Is Small Beautiful?

4.17.2005

By Erik Piepenburg

Not every man with a small penis thinks it's a problem. Chris (who asked that his last name not be used), a 34-year-old gay man from San Francisco, says his 'very thin' penis measures 4.5 by 3.75 inches, the same size it was in junior high. Although his penis is smaller than average and he was regularly made fun of in school, he says his sexual life and long-term relationships never suffered. 'People that I've been interested in don't seem to care,' he says, adding that many of the men he meets actually fetishize a small penis. It wasn't until a sexual partner commented on his size that he felt self-conscious. 'I didn't think I was small before then,' he admits.

At this point it's worth asking, What is small? My small may be your average, and your big may be my small. The 'Is he a show-er or a grower?' question should be taken into consideration; just because a penis looks small unaroused doesn't mean it won't grow, sometimes considerably, when the blood starts flowing. (Plenty of Web sites offer 'scientific' research of varying quality on this issue.) Woodworth says the standard way to measure the length of the penis is to start along the bottom of the erection, from the point where it meets the pubic area to the tip; measure the circumference at mid shaft.

In the 1960s sex researcher Alfred Kinsey determined the average length to be six inches; a study conducted by Lifestyles condoms in 2001 found the average length to be 5.7 inches, with 75% of respondents measuring between 4.5 and 6.5 inches (the company offers a small-size condom for the 17% of men below 4.5 inches). Abnormally small penises, called micropenises, measure no longer than three inches.

Forget about statistical norms when it comes to the bedroom: That's where size seems to make the most difference. In general, men prefer certain body parts attached to their sexual partner to be on the diminutive side. How many straight men do you know who like women with size 16 feet? And except in bear culture, big bellies are as welcome in Chelsea as last year's moisturizer.

But there are some body parts that men prefer to be big'or at least average. Why else would pornography, gay or straight, traffic in the language of the humongous'Juggs, Latin Inches'and not the itty-bitty? Where are the billboards for SmallDickMagazine.com?

Face it: It's a treat if a big dick shows up in our bed; it's an even sweeter deal if it belongs to the man in the mirror. Size queens fuel the aesthetics of the man-on-man porn business and keep the Enlarge Your Peni$$$ spammers humming. Woodworth knows that getting gay men to salivate over small penises may be an uphill battle. 'You're going to have preferences,' he says. 'But preferences are one thing; judgments are another.'

Michele Moore, a family physician and coauthor of the book Dick: A User's Guide, says insecurities about penis size affect men regardless of sexual orientation and that both gay and straight men should look at the size of their penis the way they do their bank accounts: It's not how much you have but what you do with it that matters. 'If it's big and beautiful and it's useless, it's going to be a big disappointment,' she says.

Which doesn't stop people from trying to live large. Silverstein says ads pitching penis enhancement techniques are unquestionably unethical, and that he would direct a patient who wanted to enlarge his penis to a therapist for work around issues of masculinity and body dysmorphia. 'Under no circumstances should they subject themselves to surgery,' he says. 'No responsible physician would recommend such a thing.'

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