Penis size: the most important metric that you will ever be judged by — at least, according to the internet. Feeling defensive? That’s probably because society has done a great job of making you believe size matters and causing you to worry if your penis is big enough. Unfortunately, it hasn’t done much to tell you what big enough is.
Here’s the truth: there’s no such thing as a normal penis size and you’re perfectly normal if you sometimes feel a little worried or insecure about the last check-in with the ruler in your bedside drawer.
Don’t believe us? Worried that you have a small penis? Read on to understand why determining what penis size women prefer isn’t as easy — or as important — as you think.
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There’s a difference between a “satisfying size” and “average penis size,” so let’s start with what most readers are here to find out: what do most women want from a sexual partner?
While there's no federally funded women's caucus that meets annually to decide on “ideal penis size,” the research out there appears to indicate that women prefer anywhere from six to 6.5 inches.
In a study published in the journal PLoS One in 2015, researchers used a variety of 3D models to survey women’s preferences for penis size. On average, women preferred an erect penis size of around 6.4 inches in length and five inches in circumference for one-time partners.
But their findings were complicated when you add context.
For instance, women also preferred a slightly smaller penis of about 6.3 inches in length and 4.8 inches in circumference in a long-term relationship, compared with what they wanted in a short-term relationship. That would suggest that the longer you’re around, the less they expect from you (hooray, lowered expectations!).
And for those of you curious about what women want when they purchase a sex toy, the results aren’t that different.
A 2017 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine looked at the average size of sex toys purchased from adult retailers and Amazon.com. The authors found that the average length of sex toys purchased online was 16.7cm ± 1.6 cm, or 6.57 inches — about one standard deviation longer than the average male penis size reported in research.
The average circumference of 12.7cm, or five inches, was around the same as the typical penis girth for adult men. Women’s preferred size in sex toys typically matches what they report looking for in terms of penis preference in a short-term relationship or long-term partner.
According to the research, what women consider the “right” size changes situationally from person to person. While research overwhelmingly shows that women tend to prefer a sexual partner with a penis that’s close to the six-inch mark, that doesn’t mean six is enough, too little or too much for your partner. That’s a conversation for the two of you.
For all the micropenis fears and praise of “perfect” penises, what makes a penis “satisfying” isn’t size alone. Questions about size also don’t penetrate deep enough (sorry, we had to) into the issue.
So, what makes a penis big? A surprising 5.5 inches, according to research.
In a review published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy in 2021, researchers looked into the findings from 10 studies that measured the length of men’s erect penises and 21 studies that measured men’s stretched penises.
They found that the average erect penis length was somewhere between 5.1 and 5.5 inches — a far cry from what many people expect. They also stated that because of reporting bias, the real average is probably on the lower end of this range.
In other words, if your penis is longer than 5.5 inches when erect, you’re on the large side of average.
So yes, thanks to mass media and porn, it’s easy to assume that a big penis measures in at eight, nine, or even 10 inches. But that’s not true — in fact, it’s nearly a “half-truth” according to data. Six inches is more than enough to be “big” when it comes to penis size.
So, are men under the six-inch mark out of luck — at least, without surgery or another penile increase treatment? Not so fast. Penis size is one of several factors that contribute to pleasurable sexual intercourse.
A small 2001 study published in the journal BMC Women’s Health asked undergraduate women students to report which was more important to them for achieving sexual satisfaction — penis length or penis width.
An overwhelming majority of the female students (45 out of 50) reported that penis width was a more important factor, with just five reporting that length was the most important.
You are more than your penis, the same way your partner is more than their body. And more importantly (and reassuringly), research generally suggests that penis length isn’t even that important when it comes to having pleasurable sex.
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So, since you can’t increase your penis size — at least not without expensive surgery that comes with a serious risk of complications — what can you do to improve the physical sensations of sex and ensure you and your partner have more satisfying sex together?
Depending on where your strengths and weaknesses lie, you may be able to make major improvements without a back-alley penis transplant. Here’s how.
Work on your stamina. Just like whether or not an average-sized penis is best, how long sex should last is subject to interpretation. According to a survey of sex therapists, sex that lasts for seven to 13 minutes is usually thought of as the most satisfying. However, the average sex session usually lasts between three and 13 minutes.
Treating erectile dysfunction. If you find it difficult to stay fully hard during sex, it could affect the size of your erection. Consider trying an ED medication such as sildenafil (the active ingredient in Viagra®) to stay harder when you feel sexually aroused.
Staying physically active. Improving your physical stamina not only lets you have sex for longer — it can also improve blood flow to your penis, which is critical for getting and staying hard.
Communicating with your partner. If you feel concerned that you don’t have the ideal penis size for your partner, talk to them about your worries. You might find they feel totally happy about your penis and don’t want you to feel uncomfortable or anxious.
Want to know more? Our guide to having better sex lists other tips and techniques that you can use to enhance your sexual performance, improve your body image and worry less about your penis size.
Our guide to lasting longer in bed also shares techniques that you can use to do this, from taking a break from movement as you begin to feel orgasm approaching to applying topical medication to your penis before sex.
If we can send you off with some takeaways, here’s what you should remember. First, that one-night stand that never called you back may have been looking for larger penises — or smaller.
Some hookups may think you’re too small, while others think you’re too big. Six inches is apparently ideal when you look at the numbers, but sex isn’t about numbers — it’s about connection.
How to heighten, improve and intensify that connection is up to you. You may want to simply last longer, in which case stamina techniques can be a good start. But there’s more to do if your game needs more girth. Here’s the short and stubby truth about penis size:
Satisfying sex is about more than just your measurements. If you ask the science community, “What is considered a big dick?” you’d probably be surprised to learn that it’s 5.5 inches. Even then, being a little below the ideal penis size isn’t that big of a deal for a large percentage of women. Focus on things you can control like communication, stamina and their pleasure.
Meds can make you last longer. Prescription medications like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a type of antidepressant that improve sexual stamina as a side effect. We offer several SSRIs for premature ejaculation, including sertraline (the active ingredient in the antidepressant Zoloft®) and paroxetine (Paxil®).
Erectile dysfunction can keep you from reaching your full potential. If your goal is better sex with your partner, erectile dysfunction (ED) is exactly what you want to avoid. You can access evidence-based erectile dysfunction medications online, which can help to improve your sexual performance and improve confidence if you’re one of the tens of millions of adult men in the United States affected by ED.
Satisfying sex is about understanding your partner. Something that’s far more dependent on healthy communication and a strong connection than having an appealing penis size.
If your penis size is affecting your confidence or causing mental health concerns, talk to a mental health provider. You can do this using our online therapy service — one of several online mental health services we offer via our telehealth platform.
In other words, you can ease your worries about penis size, put down the ruler and get back to enjoying sex.
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Dr. Martin Miner is the founder and former co-director of the Men’s Health Center at the Miriam Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island. He served as Chief of Family and Community Medicine for the Miriam Hospital, a teaching hospital of the Warren Alpert Medical School, from 2008 to 2018. The Men’s Health Center, under his leadership, was the first such center to open in the US. He is a clinical professor of family medicine and urology at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University in Providence and has been charged with the development of a multidisciplinary Men’s Health Center within the Lifespan/Brown University system since 2008.
Dr. Miner graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Oberlin College with his AB in biology, and he received his MD from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. Upon receiving his MD, he completed his residency at Brown University. He practiced family medicine for 23 years, both at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and in private practice.
Dr. Miner presently holds memberships in the American Academy of Family Physicians, the Rhode Island and Massachusetts Academy of Family Physicians, and the American Urological Association, and he is a fellow of the Sexual Medicine Society of North America. He is the former president of the American Society for Men’s Health and the current historian. He is the vice president of the Androgen Society, developed for the education of providers on the truths of testosterone therapy. Dr. Miner has served on the AUA Guideline Committees for erectile dysfunction, Peyronie’s disease, testosterone deficiency, and early screening for prostate cancer. He has served on the testosterone committees of the International Consultation on Sexual Medicine. He has presented both at the NIH and the White House on men’s health initiatives and has authored over 150 peer-reviewed publications and spoken nationally and internationally in multiple venues. He has co-chaired the Princeton III and is a steering committee member and one of the lead authors of Princeton IV, constructing guidelines for the evaluation of erectile dysfunction, the use of PDE5 inhibitors, and cardiac health and prevention.
Dr. Miner was chosen as the Brown Teacher of the Year in 2003 and 2007 and was recognized by the Massachusetts Medical Society’s Award as achieving the most significant contribution to Men’s Health: 2012.
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