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Here’s a fun anecdote for your next cocktail party: When it came to providing urine receptacles for their astronauts, NASA encountered an unexpected problem. They gave their astronaut a choice of small, medium, or large sleeves to fit around their penises, but nobody would select either of the first two choices—and they kept slipping right off, leading to some unintended consequences. To fix this issue, the organization came up with a brilliant idea. They labeled them large, gigantic, and humongous instead.
Our society’s penis anxiety is deeply ingrained in the fabric of how we think about our own sexualities—and those of our partners. For a man, the ultimate dig is to suggest that he has a small penis, thus questioning his very manhood. In the case of Drake, all it took was for one message board commenter on Gawker to suggest that his disco stick was “weird,” and penis speculation quickly went viral.
Patrick Moote had a similar experience when he proposed to his girlfriend at a UCLA basketball game. Instead of accepting his offer, she walked away off camera, later admitting that the reason she wouldn’t marry him is that his penis was too small.The moment was documented on YouTube, becoming a viral phenomenon, and Moote later filmed a documentary, Unhung Hero, chronicling his exploration of society’s preferences around penis size.
How much does penis size matter and how much is myth? To address the issue, Daily Dot sexperts EJ Dickson and Nico Lang put together a list of seven reasons that penis size doesn’t matter as much as we think. The results will surprise you.
1) Bigger is only better to an extent.
Nico: I feel the same way about a nine-inch penis that I do an armored tank: They’re nice to look at, but if a guy thinks he’s parking it in my garage, he’s utterly insane. Just because you have the equipment doesn’t mean you necessarily know to operate the machinery, and there’s simply no correlation between a guy’s dick size and performance in bed. A guy with a big penis may be more confident in his sexuality, after a lifetime of having his body affirmed by sexual partners, but that can go one of two ways. Confidence can lead to incredibly sexy sex, but it also could mean that he’s the type of guy who is so “sure what he’s doing” that he ignores communication and physical cues. Guys who haven’t been gifted with a battering ram tend to be more willing to listen and to give—and everyone loves a giver.
In addition, research has shown that while size matters to the receptive partner, it doesn’t necessarily correlate to being more satisfied either in the bedroom or in a relationship. A survey from Kenya showed that women whose partners had large penises were actually more likely to cheat, and a large penis takes so much effort that there are actual guides on how to date a guy who is “too well-endowed.” If “dating is just one big game of penis roulette,” big penises are a special kind of bullet, one that you don’t necessarily want to have to deal with all the time. Frankly, large members entail a kind of preparation and diligence that one simply doesn’t want to give all the time. That’s why instead of a military-grade member, I personally prefer “boyfriend penis,” the kind that’s just right.
Summing up “bigger is better” debate, former Men’s Health Columnist Nicole Beland put it best: “Yes, we care about the size of a man’s penis. But when it comes to sexual satisfaction, it’s pretty far down on our list of priorities.”
2) Women care about other things way more than they care about large penises.
EJ: For whatever reason, men have been laboring under the misguided impression that there is an underlying scientific reason for why women prefer big penises to smaller ones. And it is true that there are some studies demonstrating a slight tendency toward that preference. Last year, for instance, the Australian National University made headlines with a study that presented women with images of computer-generated males with varying heights and penis lengths. The researchers concluded that women demonstrated a slight preference toward men with larger flaccid penises.
The media, however, failed to pick up on two things about the study. First of all, the women’s attraction to the men actually decreased when their penis size exceeded a certain length, indicating that most women prefer an average or slightly-above-average-size penis to an extra-large one. Just like anything else in life, there’s a happy medium to be attained when it comes to penis size.
The other thing that people failed to realize about the study is that the women only preferred bigger penises when the penises were proportional to the men’s size. So for instance, while they demonstrated a stronger attraction to tall men with larger penises, they weren’t so crazy about shorter men with the same size penis. The Australian researchers surmised that had something to do with women’s aversion to dating short men, but I suspect it has less to do with that and more with the general (though far from scientifically proven) human preference for proportionality. A shorter man with a large penis sort of comes off like the Little Tramp, jauntily whistling and twirling his enormous member at passersby.
3) Just because big penises are the standard in porn doesn’t mean they should be yours in real life.
Nico: If used correctly, pornography can be a great tool for education and discourse, a subject that EJ and I explored in a previous post, but something it’s absolutely awful at is setting the tone for what our bodies should look like. Although there’s nothing wrong with very skinny women who have implants, they tend to be the unilateral norm in straight porn, just as guys with gigantic cocks are in gay porn. Because porn often plays on our desires for excess and the spectacle, pornography has a way of making everything about size for the purpose of a fantasy, an irritatingly singular one.
While it would be imprudent to suggest that these fantasies shouldn’t inform our sex life at all (because what we like to see often carries over to what we like in bed), the fantasy should not be our entire reality. This is a particular problem in the gay community, simply because we have so few representations of what queer bodies look like outside of pornography. LGBT people have made some progress in breaking the glass ceiling of mainstream media, but when it comes to pornography, you can’t throw a rock without hitting a gay porn star. I know a lot of gay porn stars, and I have an enormous respect for what they do, but I don’t think any gay porn star alive thinks that the entire gay community should form their sole opinion of what bodies are by watching Corbin Fisher. That would be like trying to understand what women are by watching the Transformers franchise.
Instead of relying on other people to create your preferences for you, we all need to go out and find out what we like ourselves.
4) The expectations around big penises are too high.
EJ: There are many people who believe that having sex with a dude with a really, really, really big penis is far preferable to having sex with a dude with a really, really, really small penis—or micropenis (pronounced mike-rah-pen-is, as in “acropolis”). I strongly disagree with this. In my experience, having sex with someone with a small penis is kind of like taking the SATs with a quantitative reasoning deficiency. It’s not ideal, and overall you probably won’t do stellar, but you can certainly compensate by your performance on other sections.
This is not the case for men with POUSes (Penises of Unusual Sizes). While they, too, can certainly hold their own on the written and verbal sections, the problem is that, through no fault of their own, the bar is already set so high for them that it’s impossible to live up to your expectations. Their gifts in other areas, however prodigious they might be, are limited by the prodigiousness of their members.
I like to compare seeing your first POUS to seeing a David Lynch movie (for our purposes, let’s go with Mulholland Drive) for the first time. “Oh, OK, so this is what everyone’s gets so excited about,” you find yourself thinking. “This is what everyone’s talking about and quoting from when they drink too much whiskey and printing ironic t-shirts about. OK, well, let’s see if it lives up to the hype.”
Let me tell you something. It doesn’t. Much like seeing Mulholland Drive for the first time, having sex with someone with an enormous penis is an immensely disorienting experience. You don’t know what the hell is going on, and you’re kinda turned on and kinda repulsed at the same time, and all you want to do is get up and take a drink of water and collect your bearings for a minute. In the end, you’re just so overwhelmed by confusion that you shut the DVD off during the “Llorando” scene, scream “This sucks,” and go back to watching 30 Rock reruns for a while.
This is the tragedy of having sex with someone with an enormous penis: Your expectations are so high that it’s impossible for the penis to live up to them, and that’s assuming you guys even make it to the sex act at all. You see that girl on the train with her mascara running down her cheeks? That’s not a drunk chick crying over a breakup; that’s a girl who just lost the opportunity to have sex with a guy with an enormous penis. If you’re a halfway decent person, you should go over there with a tissue immediately and tell her how very sorry you are for her loss.
5) Sex isn’t just about penetration.
Nico: If you’ve ever perused the Kama Sutra, you know that the missionary position is just one of an endless number of positions available to you to explore, and penetrative sex is the same way. Only 25 percent of women are able to regularly experience orgasms through vaginal, meaning that it doesn’t matter how big her partner’s penis is. It’s not going to get her there without a little help from its friends, the vast array of options that are available outside of copulation, in order to provide the direct clitoral stimulation that sex often does not.
Even for gay men, copulation shouldn’t be the only offering at the buffet. The entire BDSM and leather movements are predicated on the idea that sexual intercourse along is just a fraction of everything that goes into attraction and arousal, and for many people, oral sex is more pleasurable than anal interaction. Many gay men report that they dislike penetrative sex, and according to research from the Journal of Sexual Medicine, only “36 percent of men reporting receiving anal sex and 34 percent of men reporting giving it.” According to Good’s Amanda Hess, this study showed that anal sex was actually among the least common sexual behaviors that queer men engaged in, below masturbation, mutual masturbation, and genital-genital contact.
To put this into perspective, around half of women report engaging in anal sex, meaning that more heterosexual couples are having anal sex than same-sex couples are. Like everything in the bedroom, these preferences are highly variable and in no way universal. In bed, one size simply never fits all.
6) Big penises can be painful.
EJ: When men discuss the merits of having a big penis, something that often gets overlooked is how excruciatingly painful it is for most women to have sex with a guy who has one. No matter how much of an ego trip it must be for a dude to be packing a Louisville Slugger instead of a Fisher Price toy, the sad truth is that it’s actually quite difficult for well-endowed men to find partners who are able to handle their equipment, because ladies, I don’t care if you’re the Virgin Mary or if you’ve had sex with the entire 1975 lineup of the New Jersey Nets: If you are not regularly having sex with a man with a big penis, it will hurt. A lot.
I would like, if I may, to share with you a personal anecdote of sorts. When I encountered my first POUS, I had been sexually active for eight years, give or take. Given the amount of time I had invested in my training, I had assumed I had already worked my way up to the Olympics, and was ready to compete with the top athletes in my field. Nearly eight hours of extensive foreplay and an embarrassing train ride on the C later, I discovered that I had not. We hadn’t even been able to have sex. I was a second-string player on a farm team, and an incredibly exhausted one at that.
Although I still look upon that day with some degree of shame and regret—everyone has their 1986 World Series moment, I suppose—I actually learned a very important lesson that day. When it comes to sexual performance, training is key. If you haven’t previously encountered a POUS, and you haven’t put in the time and effort to work up to that specific level, one of two things will happen: 1) Either you’ll be in excruciating pain the whole time, and you’ll feel like you’re giving birth in reverse or 2) You won’t be able to have sex at all, and all the lube and foreplay in the world won’t be able to wash away the shame and disappointment of not being able to take your first enormous dick.
7) Being a “size queen” leaves too many men out.
Nico: If you’re the type of person who will only have sex with guys who at are at least seven inches long (I have some friends insist upon nine), you are severely depleting your dating pool. Studies show that the average erect penis is between 5.1 and 5.9 inches long, but the actual range in terms of penis size is all over the place. An sculpture at Iceland’s Penis Museum shows the incredible diversity of male phalluses, not just in terms of size but also girth. It’s an eye-opening and powerful example of why society’s big penis fetish simply doesn’t measure up; having just one preference doesn’t just set your partners up to fail. It sets you up to fail.
Arguably, that small penis phobia is even more toxic in the bedroom than the actual phallus itself. Men who don’t have a porn-ready seven or eight inches might be dealing with a great deal of internalized shame about their privates, accrued from years of rejection by their partners or silent feelings of worthlessness. Although many studies have shown that those feelings are “all in guys heads,” as even well-endowed men deal with feelings of penis shame, that sense of dysmorphia can lead to eating disorders, depression, and anxiety. Considering the fact that around 45 percent of men report that they’re unhappy with the size of their equipment, this is a major problem.
How can we address such a widespread phenomenon? You can begin by simply shifting your own preferences. Be the change that you want to see in your bedroom.
More Ej Dickson.
Nico Lang is the Opinion Editor at the Daily Dot, as well as a contributor to L.A. Times, Rolling Stone, and the Onion A.V. Club. You can follow him on Twitter @nico_lang.More Nico Lang.
A photo contest winner
A photo contest winner
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