Isn't He Lovely: The Myth of the Superior Penis

hbo hung promotional image of a white man's arm pulling up the sock on his left legAs feminists, I think it's easy to forget that for all of the misrepresentations and misinformation delivered to us about what vulvas and vaginas "should" look like and how they "should" respond to sexual contact, equally tall tales about penile look and length abound. For that reason, I'd be remiss in this blogging series if I didn't go ahead and underscore a fact that continually evades our collective memory: There is no such thing as the superior penis. I'll also spare us all the rote nautical metaphors about boats afloat on choppy seas, and try to stick with statistics.

Oh, penises—those polarizing pillars of pride and self-pity, those hallowed members, so often shielded from the public eye, as opposed to the regularly recurring vulvas and the ubiquitous butts. Unless you're watching porn, the sight of a penis on screen remains as rare, as, say, seeing an Asian man as a romantic lead in a Hollywood film. And why must it be this way? Because of its myriad connotations as simultaneously the source of "manhood" and a tool of sexual violence, reproduction and pleasure? Because of the phallocentricism that still runs rampant in our culture, dividing the male and female constructs between hard and soft, respectively? Answers: yes, yes, and yes...most likely.

But I said I'd stick with stats, right? Right. Henceforth with the superior penis myth-busting, then. I'll get more into the discursive elements of our cultural penile hangups in subsequent posts this week.

A well-circulated study from 2007 concluded that "small penis syndrome" is a common psychological issue particularly for heterosexual men. The British urologists found that 45 percent of men longed for a longer penis. And yet, 85 percent of their female partners had no complaints. More precisely, 66 percent of the 52,000 respondents rated their penile length as "average," with 12 percent "small" and 22 percent "large." So although a majority of men considered themselves average, feelings of inadequacy persisted.

Notably, a 2010 study of penis length, perception, and sexual health among gay men found less dissatisfaction. Only seven percent of respondents described their penis as "below average," followed by 53.9 percent "average" and 35.5 percent "above average." I suspect that the more favorable self-reviews have to do with familiarity (and by extension, more realistic idea of how penile appearances vary) and possibly this: Kinsey Institute data suggesting that gay men possess slightly longer and wider penises. Even so, we're talking about differences of less than a half-inch.

Penis size is also a psychological concern for so many men because of the bogus correlations we've constructed between it and race and physicality. Somewhere along the way, while white folks were casting black men as sexual beasts endangering the chastity of white women and Asian men as effeminate "others," we created this mythical penile size spectrum, which has been scientifically disproven. Meta analysis has determined that there is no—let me repeat, no—association between racial background and penis size. Therefore, not only are the penis size stereotypes inherently racist, they're factually wrong. Case closed. Nor is there a statistically significant relationship between one's height or foot length and penis measurement.

Earlier this year, researchers did, however, identify a tenuous relationship between finger length ratio and penis length. To which I say: What difference does it make when the one consistent finding about penis size is that sexual partners typically couldn't care less?

Comments

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couldn't care less

is what think you mean...

Missing the point

Stats aside, this still entirely misses the point that the majority of men are obsessed with cock size because they actually think it matters to women. How on earth can we get the message across that actually, it's far more important to use your other body parts... hands, mouth, brain?

*sigh*

Perhaps I should've

Perhaps I should've emphasized the stats that demonstrate that women don't care (that was the point of the last sentence in the post). I pointed to numbers rather than anecdote because they're more persuasive in my opinion. Of course, numbers will never entirely erase body image issues, but they're a start.

Sex is more complex than this

It would benefit us as feminists to understand the complexity of human sexuality beyond the idea that "cultural standards make us sad. Everyone's the same and size doesn't matter. Celebrate!"

Size, in fact, does matter. As a sex worker, I've been with hundreds upon hundreds of men. And I'm sorry to burst the scientific bubble, but it's absolutely true that Asian men typically have smaller penises and black men typically have larger penises. That's just a fact. Case closed. I don't know why "scientists" are out there trying to disprove it, when any escort can tell you this is common knowledge. This shouldn't be a problem. Racism is the problem, and how we value penis size is the problem.

The other glaring oversight in this article/the studies mentioned is this: heterosexual men aren't necessarily preoccupied with penis size because of the desires of their female partners. A large number of heterosexual (mostly white) men have a fetish for being "sexually inadequate" and watching their wives fuck bigger, better (mostly black) men. For these men, the fixation on the penis size is a homoerotic one: how big and powerful it is, how strong it is, etc. etc. A huge percentage of heterosexual men are surprisingly fixated on penises: this is very male, and very homoerotic. As female feminists, it's tempting to say, "penis size doesn't matter! stop trying to live up to these patriarchal standards of masculinity! they're violent and they make you feel inadequate and they make us get assaulted!" But what if they're not trying to "live up to standards" the way we, as women, unfortunately are? What if these "standards" are erotic for them, and homosexually so? I think this is an area where it would behoove us to listen, or to just pray that men begin to critically analyze themselves and their sexuality. They'd have insights we can't even imagine.

Sampling problems

I would trust the judgements of the scientists over that of the sex workers because scientist can get a much larger sample, where as sex workers will only be exposed to penises of men who go to sex workers.

I ALWAYS trust sex-workers

I ALWAYS trust sex-workers over scientists when it comes to SEX or SEX ORGANS being big/small. that is all. thank you.

"A large number of

"A large number of heterosexual (mostly white) men have a fetish for being "sexually inadequate"'

I won't specify a certain type of female fantasy reminiscent of this, for fear of the collective feminist godhead imploding. Since I having never, never, ever thought critically about myself or my sexuality, I'll shut up now.

That database you linked to

Am I misreading it or is it saying the opposite of the point you are trying to make?

"Focusing attention on penile-vaginal sensation supports vaginal orgasm and the myriad benefits thereof. Brody S, and Weiss P. Vaginal orgasm is associated with vaginal (not clitoral) sex education, focusing mental attention on vaginal sensations, intercourse duration, and a preference for a longer penis."

Also: look at some of the other articles related to it
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18637995
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21676178

You're right -- preference

You're right -- preference for a longer penis was correlated to vaginal orgasm in some of the study participants. But the main predictor was vaginal education. Not sure how the other studies relate if only to point out how ridiculous studying the highly individual penis-vagina-intercourse experience can be.

Thanks for post

Interesting read and something that more men should read up on. The history of over-sexed African Americans and the castrated Asian male is a very complex and under discussed aspect of institutionalized and historic racial representation. Thanks for including those aspects of this tired male obsession. I look forward to reading more.

contrary to my experiences

i had not measured my penis until a girlfriend told me it was too small. its 5.5 inches long. i always assumed i was average but i didnt really do any surveys. i had heard that 6 inches was normal. another girlfriend would remind me occasionally that her ex boyfriend had a penis the size of a cardboard paper towel cylinder. both were white americans. a vietnamese girlfriend never mentioned size. a bulgarian girlfriend said that her ex boyfriend was unusually large and that she did not enjoy sex with him and that i was fine.im currently in a relationship with a native american who said the same things that the bulgarian said. from these limited experiences i assume that white american women are more likely to initiate feelings of inadequacy related to penis size than women from other cultures. maybe penis size is an ingrained cultural measure of masculinity in america accepted by both men and women just like biceps or height. i think you can make a case for penis competition between men being absurd but just like biceps and height, penis size is another quality women judge men by and therefore a superior penis is no myth.

If, according to your

If, according to your experience, the importance of penis size varies from woman to woman and culture to culture, doesn't that support the idea that not all women (and men) are searching for a magical, "perfect" penis? In my conversations with girlfriends and guy friends, yes, size comes up, but as more of an aside.

Society pushes on men, as

Society pushes on men, as well as women, a standard of what they think they should be like sexually. I never realized that men were under such insecurities regarding size. When it comes down to it I personally have never compared someone’s size to how well I was satisfied. It’s a stigma that males always think that they have the biggest and baddest thing out there and it surprised me that most men ranked themselves as average and wished for larger.
Although I do disagree with the statement that race does not have size. I believe that there are exceptions to every rule but one average I believe that races vary in size.

As much as we hate to own up

As much as we hate to own up to it, most females are constantly preoccupied by the size a man's penis. If you are among a group of your close girlfriends and talk about your most recent hookup most of them are immediately going to ask how was it? how big? Size does matter to a lot of females and most say bigger is better. I do think that women who care about the penis size are only concerned about their sexual experiences with the man and not the long term potential relationship that could possibly occur. Any man you know is also constantly thinking about his penis size. Is it big? Is it small? They want to seem like a real man when they whip their goods out to their lady friend. They are definitely wondering if it is acceptable to the woman and if it pleases them. Some men have small penis' and are still confident in the size they were given.

Hm. I'm not sure that your

Hm. I'm not sure that your "we" is as inclusive as you think. I'm certainly not preoccupied with size, and when I'm with a group of close girlfriends talking about sexual experiences, we almost never talk about size. When we have discussed size, I also don't think any of us said "bigger is better." So, just wanted to say, I think you're speaking for yourself.

Girls Talk

But don't always say everything. My wife, for example, has three or four groups of friends. Two or three out of all those women are very close to her. None of those groups will talk about penis size (or other things so revealing). Two of her close friends will, however, my wife still won't. She's embarrassed. Me, average size with the "magic in the wand is better then the size of the stick" attitude, it's been my experience that good chemistry, positive energy and a good mood enables seduction and "most" women respond far greater to seduction then penis size. Men should be concentrating their energy on multiple orgasms, which requires a woman to feel safe, relaxed and willing.

You're a smart man. Most

You're a smart man. Most women would be much happier in their relationships if more men thought as you do

there is a fascinating movie

there is a fascinating movie called 'my penis and everyone elses'' in which the narrator (who has an admittedly small penis) wants to discover why men don't what to talk seriously about penis size, shape, etc, etc.

as an aside, my boyfriend has a smallish penis, and I totally disagree about a longer penis aiding vaginal orgasms- its all in how its used. (I know thats pretty cliche, but for those of us with shallow vaginas, a smaller penis is waaaaay better- especially for sex that last upwards of 30 minutes- big dick= ouch.)

I just wanted to second this,

I just wanted to second this, and say I'm surprised the whole bigger = possibly more painful hasn't come up already. I don't know if I'm just small or inexperienced, but it took MONTHS for me to be able to get my boyfriend inside me, much less have PIV sex, and he's normal as far as I can tell. Anytime people bring up 'bigger is better' in regards to penis', all I can think is 'ouch'. I think if I were faced with an above-average penis, I'd be downright disheartened.

I have had this problem with

I have had this problem with my boyfriend. He is always comparing himself to others and probably considers himself “small” though he definitely is at least average. Based on what I have read about size, and even what he has told me. Personally, I don’t care much about the size of his penis. We have been together since we were 16 and his penis is the only one I have ever seen, and quite honestly I don’t have the desire to see anyone else’s. According to other, “size does matter”, but I honestly just don’t buy it. Maybe my boyfriend is big enough so that I don’t understand why it would matter…. Who knows. Plus, I'm pretty sensitive when it comes to sex, and I don't think I would enjoy it if he was bigger.

Size does matter

Size does matter. The size of the penis is the true measure of the man.

One of the happiest days of my life is when I made arrangements over the internet to meet a woman and have sex with her. I told her that I wanted to take my clothes off in front of her, so that she could see me naked. If she liked what she saw, fine, if not, no hard feelings, I would just leave.

I took my clothes off and she looked at me. It was amazing. There I was, at her mercy. Would she "measure me up" as enough of a man to be with her, or would she "castrate" me, judging me to be less than good enough? She said simply, "nice".

She was probably lying, but the thrill was still there, the wondering, "Would I be enough of a man?"

Studies flawed

I think most studies into female opinion of penis size are quite flawed considering most women have only experienced average sized penises. Its like asking women if they prefer living on earth, or the moon (assuming the moon had an atmosphere).

I would like to give the perspective of sex as a well endowed man. I never asked my girlfriends if they thought I was large, I always waited for them to say something of their own accord. Most of the comments did not come when they saw my penis for the first time, but after the first time we had sex. They would say something about my size and how good it felt.

I asked a few of them if they believed size mattered before the experience, and some said they were curious about large men, others were not, but it was the sex itself which changed their opinions about the importance of size.

Now I never tell a woman I am large in order to get her into bed. I prefer to leave that as a surprise.

My point is, how can anyone comment on how something affects them vs something else if they have never had both.

Femail experience validates size fixation,

Your testimonial validates the size fixation and pain men feel in today's culture. Do not understand how share help the cause.

size

If they were so impressed by your size,are anyone of them still with you ? are they calling frequently because of your size ? probably not. Only the first 2 inches of a vagina can feel anything.There is no such thing as being too small or large,not when the clitoris is the main sex organ.

What nonsense...... haha..

Well, i am 5'6" in height, i am a mesomorph, i have relatively short to average hands, very thick fingers for a mesomorph (making my fingers look shorter than they really are), i take between a size 7 1/2 and 8 1/2 in trainers/shoes (depending on the company), i am high in testosterone (i know this because i am into bodybuilding, power and strength training and general fitness and i respond very well to exercise with regards to strength, power and size augmentation/gains)...... all this said and i have over 8" downstairs.. i forget the girth, but it is pretty thick and my glans is bigger than the shaft (ideal shape, i am guessing)..
All this taken into account, i believe hand size or finger length or whatever has NOTHING to do with penis size!
I am presuming that last statement in the article was a sarcastic one, right!?
It read as though it is meant to be sarcastic, anyhow..

Just for all the dreamers: Having size is not as great as you think when you hardly get any action because it hurts your wife too much for days on end, so be happy with what you have and stop being the big dick you wish you had!
If your wife is a good girl and she loves YOU then what exactly are you concerned about so long as she enjoys you and you enjoy her?
Most women HATE big dicks anyway!