Once & For All: Does Size Really Matter?

Photographed by Natalia Mantini.
There’s one question that has inspired endless debate — and it’s not, “What is the meaning of life?” or, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” The question is, of course, “Does size really matter?” And we’re not talking candy bars here. We’re talking penises.
You can search through the dirtiest subreddits or simply ask your friends, and you’ll see a range of answers. Some are self-proclaimed “size queens.” Some don't care too much about length, but love a girthy penis. Some say that there’s definitely such a thing as too big, and argue that a strictly average dick is easier to work with and more enjoyable all around. Some say that size doesn’t really matter at all, and that stamina, chemistry, or oral sex skills are more important.
It turns out that scientists have also debated this question, and they’ve spent many years trying to figure out the answer. 
First, know that many people have distorted perceptions of “small.” A 2014 study of 15,521 penises by the British Journal Of Urology International found that the average penis is 3.61 inches long and 3.66 inches in circumference when flaccid, and 5.16 inches long and 4.59 inches in circumference when erect. According to the Mayo Clinic, a micropenis is one that’s less than three inches long when erect. Anything bigger than that falls within the normal range.
Generally, studies have shown that straight cis women do care about penis size — but only a little. A 2013 study of 105 straight women, published by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that a bigger penis correlated with perceived male attractiveness, particularly for taller men. But it was an average-sized penis, not a giant schlong, that was preferred. After a flaccid measurement of 2.99 inches — below average — the study authors found that "the proportional increase in attractiveness begins to decrease."
Another measurement contributed far more to perceived attractiveness than penis size: shoulder-to-hip ratio.
The sex technique and type of orgasm plays a role too. A 2012 study of 323 women, published by the Journal of Sexual Medicine, found that those who primarily orgasmed from vaginal penetration, rather than clitoral stimulation, were more likely to care about penis size, favouring “somewhat larger than average penises.” Keep in mind that these women are in the minority: A 2017 study found that only 18% of cis women orgasm solely through vaginal penetration.  
And a 2015 study of 105 women, also published by the Journal of Sexual Medicine, found that while penis size does play a minor role in what makes “a good-looking penis,” it’s the sixth on the list of eight aspects. The women in the study rated “general cosmetic appearance” as the most important factor, followed by pubic hair appearance and penile skin. Girth was #4, and length was #6. So while a bigger penis was slightly preferred, grooming and hygiene were far more important.
While most of the “does size matter?” research has focused on cis straight respondents — like the majority of research as a whole, which is a big problem — a 2009 study published by the Archives of Sexual Behavior examined “association between perceived penis size and a variety of psychosocial outcomes” in 1,065 cis men who have sex with men. The study authors found that those with smaller penises were more likely to identify as “bottoms” and those who were above-average were more likely to identify as “tops.” 
All in all, it seems like men are far more worried about their penis size than their partners are. A 2014 study of 173 straight, gay, and bisexual cis men, published by the Journal of Sexual Medicine (leading dick researchers, apparently), found that the men’s beliefs about penis size (or BAPS, as the study researchers dubbed this) did not correlate to their actual penis size. Thirty-five percent of the men said they were happy with their penis size, 30% were unhappy with it, and the rest were somewhere in between. The twist: All 173 penises fell within the normal size range.
If you don’t believe the study, take it from one wise Redditor: “How you use it really is more important than size.”

More from Sex & Relationships