The US sex researchers Masters, Johnson and Kolodny once stated that the erection could be thought of as the “great equaliser” because men with a smaller non-erect penis usually have a larger percentage volume increase during erection than men who have a larger flaccid penis (Sex and Human Loving, 1986). Unfortunately, the majority of heterosexual men have never seen a “typical” erect penis in the flesh and an inordinate number — regardless of sexual orientation — suffer from feelings of inadequacy about the size of their penis. This is not a new phenomenon. The ancient Indian text the Kama Sutra contains several sections dedicated to penis enlargement, including useful tips such as rubbing the penis with stinging insects to induce a long- lasting swelling.
The size and shape of the penis, scrotum and testicles in an adult male are determined by embryonic testosterone levels and only about 10 per cent of men are so well endowed that it causes problems for their partners. In the 1950s, Alfred Kinsey took measurements from 1,800 men and found that the average erection measured 15.6cm (just over 6in). In 2001, Ansell, the maker of LifeStyles Condoms, set up private tents at the Daddy Rock night club in Cancún, Mexico, and over the course of a week qualified medical staff measured the erections of 300 male volunteers. They found the average length of an erect penis to be 14.8cm. (The smaller size reflects the fact that the measurements were taken by professionals; much of Kinsey’s data was self-reported and studies suggest that men exaggerate the size of their erections by at least half a centimetre.) The shortest functioning penis to have been recorded was just over ½in and the longest just over 13in.
Size is always measured when the penis is erect because its dimensions vary more when it is flaccid. According to Dr Harold Reed, the director of the Reed Centre for Ambulatory Urological Surgery, in Florida, the correct way to measure the length of a penis is to make it erect, angle it down until it is parallel to the floor and then set a ruler against the pubic bone just above the base of the penis and measure to the tip. The best way to judge penis size without a ruler is to look in the mirror. An aerial view makes it appear shorter because you don’t see the full length of the shaft, but time of day, mood and temperature will affect how big it looks. If you are cold and unrelaxed, your balls will shrivel close to your body, which will make your general package appear smaller.
There’s no doubt that women are generally pleasantly surprised when confronted with a larger than expected member but an enormous penis is only an asset if you are planning a career in porn. Women, like men, come in all shapes and sizes and our genitals tend to be proportionate. The vagina is only 3½in to 5¾in long and, contrary to popular opinion, it is not a hollow tube but a “potential space”, which expands to accommodate the penis. In its resting state, the walls of the vagina connect with each other and it closes around whatever is inserted, regardless of size. It can hold snug around a tampon or it can stretch like elastic to deliver a baby.
The vagina’s ability to adapt to fit any size of penis led the researchers William Masters and Virginia E. Johnson to conclude that penis size cannot have a true physiological effect on female sexual satisfaction. They observed an exhausting 10,000 complete cycles of sexual response to arrive at their conclusions in 1966, but not everyone agrees with them. In a small study in 2000, Russell Eisenman of the University of Texas-Pan American, found that 45 out of 50 women questioned stated that girth was significant in sexual satisfaction. Unfortunately, the Eisenman study did not offer measurements as to what an “unacceptable” girth might be. Another survey, by David A. Frederick in 2006, suggests that the average (5.5in long, 4.85in circumference) penis is sufficient for most women. His online analysis of 54,865 respondants found that 85 per cent of women were satisfied with their partner’s penis size, yet only 55 per cent of the men questioned felt happy about their genitals.
For women, there is something hugely reassuring about the tyranny of penis size. We worry about our weight every 15 minutes even though extreme thinness rarely equates to attractiveness for men. Similarly, the XL penis that so many men aspire to is of little use beause three quarters of all women cannot achieve orgasm through penetration alone. Statistics from the Social Organisation of Sexuality survey (Laumann, Gagnon, Michael and Michaels) reveal that while 75 per cent of men always have an orgasm during intercourse, only 28.6 per cent of women do because clitoral and vulval stimulation arethe key to female sexual response. This suggests that men need to spend less time worrying about the size of their engine and more time searching for the ignition.