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 (325 Responses)
  1. Lucky (?) one

    As a wife of a man with a 7 inch girth and an 8.5 inch penis, I can attest to the fact that too big is much worse than too small. I love him, but dread intercourse as it is almost always painful and frustrating. To all the men out there, it is the tenderness and willingness to satisfy your lady that will win and keep her heart!

    April 21, 2011 at 09:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tr1sh

      Either yur married to King Kong or you don't know what 7 inches of girth look like......How cud he fit that bad boy in his pants!?? I think you meant less...no?

      April 21, 2011 at 11:23 | Report abuse |
    • Rick

      7 inches around is not as big as you think. This woman must be on the small side. I have similar to her husband and most women love it.

      April 21, 2011 at 11:45 | Report abuse |
    • Laura

      I'm with Rick on this one!! lol

      April 21, 2011 at 12:58 | Report abuse |
    • Ouchies

      I dated a guy with a similar size. I had the same issue. Intercourse could be painful at times.

      Women vary in size as well so some women may love it, and for some it could hurt! It's more about being compatible with someone.

      April 21, 2011 at 13:35 | Report abuse |
    • Eric

      Thats funny only 1% of men have anything over 8. This is why you don't have many women in construction, they can't eyeball a measurment!

      April 21, 2011 at 14:23 | Report abuse |
  2. Jamie

    1. What society thinks is important.

    2. Although by definition one-half of men are below average, a man is considered small if below average. Who wants to be below average, on the SAT, or income, or especially penis dimensions.

    3. In the study you cite, although 85% were satisfied with their partner's penis dimensions, a goodly number of those also said they would prefer if their partner was larger.

    April 21, 2011 at 09:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • peanut

      Averages do not work that way. You are thinking of the mean...that is not the same thing as average.

      April 21, 2011 at 10:45 | Report abuse |
    • ... really?

      ... actually the mean is exactly the same thing as the average...

      April 21, 2011 at 11:56 | Report abuse |
    • Jujubeans

      peanut is right. half of men are below the mean, half are above.

      April 21, 2011 at 12:11 | Report abuse |
    • Chad

      Mean and average are the same thing. Shes refering to the Median(the middle value in a given sequence). Common sense...Anyway, I believe there is a lot more physical interaction that goes on besides the size of my penis. I think im average(although ive been told large) and I actually like the size.

      Obessing over a big penis is like only studying one chapter on an exam. You'll ace some questions but the other sections will be lacking.

      April 21, 2011 at 12:33 | Report abuse |
    • Michelle

      I think this person is really talking about the median. The mean is the same as the average. Half of the distribution falls at or below the median and the other half at or above the median.

      April 21, 2011 at 12:43 | Report abuse |
    • peanut

      I was just trolling for an argument on semantics.

      works every time

      April 21, 2011 at 13:02 | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      All of you are wrong about the mean. It is an average, but half are not above and hafl below. You have to think of it as a bell curve. The majority of people belong at the peak of the bell curve which is also the mean or average. The further you go out on the bell curve in any direction, the fewer the people in that part of the curve.

      April 21, 2011 at 14:42 | Report abuse |
    • Sash

      peanut, that would be statistics, not semantics


      April 21, 2011 at 15:56 | Report abuse |
  3. Is this News?

    5'9 with a 10' ____

    April 21, 2011 at 10:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rock

      10 footer eh? thats gotta hurt

      April 21, 2011 at 14:01 | Report abuse |
    • Mardi

      10 foot?!
      Must have to tuck it in your sock. LOL!

      April 21, 2011 at 14:32 | Report abuse |
    • D

      @Rock-it is just like a joke out of Spinal Tap!

      April 21, 2011 at 14:38 | Report abuse |
  4. GetReal

    As a woman, I can tell you that size doesn't matter. Technique, talent, lasting power, sensuality, patience, and dedication to making your partner happy – that's what matters. Oh yeah, and if you love her, it helps. Believe me, I've compared.

    April 21, 2011 at 10:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rick

      BUT, if on top of having all that you have a good size then it is preferable to a small one any day...which means size DOES matter.

      April 21, 2011 at 11:46 | Report abuse |
    • Laura

      With Rick on this one too!!!!

      April 21, 2011 at 12:59 | Report abuse |
    • yy

      Correct. If you don't truly love her, your dimensions go down 2" immediately.

      April 21, 2011 at 15:20 | Report abuse |
  5. Tom

    oh don't forget money

    April 21, 2011 at 10:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • yy

      Correct. Slightly more than ave. money, slightly more than ave. size, and steadfast loyalty.

      April 21, 2011 at 15:22 | Report abuse |
  6. Not surprised

    So moderator: you must have a little one huh...not letting me submit.

    April 21, 2011 at 10:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Amanda

    As a woman, I can tell you size DOES matter! Too big is painful and too small leaves you wanting more.
    6 inches length and 1 1/2 to 2 inches in girth is perfect....

    April 21, 2011 at 10:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rick

      You mean width not girth, 1 1/2 inches in girth would be tiny. Girth is the measure around not across.

      April 21, 2011 at 11:43 | Report abuse |
    • Music2MyEars

      Where have you been all my life? can we be introduced?

      April 21, 2011 at 12:37 | Report abuse |
    • Ouchies


      April 21, 2011 at 13:42 | Report abuse |
    • Laura

      My point exactly! And it must be hard. Men, watch what you eat and drink. Being fit and healthy will make a 5" guy out perform the 8" guy......I'll take a hard 5" dick over a limp 9" any day.
      But if all else is equal, 6-7 inches is perfect.

      April 21, 2011 at 18:18 | Report abuse |
  8. OldGoat

    Most women don’t orgasm from intercourse alone...

    The word orgasm isn't a verb, and men alone aren't responsible for their partners' pleasure. Many women fail to achieve orgasm simply because they lay there and expect the man to do everything—and then wonder why he goes off and seeks a more exciting partner.

    April 21, 2011 at 10:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • D

      Sounds like you are getting tired in your old age. Men just lie there too!

      April 21, 2011 at 14:39 | Report abuse |
    • orgasmatronic

      Wrong. Orgasm is both noun and verb. Buy a dictionary, genius.

      April 21, 2011 at 14:53 | Report abuse |
  9. erich2112x

    I've got a tattoo on mine that says, "Shorty", but when it gets hard it says, "Shorties Bar And Grille, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 87454-113"

    April 21, 2011 at 10:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • David in Corpus

      You rock bro, too funny. I knew a guy in the navy who was a barber, he got the barber pole on his and when he had a 'special dream' that nite in his bunk he woke up to a very muchly so blood covered lil' buddy. He said it looked pretty cool once it healed. I declined when he offered to show me.

      April 21, 2011 at 11:23 | Report abuse |
    • yy

      haha, I've heard a similar joke about 'Swan' and 'Saskatchewan'!!

      April 21, 2011 at 15:25 | Report abuse |
    • Muffarama

      Yeah, it gets erect and drops the "y" in Shorty. Nothing like an illiterate penis I always say!

      April 21, 2011 at 15:38 | Report abuse |
    • Norm

      Careful with that joke. Its an antique.

      April 22, 2011 at 10:14 | Report abuse |
  10. Jessica

    "ize does not and should not matter" Sure, go ahead and keep telling yourself that, hahahahaha

    April 21, 2011 at 11:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • David in Corpus

      You sound like my kind of girl Jess. Don't let the lil' guys fool you into accepting substandard goods.

      April 21, 2011 at 11:24 | Report abuse |
  11. Liz in Seattle

    Technique is defintely WAY more important. That said, a nice long thick one is the icing on the cake.

    April 21, 2011 at 11:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Rick

    hahahahahahah of COURSE it matters. What do people keep insisting on this ridiculous concept in an effort to make smaller men feel better. It makes a difference, deal with it.

    April 21, 2011 at 11:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • David in Corpus

      Don't worry Rick, I never lost the urge to brag either. You must admit, large member makes up for alot of other things that are lacking in life. I may not be rich, I may not have a porsche, or a large portfolio, but women flock to me for the good looks and the large package I carry in my pants. It shows and they notice. They aren't interested in commitment or money when your hot and hung enough are they. Never gets old does it Rick buddy. Enjoy the fruits of thy forefathers for they are to be thanked for their contribution to your happiness in this world. Imagine your life with the long ranger always at your side, or your front as the case may be. I often feel really bad for regular or substandard men. It must truly suck for them.

      April 21, 2011 at 12:24 | Report abuse |
    • Jessica

      Too bad you are gonna die anyway in the next 40 years 😉

      April 21, 2011 at 15:32 | Report abuse |
  13. Bill

    @ Rick – Based on the comments from women I've read size isn't crucial. A couple have said too big hurts and a couple have said size matters to them, but most women so far have said size isn't the biggest factor in their pleasure. Why are you so hell bent on proving size matters? You seem to have little man syndrome in reverse.

    April 21, 2011 at 11:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • David in Corpus

      Funny, all the stri ppers I ever dated, including the one I married, wouldn't date a man with less than 7. In fact, they had a saying, "anything less than seven, no access to heaven."
      and NO, the girls were not all boared out as you smartypants types are fixin' to say, they are just se xual women and thus know a bit more about these things than you average housewife type lady. I am not knocking the housewives though. I am sure there are quite a few pistols amongst them. I just prefer a woman who dresses to the nines, even at the grocery store. I am shallow like that and thus married appropriately as my wife is even more shallow than me.

      April 21, 2011 at 12:12 | Report abuse |
    • Sophie

      I always wonder why men don't realize that women say things just to be nice.

      April 21, 2011 at 12:55 | Report abuse |
    • Rock

      strap that plank to your a$$ so you dont fall in bro

      April 21, 2011 at 14:15 | Report abuse |
    • aubrie

      David in Corpus... My neighbor married a stri pper..... Are you my neighbor?????????

      April 21, 2011 at 15:40 | Report abuse |
    • Bemused

      Sophie, for the same reason women don't realize some men says nice things to them just to get in their pants.

      April 22, 2011 at 08:09 | Report abuse |
  14. Kelly

    Who are you kidding? Size matters to all women. I have several friends who love thier husbands, but they end up cheating on their husbands for guys with bigger penises.

    April 21, 2011 at 11:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • David in Corpus

      Your friends are s l u t s , just in case you didn't notice.

      April 21, 2011 at 12:16 | Report abuse |
    • Rock

      Yeah, but they sure were appreciative when they left

      April 21, 2011 at 14:11 | Report abuse |
  15. Sal

    Well I have 12 inches but I don't use it as a "rule"!

    April 21, 2011 at 11:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Jamie

    To Peanut:

    With a sample size of several million, Average and Mean become identical.
    Thanks for confusing everybody by showing what you happen to know.

    April 21, 2011 at 11:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Bill

    Kelly – Then someone had better tell the women who commented above you.

    April 21, 2011 at 12:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Country John

    Everything has a limit and there is such a thing as too big or too small. You need the right tool to do the job right, but understanding HOW to use it is as important. Talk to your partner. Find out what he or she wants, then deliver it. No guessing, no mystery, no reason to be concerned. Just talk, then have a lot of fun.

    April 21, 2011 at 12:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • David in Corpus

      Too big can be a bad thing too. I knew a bouncer who swung over 12 hard and he said most women ran from him like he was sprouting devils out his pants. He also ended up taking a chick to the hospital emergency room as while they were doin' the deed part of her insides came out as he was hittin' it.

      April 21, 2011 at 12:14 | Report abuse |
  19. Jujubeans

    grr, I never measured my girth.

    April 21, 2011 at 12:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • David in Corpus

      Just wrap it around it and read, tis easy. Oh, it helps if it is erect. You'll probably be pleasantly surprised. I was the first time a chick measured mine. I was on cloud nine for wellll....... still am on cloud nine.

      April 21, 2011 at 16:19 | Report abuse |
  20. Dave in Dallas

    Thank god I'm gay and don't have to worry about all that pleasing a woman sh–! too much drama and time wasted on too little return.

    April 21, 2011 at 12:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Valerie

      David in Corpus, is that you?

      ; )

      April 21, 2011 at 14:10 | Report abuse |
    • David in Corpus

      What a PHAG getting my comment flagged.

      April 21, 2011 at 14:14 | Report abuse |
  21. thumperbean

    It's not the size of the boat, but the motion of the ocean.

    April 21, 2011 at 12:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Norm

      Yea, but you ain't gonna row a boat to England either.

      April 22, 2011 at 10:16 | Report abuse |
  22. ANG

    I guess the reporter is trying to feel better about himself.

    April 21, 2011 at 12:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Sophie

    Crazy. Does any man argue that "tightness" doesn't matter? Heck no. But they all keep trying to convince themselves that size doesn't. Give me a break!

    As a woman, I will put it this way. All things being equal (my emotions toward the man, etc.) size DOES make quite a difference.

    April 21, 2011 at 12:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Pat

    Why did they have a male write an article about size-not-mattering?
    Wouldn't the testimonial been a tad more believable if delivered by a female?

    April 21, 2011 at 12:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sophie

      @ Pat, It's always been either men reassuring men that size doesn't matter, or women protecting a man's feelings. Nobody ever has an honest discussion on this issue.

      April 21, 2011 at 12:52 | Report abuse |
    • Doitagain

      Well supposedly all us women are lying about not caring really about size so much as technique, so maybe men will trust it coming from another man. Not likelly though, since all men are totally obsessed about size.

      April 22, 2011 at 12:46 | Report abuse |
  25. AZ Jim

    I'll give you 12 inches, I'll do ya 4 times!

    April 21, 2011 at 12:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. ineedanewhobby

    wow, the author of this article is so off base, he should be fired. The proper persons to answer this question of size?? GAY MEN....we know what matters in this dept.

    April 21, 2011 at 12:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Sophie

    Oops! I meant "All things other than size being equal ..."

    April 21, 2011 at 12:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Keiji

    I think in some cultures size is more important than in others. Asians tend not to be large in either girth or length but one doesn't here our women sound off about this as an issue. Having been with non-Asian women I think there is a correlation between women's elasticity and men's size – and that there may be something to partners pleasure if there is not a match in size.

    April 21, 2011 at 13:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Dr Feelgood

    The bigger the better and biggest is best.

    April 21, 2011 at 13:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Darren

    Micropenis....thats hilarious! Man, that would suck!!!

    I'm definitely going to tell my friend he has a micropenis next time he says something stupid.

    April 21, 2011 at 13:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. milito

    Of course size matters, I like a tight vigina, friction is a great feeling, having said that, I always get a kick when I have intercourse seeing the girls eye balls bulging out as a tear runs down her face accompany by an uffffff God you are so big!!!

    April 21, 2011 at 13:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. teepee

    what good is 12 inches when you are 55 and don't feel like it?

    April 21, 2011 at 13:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Harry B. Potter

    It's not the size of the wand, but the magic you make with it!

    April 21, 2011 at 13:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Rock

    "Sure Lois, all the women are clamoring for the plaintain section....stop with this......"

    April 21, 2011 at 14:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Meh

    Buddy Hackett once joked in his stand-up that he heard about a guy who was with a girl who wanted him to give her 10 inches and make it hurt...so he nailed her twice and punched her in the eye

    April 21, 2011 at 14:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. TinaT

    I've got to say that for me, size matters. In the fact that too big splits me open, as in I had to go to the doctor because it caused me to bleed! Too little and I get no pleasure from the actual intercourse.

    I'm lucky I married a guy who loves foreplay and fits me just right.

    April 21, 2011 at 14:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. David in Corpus

    Your a sorry dog Rick. As near as I can tell from your comments, you beat me by about an inch in length and an inch in girth. Sucks. I hate being outdone by another man. Good show homie. Too bad the article is not about squirting, a subject and skill at which I very muchly so enjoy hearing about from others. So few know how to do it. Please do not disappoint us by denying knowledge and skill in this area of expertise. Do tell!

    April 21, 2011 at 14:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. carl

    I think that the studies fail to consider the fact that a woman's size matters as well. I have encountered women who were "too small," and that can be as frustrating to a man as too small or too large for a woman. The fact that the size of women vary as well as that of men suggests that some women's satisfaction may derive from the fact that smaller is better for some women, while larger is better for others – they simply have a good match. So the numbers may not really reflect the extent to which size matters.

    April 21, 2011 at 14:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Bubba

    It does matter, but not to the guy.

    April 21, 2011 at 14:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Bwana Dik

    My dik is a Harley; I kick it to start.

    April 21, 2011 at 14:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Jujubeans

    It takes two hands to handle a whopper!

    April 21, 2011 at 14:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Bwana Dik

    Sad fact: sometimes a really big one doesn't work right. Careful what you ask for.

    April 21, 2011 at 14:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Captain_OWNARSHIP

      haha seriously. like when yer tryin to watch some good ol fashioned p0rn and the guy is half limp the whole time trying to stuff it in with his fingers. the chick is like "im getting paid overtime for this right?"

      April 21, 2011 at 14:41 | Report abuse |
  43. Captain_OWNARSHIP

    This article made me feel better about my average sized pee-pee ding dong doodle.

    April 21, 2011 at 14:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. mamajen

    Well...I've had big and I've had small, and big is better but not essential. Technique can make or break it for me, regardless of size.

    April 21, 2011 at 14:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Michael

    I agree with some of the posters here that a woman should have written this. Dr. K does great work but every time he writes for this column, you get all the troll guys talking about their big D and the ladies seem split 50/50 on size. Size does matter to some women and not so much to others. Dr. K is correct that this does seem more important to men and the reality is that some men would prefer to keep this myth alive. The irony here is that this sets up a confrontational dialog between men, when we should be helping each other. There are plenty of women to go around and we really need not compete. The ladies who continue fostering this myth for the same reason, they love to watch a good c*ck fight.

    April 21, 2011 at 14:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • David in Corpus

      Don't be bitter bro, I am sure you make more money than me. Then again, I have never been very motivated by money, no reason to be.

      April 21, 2011 at 14:56 | Report abuse |
    • David in Corpus

      BTW, men helping each other is called 'single' and have no woman to hang with or help, or....... it is called 'gay'. Which are you?

      April 21, 2011 at 14:57 | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      @David in Corpus
      Yes, troll, right on cue. Thanks for confirming.

      April 21, 2011 at 16:22 | Report abuse |
  46. George

    Gentlemen, unless you are in possession of a micropenis, ...

    For the remainder of the day, I am going to begin all of my sentences with that phrase.

    April 21, 2011 at 14:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. gerald

    Well good to know that I am above average in length and girth.

    April 21, 2011 at 15:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Ed

    A woman once told me I was hung like a horse. I thought I was pretty special until I ended up at the stables one day and discovered I was merely average.

    April 21, 2011 at 15:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Robb

    @ ED.....too funny...hahaha

    April 21, 2011 at 15:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. ole Lady


    April 21, 2011 at 15:17 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

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.