The lengths fellas go to ... Why size matters to men
Men have an inflated idea of how big their penises should be. And it’s ruining their sex lives, a new study finds
Size does matter – in a man’s mind, at least – and the more popular a man wants to be, the more likely he is to exaggerate the size of his penis, according to a new study.
The journal Sex and Marital Therapy published research last week called “Social Desirability and Young Men’s Self-Reports of Penis Size”.
The average American male university student surveyed reported a penis length of 16.7cm. Contrast this with four other studies in which sex researchers actually measured erect penises and calculated the average penis size was just longer than 13cm.
The study reported 170 American university students taking a class called “human sexuality” were asked about their penis size. They were also given a scale that, unbeknown to them, measured their need to be socially desirable.
The study found young men who had a high need for acceptance would be more likely to overemphasise their penis size.
Social desirability was defined as “the need of [individuals] to obtain approval by responding in a culturally appropriate manner”. In this sample, only 26% of the male students reported less than a 16cm length.
The researchers concluded that showed men tended to self-report size inaccurately.
Authors also identified “extreme over-reporters”, referring to 13 students who said their erect penises were at least 20cm long, and there were 40 young men who reported having 17.78cm long male organs.
But doctors warn an “obsession” with a big penis and unrealistic expectations could lead to problems in the bedroom. Size has long been an issue with the study quoting a 1978 book by psychologist Bernie Zilbergeld that concluded “it is not too much of an exaggeration to say that penises in [men’s] fantasyland come in only three sizes – large, gigantic, and so big you can barely get through the front door”.
Sexually experienced male students were also more likely to over-report penis size compared with those who reported no sexual experience.
The researchers assumed that was because sexually experienced men felt a “greater sense of masculinity and sexual competence and prowess” and linked that to a bigger penis. The “obsession” with penis size, said medical doctor Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng, actually led to problems such as premature ejaculation or an inability to have an erection.
Dr T, as she is known, works in sexual health and says she is seeing younger and younger men with sexual problems.
She finds women’s difficulties in the bedroom are more likely to have a medical cause, but men’s problems begin in their minds.
She has had male patients as young as 21 struggling to have sex. “If you work backwards, in therapy, it comes down to an obsession about penis size and how masculinity is defined.”
“Even in literature, songs, movies, jokes and general banter, there is a lot of reference to size corresponding with sexual prowess. Some men internalise that.”
She has treated men who expect to be able to have sex 10 times a night and are worried they are unable to.
“Who wants that anyway?”
A lack of healthy sex education leds to unrealistic expectations, she said. She said problems couples encountered were also caused by incorrect understandings of sex and penises. “Language about sex and words like ‘smashing’ and ‘banging’ often suggest sex is something men do and women give up.
“The penis is often symbolised as a weapon and a force.”
This could lead to unhealthy sexual behaviour.
Mofokeng said: “Sexual pleasure is not about size. There are different techniques and positions. Are you having foreplay and using sex toys?
“Are women [in heterosexual relationships] having sex when they want to have sex? Or is it just when he wants to do it?”