with women, the shape and size of the vagina do not require large objects of insertion for pleasure and a well placed penis, finger, dildo or other object can produce far more pleasure than an oversized rod. In a relaxed state, the vagina is a short potential space with walls that gently touch and close together and the richest nerve endings are located near the opening. The g-spot, which can produce intense response and orgasm for some women, can generally be stimulated by any object of two inches in length. However, vaginas also come in different sizes, so it may be a matter of finding the perfect fit.

More importantly, the clitoris, that wonderful pleasure organ through which most women achieve orgasm, is not located in the vagina. A penis, finger, feather, tongue or lips can easily access the clit without spanning the eight inch porn-standard. Many women who love sex can attest to the fact that penetration, particularly with a larger object, is way overrated.

A larger penis is definitely not preferable for anal sex, as the anal canal is short and the sphincter muscles are rich in nerve endings that can be intensely stimulated regardless of size. For those having anal sex with men, the prostate (the male pleasure organ) is easily accessible within a few inches of the anal opening, so a penis or finger of just a few inches in length will more than do the trick to massage this sweet spot.

Women are not unaffected by our cultural obsession with big penises. We too have been socialized to associate the penis with virility, but we’re neither envious (thanks anyway Freud) nor reverent of the member itself. Most women who have sex with penises want partners who are attentive and know how to use their entire bodies as sources of pleasure as opposed to limiting their efforts to the penis itself.

There is no denying that our cultural linkage of masculinity with phallic mass has created a framework in which size matters; however, its significance is primarily unrelated to sexual pleasure and more closely tied with gendered notions of performance and differentiation. Yes. Size matters insofar as masculinity is associated with displays of power, but its impact on sex is as diminutively significant as other forms of male exhibition like fast cars or a padded bank roll.

Penis size may matter if one’s only modus operandi involves penetrative, thrusting sex; however, if this is the unfortunate case, another eight inches would do nothing to compensate for what’s lacking in skill and creativity. Size may affect one’s subjective arousal (what happens in our heads), but is less important to the physiological reactions that occur between our legs and (hopefully) beyond.