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The true measure of a man
April 21st, 2011
08:34 AM ET

The true measure of a man

Ian Kerner, a sexuality counselor and New York Times best-selling author, blogs about sex on Thursdays on The Chart. Read more from him at his website, GoodInBed.

As a sexuality counselor and writer, this is the question that keeps on giving. No matter how often it gets asked, everyone has an opinion, so allow me to offer mine:

Gentlemen, unless you are in possession of a micropenis - a rare condition in which a man’s erect penis is shorter than 2 inches in length - size does not and should not matter. (Although judging from the onslaught of spam the average guy receives in a day with the promise of a bigger penis from some sort of bogus enlargement technique, you may not be inclined to agree.)

If penis size really is an issue, it seems to matter more to men than to women. According to the British Journal of Urology, when researchers looked at more than 50 studies spanning the course of 60 years, they found that 85% of women were satisfied with their partner’s penis size– yet only 55% of men felt good about their penises!

That’s a big difference in perception, and in my personal opinion, this sense of male insecurity is only likely to increase in the wake of Internet porn.

That’s because research shows that more than a third of men who incorrectly believe their penises are too small say their insecurity began by viewing erotic images during their teen years.

And if the American Society of Plastic Surgeons is correct in its report that number of men opting for cosmetic surgeries and other procedures has increased considerably, then it’s only a matter of time before penis-enlargement procedures catch up with female procedures such as labioplasty.

When determining the measure of a man’s penis size and what’s “normal” there are two important dimensions to consider: length (the measurement from the base of a man’s penis to the tip) and girth (the distance around a penis, usually measured at the middle of a man’s penile shaft). The average penis ranges between 5.5 and 6.2 inches in length and between 4.7 and 5.1 inches in girth when erect.

So considering that the average vagina is just 3 to 4 inches deep, most guys are doing just fine with their average dimensions.

That’s not to say that size is completely irrelevant to women. When pressed, the majority of women (according to a 2001 survey in BMC Women’s Health) say that penis circumference (girth) is more important for pleasure than penis length. As many of you know the female clitoris is the powerhouse of the female orgasm, and most of the sensitive nerve endings that contribute to female orgasm are located on the surface of the vulva rather than inside the vagina.

But there is much more to the clitoris than just what you can see and feel: In its landmark work, "A New View of a Woman’s Body: A Fully Illustrated Guide," the Federation of Feminist Women’s Health Centers identifies 18 structures in the clitoral network, some visible, some hidden.

What’s that have to do with penis size? The entire clitoris is shaped like an upside down “V,” explains Madeleine Castellanos M.D., psychiatrist and contributor to Good in Bed. Its legs (crurae) extend down and under the pubic bone, and it also has extensions that follow along each side of the vaginal opening, called the vestibular bulbs. The entire clitoris is made up of spongy tissue that fills with blood when a woman gets aroused.

“A wide penis puts more pressure on the vestibular bulbs,” she says, “which gives a pleasurable feeling of fullness at the vaginal opening.”

So what should a guy do if he feels lacking in the size department? In terms of penis enlargement, nothing! From pumps to pills to extenders, there is no scientific proof that any of these approaches are effective - and many of them can be dangerous. Penis size is hereditary, so work with what you have, and work well (even if you do have a micropenis).

Instead of worrying about how to enlarge your penis, focus on improving your foreplay. Most women don’t orgasm from intercourse alone, so men need to focus on outercourse. Think of foreplay as a complete act of lovemaking, from start to finish. Treat her entire body like an erotic landscape: kissing, hugging, oral pleasure, fantasizing.

“As a woman gets more and more aroused, all the erectile tissue that surrounds the vagina becomes more and more filled with blood,” says Castellanos. “This results in more tightness around the opening of the vagina and increases a woman’s pleasure.”

So if size does matter, it’s the dimensions of a guy’s brain and his propensity to understand female sexuality that make up the true measure of a man.


soundoff (274 Responses)
  1. FreeWilly

    Why all of this focus on men's endowment? It's really all about female tightness. Ladies, please do your kegels.

    April 22, 2011 at 13:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • James

      LOL! Awesome and true. Girls need to take a little bit of responsibility, too. That having been said, the guy at The Upgraded Male (no-it's not just a penis site) blogged about this a little while ago. He's pretty straightforward about it and has some no-BS routines to help out guys who need some *ahem* help:

      http://theupgradedmale.com/the-number-one-way-to-improve-your-self-confidence-and-love-life-see-bottom-for-routineprogram-info/

      June 17, 2013 at 00:37 | Report abuse |
  2. John Holmes

    Yeah yeah..it's not the size but what you can do with it. Sure sure...say that at a bachorlette party. The girls go wild when I undress...I am called the 3rd arm. Well it is interesting that here in the west big hands and feet indicate the size, where in east Europe, it's the nose. Anyone want to exume Jimmy Durante?

    April 22, 2011 at 13:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. MsDonna

    Bottom line, the guy has to have some girth and the girl should be up to date on her kegels so she can do them (kegels) while doing the act without too much problem. And the guy must know how to work it- like go stra .. well I won't go on, but I think it has to do with both. You both have to be a "good fit".

    April 22, 2011 at 14:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Rahula

    Most people in the world are worried about getting enough to eat, about access to clean water, about employment. Americans are worried about the size of their penises. Go figure.

    April 22, 2011 at 14:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • James

      Condom companies have a great stake in the true best estimate of penis sizes so Lifestyles did a substantial study supervised by physicians a couple of years ago. According to the Lifestyles data, 70% of all erect penises are between 5.75 inches and 6.25 inches in length. The Lifestyle subjects were men in their early 20s on spring break in Cancun. The Lifestyles data are here:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Penis_percentile.svg

      As shown on the curve, only about 3% to 4% were as long as 7 inches. Less than 0.5% were as long as 8 inches while less than 0.1% are as long as 9 inches.

      I'm not saying that, within limits, bigger does not feel better to a woman. But, if all women desire guys with a 7 inch or larger penis, they will likely have to wait in a very long line for your turn with one of the 3% to 4% of those men.

      April 22, 2011 at 15:38 | Report abuse |
    • James

      Due to my error, my post was accidentally posted as a reply to Rahula. Sorry. I will re-post.

      April 22, 2011 at 15:42 | Report abuse |
    • Camillea

      I agree with you on that, however there are blogs and forums for those discussions. And im sure you seen the commercials if you would like to donate. Dont make this about Americans and what we do or dont do. This discussion is about D.I.C.K Rahula. Something we all want to learn about including you. I bet you found this article like me. Googling DICK. So put a dick in it... NEXT!

      April 8, 2014 at 19:09 | Report abuse |
  5. Disappointed

    What do you do when a man tries to convince you his member will work even if he's had his prostate removed and refuses to take any type of medications like viagra? Help anybody!!

    April 22, 2011 at 15:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jim

      1. If he can have erections but not with you, then you have one problem.
      2. If he cannot have erections but says that he can and refuses medical help, you have a very different problem.

      If the problem is (2) he is humiliated and embarrassed – all men would be, some more than others. If you don't mind working with him to convince him that medication for a medical condition is okay, it is just a matter of time. If the Viagra-class of meds does not work, try Caverject which always works. Read about it here:

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0000966/

      If the problem is (1) I have no advice.

      April 22, 2011 at 16:23 | Report abuse |
    • Pete LaCOUNT

      I had stage 4 prostate cancer mine was too advance to remove , so I had to do hormon treatments and radations treatments it left me unable to achive a hard erection or being able to ejackulate but with viagra I can still have great sex and have a orgasm there is nothing wrong with using the little pill.

      July 31, 2012 at 10:33 | Report abuse |
  6. James

    Condom companies have a great stake in the true best estimate of penis sizes so Lifestyles did a substantial study supervised by physicians a couple of years ago. According to the Lifestyles data, 70% of all erect penises are between 5.75 inches and 6.25 inches in length. The Lifestyle subjects were men in their early 20s on spring break in Cancun. The Lifestyles data are here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Penis_percentile.svg

    As shown on the curve, only about 3% to 4% were as long as 7 inches. Less than 0.5% were as long as 8 inches while less than 0.1% are as long as 9 inches.

    I'm not saying that, within limits, bigger does not feel better to a woman. But, if all women desire guys with a 7 inch or larger penis, they will likely have to wait in a very long line for a turn with one of the 3% to 4% of those men.

    April 22, 2011 at 15:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • coolguy

      dude wikipedia also has a lot of mis-placed information so don't believ in it too much

      May 8, 2011 at 23:28 | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      My one eyed python is plenty long my wife never complains.

      May 16, 2011 at 18:57 | Report abuse |
  7. Common Cents

    Thanks for posting these stats and bringing some sense of reason to this discussion. It would appear about 80 percent of male posters on this site believe themselves to be in the top 3 percent. News flash for you tards, we're talking inches here and not centimeters.

    April 22, 2011 at 17:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. confidant

    Hey ladies. Imma be honest. It may not be long, but it sure is skinny! ;)

    Now how bout we go see harry potter and ill take ya out to dinner. heck, ill even letcha supersize it.

    April 24, 2011 at 00:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • kristen1517

      u are very honest in thee open how about lets check in on a movie one day ;)

      May 2, 2011 at 12:18 | Report abuse |
    • MissB

      So you have a short, skinny penis? And you are bragging? Those are the worst kinds IMO. Like being prodded with a little pencil.

      May 24, 2011 at 11:26 | Report abuse |
  9. RS

    "The average penis ranges between 5.5 and 6.2 inches in length and between 4.7 and 5.1 inches in girth when erect."

    There's got to be a mistake here. 4.7 and 5.1 inches in girth? Are you kidding?

    April 24, 2011 at 01:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • David

      Has to be wrong or the average guy's pride would be square.....

      April 25, 2011 at 04:41 | Report abuse |
    • Justin

      must of mixed it up with man/elephant penis, good job on the CNN editior... way to send some ease to some mens complexes..

      May 5, 2011 at 06:01 | Report abuse |
    • wisdom4u2

      Obviously, they didn't include black dudes in the measurements!!!

      May 9, 2011 at 18:11 | Report abuse |
    • orangeE1

      girth is a measurement around...so it wouldn't be nearly square the editor was right...

      May 18, 2011 at 17:34 | Report abuse |
    • raja

      clearly because every other black guy i know is over that avg

      May 20, 2011 at 04:47 | Report abuse |
  10. Jen

    Get a clue guys! It's all about the "little man in the boat"!

    April 25, 2011 at 10:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lydelia

      Sing it girl! Guys, give that 'little man' some attention!

      April 28, 2011 at 15:29 | Report abuse |
    • C Alsup

      I think pleasure is more important than size.

      May 31, 2011 at 11:16 | Report abuse |
  11. john55

    Size does not matter,

    April 25, 2011 at 17:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Camillea

      Keep repeating that to yourself and you may convince yourself about it one day. Let women say that, sounds better.

      April 8, 2014 at 19:15 | Report abuse |
  12. Joe Redbear

    Men... Stop sweating it...Most woman are honest...and if they really care? You will do just fine. Foreplay...that's the ticket. Master that? And you have it made....Now go have some fun.

    April 26, 2011 at 04:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Joe Redbear

    There is really a difference in opinion with some of the woman here...some say yes...it doe's mattter, ans some say no...it's girth...and how you use it. Im totaly confused. But no matter, havent had any complaints....must be doing something right.

    April 26, 2011 at 04:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • MsDonna

      JoeRedbear, I love your cool sense of security. That security alone beats everything in my opinion! Keep up the good work :)

      April 27, 2011 at 14:35 | Report abuse |
    • teresa, snOhio

      well, Redbear, while you have had no complaints, you have mentioned no long list of compliments. some women are very kind and never mention their unsatisfaction....others move on to someone else. why not start taking a survey after you've completed your mission and have the gals rate you on the 1-10 scale. With a more accurate rating system, you can find out where you really stand and perhaps could improve in some areas.

      May 18, 2011 at 22:07 | Report abuse |
  14. Steve

    How does a real man satisfy a woman?

    A real man doesn't care!

    April 28, 2011 at 14:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • nancy

      That's why you're alone crying in your bowl of Cheerios ...loser.

      May 17, 2011 at 17:26 | Report abuse |
    • teresa, snOhio

      really steve ! real men DO care about pleasing their women. Male ho's dont care.

      May 18, 2011 at 22:05 | Report abuse |
    • vanessa

      steve,a real man would not say what you said.i am pleased to say that i do have a real man.he is well endowed and about my satisfaction more then is own.you really need to grow up,and stop acting like a kid.bottom line is that in my opinion,you are so not a real man.

      February 24, 2012 at 21:56 | Report abuse |
  15. slong

    whewww 2 and a quarter.... least I'm not micro...

    May 11, 2011 at 17:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Osama

    No matter how big you are, there is always someone bigger... this whole topic is really about confidence...be happy with what you got, and stop obcessing over it and competing with one another. Its not like you can whip it out in a bar to pick up the ladies anyway. Im sure being XL has its advantages (I guess Im between a M to a L), but there are more important things to worry about before you even get a chance to get that far with a girl. Being too large will limit the best positions anyway, so I think Im happy with being just a bit over average...

    May 12, 2011 at 12:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Laura

    Only once met a man who couldn't please me. And he was above average in size.
    I'll take an average-sized guy who is a good performer over some giant limp-dick any day!

    May 13, 2011 at 10:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • teresa, snOhio

      laura: did anyone ever tell you that you have a wonderful way with words and really paint a picture in the readers minds? LOL... thanks for the laff... and I totally agree with you.

      May 18, 2011 at 22:15 | Report abuse |
  18. TK

    4.7-5.1 girth isn't actually so big. it's smaller in diameter than a silver dollar. take a piece of paper, mark the inches and roll it into a tube. Believe me, I'm bored at work so I did this lol

    May 18, 2011 at 17:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • teresa, snOhio

      @tk: where do you work? they pay you to play cut outs? : ) as long as youre sitting there, perhaps you could make a "to scale" model and have the peeps at work guess what it is?

      May 18, 2011 at 22:17 | Report abuse |
  19. teresa, snOhio

    Just in case you fellows were wondering, us gals dont sit around wondering whose is bigger or has more girth. In fact, I've heard the "finale" can be done without a penis ever being used ; ) quit worrying, guys, size doesnt matter- its really how you treat your partner always and all ways.

    May 18, 2011 at 22:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Barkingkitty

    Guys, everything he says here is true. Size doesn't matter; foreplay, patience, and kindness do. If a woman tells you size matters, she's lying, and most likely because she thinks it makes her sound hot or kewl. If you take your time, treat her well, and you can talk to each other about what works (or conversely, what doesn't) you should never have anything to worry about. Give yourselves a break – we generally like you just the way you are!

    May 19, 2011 at 20:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. raja

    8.5 in length and 7 girth is GREAT!!!

    May 20, 2011 at 04:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Joyce

      The last time I had someone that big I ended up really sore, but in a bad way. I prefer between 6-7 inches in lenght and around six in girth; anything larger or thicker than that is just unpleasant.

      May 23, 2011 at 10:28 | Report abuse |
    • 14Mickey

      Was your comment intended to make you feel better after the guys laughed you out of the locker room earlier today?

      June 8, 2011 at 20:52 | Report abuse |
  22. grasshopper

    stop crying guys. You get what you get and you dont get upset (kindergarten). Love it like a fat kid loves cake.

    May 20, 2011 at 09:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. C

    Ha, I think size does matter. When a guy is so small that he can't keep a condom on, that's a problem. And if you can't feel it, it's not worth the time.

    May 20, 2011 at 20:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Yolli

      Thank you! Size does matter to some of us women. If I have to ask you if you have put it in yet, that means that I probably didn't notice because I didn't feel it. I would appreciate feeling something is there without having to ask.

      June 15, 2011 at 04:18 | Report abuse |
    • damion

      Ever thought it wasn't the guy? it makes a world of difference if the girl exercises to keep herself tight too. as an average sized guy i can tell you you come across all types of women just as you would guys. some girls it's like literally throwing my hotdog down a hallway, then other times its like a vice grip. if a woman does exercise to stay tight, doesn't matter what size the guy is. you'd feel it more and probably enjoy it better too.

      June 7, 2013 at 21:32 | Report abuse |
  24. jg4732

    size does matter, my husbands is WAY too big! or maybe i'm just way too small.

    May 21, 2011 at 21:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. jg4732

    size does matter, my husbands is way too big, or i'm way too small

    May 21, 2011 at 21:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Pablo

    I FEEL SRRY 4 U WHITE BOYS LOL.AINT NO LADIES GUNNA BOSHUNTIN DOWN ON A MICO 5INCHS RMFLOA!NO WODNER WE B STEELIN ALL UR WEMON!!!!!!!! RFMLOA!!!!!!!!

    May 21, 2011 at 21:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • russ

      i hear u boy no bytches want no short short man tuff luck 4 u shawtys with ur 5 or 6inches of whitemeat lol 2 bad yall aint gettin up in ur wifes like us real men are lol by the way ur wive wuz good last night lol

      May 21, 2011 at 21:53 | Report abuse |
    • Seth

      Too bad you guys can't write...I guess your tiny brains are in your schlong.

      May 27, 2011 at 00:17 | Report abuse |
  27. Thats America for Ya

    I wonder if this is an issue ALL around the world or mostly with American men? See as American's it has been drilled into our head (no pun intended) that bigger is better. Bigger houses, bigger car/trucks, bigger meals, bigger toys, bigger everything. So why wouldn't men be insecure no matter what their size is.

    Until we change our thinking on this entire concept that in America bigger always equals better, men of ALL sizes will continue to be insecure.

    May 23, 2011 at 20:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. BUFFALO

    I"It ain't the meat, it's the motion!" I imagine having a giant penis would be like having a parrot. It's okay for a couple of days but then becomes somewhat of a nuisance.

    May 25, 2011 at 13:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. JJ

    If the size matters to her ask for one more chance to show her. That way you get one last one before you kick her to the curb. Besides, if the guy cannot get the gal "ready" before....then he has bigger problems than just his "size"!

    May 27, 2011 at 16:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. TomJohn

    This guy is not a doctor. He does not know what he is talking about. Thanks, CNN.

    May 29, 2011 at 22:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Shelly

    For those of you referring to a black man's penis size, well poo to you. I am a african american woman, and I am here to tell you that that is a huge myth! I have seen some micro mini's on the brothers, and that is no joke. It is not the size of the ship but the motion in the ocean.

    June 15, 2011 at 18:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. kampamaru

    Lol didn't know about micropenis... Now i am happy that i am just average... I found out these pics.. I feel really sad for these guys :P

    http://www.micropenis.biz/p/micropenis-images.html

    June 19, 2011 at 10:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. length does matter

    those articles that say that when a guy hits your cervix it hurts, they're wrong... hitting my cervix is what gives me an orgasm... but guess what... the cervix is but about 3 inches in.... my husband can reach it with plenty of length to spare... the vast majority of men can reach the vast majority of women's cervix... this penis size thing is a non-issue as far as i'm concerned....

    July 4, 2011 at 10:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. young ak

    im 13 with a length of of over 5inches soft n over 6 hard

    February 7, 2012 at 18:17 | Report abuse | Reply
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  41. Toxic Avenger

    Never compare yourself to another person. That is a path to the dark side Luke. ; )

    Find happiness with who you are. This is the path to enlightenment.
    If you happen along someone that makes comparisons, smile knowingly and continue on your way. Do not try to educate them. IIf they ask state what you know, if they don't ask move along, they are not ready.

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  44. Camillea

    Just a tip. If you got a short dick STOP trying to do doggie. You dont got the length to pull and push and keep a nice stroke with rhythem, all you doing is bouncing off the back of my ass like a quarter and you keep coming out. Then you push it in totally wrong which hurts and is ANNOYING!

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