Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Penis Size: The Long and The Short of It

No one’s talking about old Priapus here… Greek mythology’s poster boy for cartoonish phallic excess. But talking we are, as we perennially have done. And as much as we might hope to, I don’t imagine we’ll ever fully turn our backs on the firm debate about penis size. Not entirely. Although, in fond acknowledgement of our lesbian sisters, I hasten to note that the issue swells up most notably, of course, among hetero folks who may consider themselves actively invested in the matter.

That having been said, it’s not just in the US; there’s a fairly durable notion around much of the world that men who sport more ample genital endowments have something of a leg up when it comes to the actual creative, passionate business of satisfying a partner. 

The reason for this is clear, I think. Simply put, and leaving our heartfelt concern for tender masculine egos aside, the perception that size matters is a potent and withering construct, whether it’s true in the actuality of sexual performance or not. In fact, it’s pretty much analogous to the discourse around race: scientifically speaking, there’s really no substantive difference between us. That’s right… Not a shred of daylight between us when it comes to the down and dirty of the human genome…

Yet, the lived experience of racial difference makes it a trenchant and undeniable, albeit socially constructed reality that effectively puts the lie to naïve biological assertions every day.

Similarly, pretending that penis size isn’t a factor - whether real or imagined - seems to belie the truth of many folks’ common lived experience, since a number of women who orgasm vaginally say that they do it more readily with men whose penises are thicker, larger around.

Seen in this light, the debate about penis size surpasses its rigid boundaries. And don’t be confused. We’re not just talking erect proportions, but flaccid ones too. And we’re not just talking length here, but girth as well, since some people really do favor the fullness that comes from larger girth while others can be way more impressed by impressive length. What’s more, not all erections are created equal; for some men, an erection attained by way of oral sex can be quite a bit larger and firmer, too, than one obtained by, say, manual stimulation.


So here we are. Given the state of things, such as the whole more is better mentality to which humans of varied cultures seem so inextricably bound, it’s easy to suppose that men who’re in possession of larger endowments can’t help but feel themselves deeply indebted to the whims of God and fate. After all, aside from being the recipients of their partners’ adulation, these are the men who are envied by their same-sex peers as well, both gay and straight. Recently, for example, an engaging study by Chris Morriss-Roberts of the University of Brighton, UK sheds light on the ways male members of sports teams, both gay men and straight, make visual locker room comparisons between their own penises and the penises of their team mates, and then use these observations to structure and enforce their own rigid social hierarchy. 

What’s more, the resulting order, which  Morriss-Roberts dubs a "cockocracy" (I kid you not) affords considerably higher status and overall respect to players whose penises are visibly larger. And believe it or not, owners of the largest penises in the study were even assumed by their teammates to be better at playing the sport!

So there you have it. Elevated and admired, it seems, not only in the arena of presumed sexual prowess, but often in mind-numbing ways that fly completely out of context. I mean, do guys with larger penises really play better basketball? Football? Baseball? Whatever ball?

Weirdness notwithstanding, at base here of course, is the pivotal question about whether or not these, the most envied well-endowed, are actually that much better at satisfying their sex partners. Yes? No?

Either way, the numbers should be heartening to most men, I would think. According to proclamations from the condom industry itself, a whopping 94 percent of men in the US have average or LESS than average sized penises, leaving a tiny 6 percent who actually require extra-large condoms for reasons other than wishful thinking. In case you’re wondering, the average adult penis in the US is about 5.6 inches long and 4.8 inches around when erect.

As if that weren’t news enough, a veritable chasm exists between the polar ends of the penis proportion spectrum. Guys with micropenises - generally anything under an inch and a half - inhabit one end, and yes, micropenis is the term. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s the occasional man who approaches the likes of Jonah Falcon, whose penis ranges from 9 and a half to 13 plus inches in length, depending…. and indeed, Mr. Falcon’s measurements are currently the largest on record for a living human being in this part of the world.

In the wider context, so many weighted assumptions remain embedded in this entire matter; stereotypes abound, caught up in a messy quagmire of jealousy, fear and dangerous suppositions which are themselves rooted in problematic notions about virility and agency, culture and race. Does anyone not find him or herself at least somewhat familiar with the fabled (dare I say inflated?) black men = larger penises construct?

It’s said that the body wants what it wants… I tend to agree. Shaped by what the culture teaches and what the imagination can conjure, desire is a powerful thing. Still, regardless of what we enjoy about the nearly infinite variety of adult consensual sexual behaviors, for some folks, penis in vagina intercourse remains the gold standard – the benchmark by which they judge the worth and sum of their sex lives. And surely, we retain autonomy of choice here, as is our right.

But no matter where you stand on the matter, creativity and heat, openness, art and skill are players here as well. Or at least they should be. And the reality is that at the end of the day, or in the morning or afternoon, or whenever the fancy takes hold of us, the relative size of a body part - penis, breast, clitoris or otherwise – seems to me a very small consideration indeed. 

Has the size of a partner's genitalia ever been an issue for you? If so, how did you resolve it?

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