Editor’s note: Answers have been edited for clarity with the respondents’ names changed for privacy.
I think I was 14 when I first watched a “dirty movie”
It was — to put it mildly — an erotic experience unlike any I’ve had prior.
I swear I felt the blood in my veins rushing faster, my ears all red and burning, and this tantalising sensation in between my thighs that made me a bit cautious of my own surroundings.
I wasn’t alone. There were four of us. All boys. All around the same age. All very curious about “dirty movies”. We planned to watch one after coming across a DVD box that had pictures of naked women on it.
However, what followed next led to a decade-long distorted idea of “Oh, do I have a small penis?”
While what’s considered a “small penis” can vary based on who you ask, 5.16in is the average size of the adult male penis when erect, according to an analysis of more than 15,000 penises from around the world.
Even then, it hasn’t been enough to reassure the large majority of men about the size of their penis given the obsession mankind has had with penises – from prehistoric art depicting phalluses inside caves to phallic representation in Moche Art to the phallus being the marker of male identity in the Kamasutra.
Given men’s preoccupation with this supposed “marker of male identity”, I was curious to find out what women think about male penis sizes and how the length and girth (or lack of it) play a role during sex.
So, does the size of a penis matter to women?
Well, it sort of does and doesn’t.
I ran an informal poll on Twitter, where a total of 970 people voted. The results showed that size does matter. However, it also doesn’t matter, based on the 0.1% difference in the final results.
Hello!I’m working on a piece about insecurities around sexual intercourse when it comes to men and their penis size, and if it really matters to women.Please pick an answer to help me with this soft poll. And if you’re comfortable, do share your opinion below/DM me.Thanks.
— Sadho (@sadhosays) September 26, 2022
Expanding on their votes, some of the respondents added that size matters “to a certain extent” to them because — as explained by a female respondent, “honestly, an inch is too little and 10in is too much”.
The above point of view was echoed by several other women and bisexual men.
It prompted me to expand the scope of my poll by seeking out individual responses from people with different gender identities about why size matters to them. I also asked about their perspective on insecurities among men whose ideas of “normality” about their own penis sizes have led them to fear intimacy.
Before anything else, though, here’s some context about what the phrase “yes, size matters” actually means to the majority of the female respondents: They aren’t necessarily referring to bigger penises
Yes, size does matter, just not in the sense the majority of men tend to assume.
“Size totally matters. I’ve been with dudes with penises smaller than my pinkie and the sex was not fulfilling even with lots of foreplay and oral. And I’ve been with dudes who were well above the average size and it hurts and isn’t pleasurable. You gotta find one that fits you just right,” shared Nini, who is happily married.
“It matters to me, but only to a certain extent. If men have the technique, then they can do the deed. Foreplay and a deep emotional connection with my partner are also very important,” shared Trix, another married woman.
Both Nini and Trix found another backer in CJ, who summed up “the size issue” quite succinctly.
“I believe that a bad workman blames his tools. So if the penetration isn’t pleasurable, it is definitely a skill issue rather than a size problem. A good sex partner is able to work with what he’s got,” CJ said.
24-year-old Ameena, meanwhile, shared that while “miniature” penises are obviously a dealbreaker for her, penises that are “too big can pose an issue” too because of potential pain during sex.
“So, unless the size falls on either end of the extreme, size is not a huge problem,” she said.
Similarly, a 23-year-old I spoke to shared that “yes, size matters because if it’s too big, it hurts every time and the sex isn’t unenjoyable either and if it’s too small, there’s not much feels”.
“Bigger doesn’t mean better for me, and to be honest, a ‘larger size’ can sometimes be uncomfortable. So I wouldn’t place as much emphasis on [the size],” shared another woman, Tina, who is in her late 20s.
Tina, who specialises in lifestyle content, explained by citing an example of a guy with a “small or average size penis” but who has “wicked foreplay skills” and isn’t scared of emotional connection.
“That [maturity] is way better in my eyes compared to someone who has a ‘good size’ but doesn’t know how to [indulge in] foreplay or emotionally connect with [their sexual partners],” she added.
Image via Tenor
There is, however, such a thing as the smaller the penis, the larger the ego.
“Men with average-sized penises are nicer,” Nini said.
“My ex-boyfriend had a small penis but he made up for it by being the biggest dick ever. He was one of those guys who wouldn’t use an umbrella when it rains because ‘that’s not what real men do.'”
Men with below-average-sized penises are quite self-centred and tend to only “focus on their own climax” without putting in any effort to satisfy their partner’s needs, according to Trix.
Or as HaTii put it, “[If anything, it’s] his personality that must be bigger than his penis.”
“I also care that they have a nice personality and that I find them attractive. And there can’t be selfishness. If a man cannot respect my ‘no’, then it’s a major turn-off for me,” she told me.
While ancient Indian texts describe a penis as a “seed-giver” that is an important member of pleasure and desire, it’s not the main character
It’s due to the fact that not all women orgasm through penetrative sex.
Take, for example, Malini, who shared that as a queer person who has dated both men and women, some of the best sexual experiences in her life have been with people who didn’t possess penises.
“I feel a lot of cisgender and heterosexual people focus too much on penile penetration. Like that’s the main event? I can see why the emphasis would be on size in this case but it still doesn’t make sense,” Malini said, adding that putting so much emphasis on bigger penises is like saying only bigger boobs matter.
“Big boobs, small boobs — it doesn’t matter. #AllBoobsAreGoodBoobs,” Malini chuckled.
Similarly, Deborah, another female respondent I spoke to, shared that it’s mostly straight people who get too caught up about size because they think there’s only one way to have sex.
“[For them], it has to involve penetration otherwise it’s not real sex. I think if people opened up their minds about what falls under intercourse, they’d be a lot happier,” she added.
For Aqasha, who is in her early 20s, sex is not just about penetration, as it should be an intimate experience between two consenting adults, and doesn’t necessarily have to end with an orgasm.
Then there’s also this fetishisation of women’s concerns and fears among men with bigger penises.
As a 22-year-old told me, whenever she has expressed her fear of a bigger or larger penis that wouldn’t fit her, men have told her that “it’s cute”, showing complete disregard for her sexual needs.
Meanwhile, a 25-year-old cisgender, gay man who has casual sex with multiple partners, offered a more nuanced take on how there’s definitely a need to shift the conversation from “Is size better?”
“This [fixation on size] puts people in a binary of big (and good sex) vs small (and bad sex),” he said.
The female respondents I spoke to also emphasised how men’s single-minded focus on penetrative sex shows their own lack of understanding about the pleasure centre of the vulva: the clitoris
“It matters whether they know what to do with it. Most women don’t derive the same pleasure from penetration that men do so being blessed with size will only get you so far,” Debbie told me.
Similarly, Samantha shared that skills matter more to her.
“A man can have a big penis and not know how to use it to pleasure women.”
Melissa, who identifies as non-binary, offered a more empathetic answer about size.
“It’s not something someone can control, the size of a penis isn’t critical to my pleasure. You don’t need to go deep to achieve female pleasure as it’s mainly in the clitoris. Vagina owners who can orgasm purely through penile penetration are exceedingly rare,” she said, adding, “Men really shouldn’t think so highly of their penises. That’s not the only thing making vagina owners orgasm, boys.”
The average vagina is about 3.8in deep but has the ability to stretch to twice that amount when sexually aroused to accommodate a penis. This, again, brings us to the point that bigger isn’t necessarily better.
At least, that’s what the majority of female respondents stressed in their answers to me.
One of them, Simran, shared that she had a partner with a very large penis, and it made the experience extremely painful and also uncomfortable, so she wouldn’t say that “big is better”.
According to another respondent, Chandra, intimacy and simulation matter more, and for the latter, the penis is not the main character as other forms of sexual stimulation, including oral, play a larger role.
Image via Giphy
Men, however, continue to place their self-worth on their size thanks to unrealistic standards in porn that have blurred the lines about what’s “normal” and have left them with deep-rooted psychological issues
This also adversely affects their partners, leaving them to deal with something they never signed up for.
“Men are often insecure about their size and they tend to project that insecurity onto their partner,” Ameena said, adding that men’s fixation on their size makes them feel like they can’t satisfy their partners.
Thus, putting an unnecessary burden and, at times, guilt on their partners.
Take, for example, Shareema. She told me that she didn’t realise how much penis size matters to men until she started dating her current partner, who is much older than she is.
“[My current partner’s] insecurities used to affect me, too. For a long time, at the beginning of our relationship, I felt like I was the problem like I was the one who failed him, simply by the disappointment I saw on his face when he was actually disappointed by his own [lack of confidence] in his size,” she shared.
“I thought being someone older, he would have gotten over it. But apparently, this whole thing about men linking their self-worth to [the size of] their penis is a lifelong thing. A man could be the most accomplished man in the world, but if he’s not satisfied with his penis, his self-worth is shaky,” Shareema added.
“Until today, I couldn’t understand it. I mean, how could that be? You have accomplished more than I could ever imagine for myself my whole life, and yet the size of your penis is what’s shaking your self-worth?”
According to Shareema, while her partner’s size doesn’t matter to her, his fixation on his size and performance sometimes still interferes with their relationship in and out of the bedroom.
What’s the answer then?
According to Melissa, we need to address the way society shames penis owners through jokes about small penises because “jokes” like these only reinforce negative ideas about different sizes.
“Size insecurities are a psychological issue that runs deeper and is much harder than any partner can deal with. These are often tied to other feelings such as inferiority, insecurity, and self-esteem, which the person needs to resolve or work out with a professional such as a therapist,” Melissa went on to add while calling for more candid and non-judgemental conversations about the variety of penis sizes and shapes.
Image via Tenor
I also had my colleague, Yap Wan Xiang, ask Dr Rachael Winston, a sexual health practitioner at the Malaysian Urgent Care Clinic, to share her own expert opinion on why men place their self-worth on size
According to Dr Ray, as she is affectionately known, it’s an internal ego that most men battle with themselves that sometimes involves their lack of ability to maintain an erection for a long time and the pressure to be good in bed and not being able to satisfy their partner can be very stigmatising.
“When it comes to guys, most of my patients that I talk to, the size of the penis is what drives them, what makes them a man. It’s what they relate to when it comes to their manhood,” she told my colleague.
The sexologist stressed that size doesn’t matter physiologically, but emotionally and psychologically, size will matter to people because of how they look at it or are made to feel about it.
“For example, saying, “Oh, it appears small to me”, terms like that, or if their partner were to say, “Yours is the smallest I’ve seen”, a simple sentence, even if it’s a joke, can cause a really huge impact for a long time because the inferiority is built. So any kind of joke about the size will have an effect on people,” Dr Ray added.
To conclude, while size may or may not matter, a couple of things that are equally important, if not more, are communication and foreplay
Image via Tenor
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