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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.


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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.