This just in: Women prefer well-endowed men

Today in no-brainers: Bigger is better. Science confirms we like Jon Hamm for a reason

Published April 9, 2013 2:50PM (EDT)

Jon Hamm       (AP/Chris Pizzello)
Jon Hamm (AP/Chris Pizzello)

This just in – it's not the motion of the ocean. Or, as an NBC News headline put it this week, "Women like men with bigger penises." Because SCIENCE.

This earth-shattering revelation comes to us via a study from the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), in which a team at Australian National University showed 105 women a variety of computer-generated images of nude male figures. Brian Mautz, the study's lead author, told NBC this week that when the women rated the men on their sexual allure, "As you increase penis size, the amount of attractiveness scores gets bigger."

And, the study noted, not only did the women rate the better-endowed men more sexually attractive, they spent more time gazing – no doubt fondly -- at their pictures. This, as a friend of mine was swift to dub it, will be called the Jon Hamm Effect. 

A very small sampling of apparently heterosexual women gazing at artificially created images of men in their flaccid glory is not exactly a flawless case for what Spinal Tap once referred to as "armadillos in our trousers." And the study found that other factors, such as height and shoulder-to-hip ratio, also figure prominently in a man's appeal. But suffice to say the report could also have been called "Why Ryan Lochte Can Have Any Straight Woman on the Planet."

Yet this latest news does have the same sort of no duh resonance as that 2012 study that revealed men like bigger breasts. Mautz suggests that the preference for bigger packages is "consistent with a mate-choice perspective."

As an amateur scientist, I've been extolling the merits of big penises my whole adult life. And while National Geographic this week puzzled naively that "It's not totally clear why women prefer bigger penises," it did note Mautz' suggestion that "studies have shown that women prefer larger sizes because they can increase sexual satisfaction."

Aside from the immediate recreational appeal of a penis that holds that kind of promise, evolutionary theory suggests a more complex reasoning. Sexual satisfaction leads to orgasm leads to the release of oxytocin in a woman's brain, "activating bonding circuits." In other words, ladies, that post-coital "I think I'm in luuuuuuuv" stupor is real -- and it's all the fault of that damn big penis.

The encouraging news for humans of all dimensions is that Mautz reports that the ideal penis size in his sampling was fairly close to the average, suggesting that overachievement in this field is not necessary. And after a certain point, penis length and overall appeal begin to dovetail. "As you get a larger and larger penis, it doesn't necessarily mean you're getting more and more attractive." So you can delete that penis-extender spam and put away your credit card. Bigger is nice, but jumbo-size isn't required.

Mautz admitted this week that the study's results are likely to be contentious, but also open up room for spirited conversation. "It's important that you are serious in science, and our results are solid — but it doesn't necessarily mean you can't have fun with it."

And if you want to have fun, studies show that a bigger penis is definitely an excellent starting point.

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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