For better or worse, the size of a penis can greatly influence a person’s confidence when it comes to having sex. With that said, there is often a mismatch between how someone with a penis views themselves and how a potential partner sees them. This is especially true if the person thinks that their penis is “too small.”
According to a study published in the Journal of Health Psychology, around 68% of men surveyed said they had concerns about their penis size. The concerns are largely driven by unrealistic expectations in the media—as well as society at large—about what is an “average-size” penis. This is a problem.
While the size of a penis generally does not directly affect sexual function, it can increase the risk of sexual problems. Studies have shown that people who think their penises are small are more likely to have low self-esteem, performance anxiety, relationship problems, and erectile dysfunction. They are also less likely to let others, including doctors, look at their penises.2
The article aims to set the record straight by detailing what the average penis size is, what factors influence penis size. and whether size really matters to partners and your own sexual health.
Average Penis Size
Statistically, the average length of an erect penis is 6 inches, while the average circumference (girth) is 5 inches. The average flaccid (soft) penis measures 3.6 inches in length with a girth that is roughly the same.
You can measure your penis with a ruler or tape measure. Here are some tips to ensure an accurate measurement:
- When the penis is erect, measure from the tip of the penis to the pubic bone, placing the ruler on the top side of the penis.
- To measure the circumference, wrap the measuring tape around the middle of the shaft. If you are using a ruler, wrap a piece of string around the shaft and measure that instead.
“Showers” vs. “Growers”
Another popular belief is that some flaccid penises can “grow more” than others. This suggests that flaccid penis size has little to do with erect penis size. This is largely true.
A 2018 study in the International Journal of Impotence Research looked at two groups: one whose penises grew less than 1.5 inches from a flaccid to erect state (“showers”) and those that grew more than 1.5 inches (“growers”).
What they found was smaller flaccid penises grew more than larger flaccid penises, with all groups averaging an erect penis length of around 6 inches.
In the end, the flaccid size of a penis is not a good predictor of its erect size. Moreover, penis size is not static and can change with temperature. When exposed to cold, a flaccid penis will shrink in size to conserve heat. Older age can also lead to a reduction in penis size.
Factors Influencing Penis Size
There are not many things that can influence penis size, other than perhaps genetics. Penis growth is largely influenced by a surge of testosterone during puberty, typically between the ages of 10 and 14. The penis may continue to grow until a person is around 21.6 After that, penis size is largely “set.”
Despite what some people may tell you, a person’s foot size, nose size, height, and weight have little to do with their penis size. With that said, a person’s height and weight may create a false impression of what the penis size really is.
A 2013 study from Australia found that taller men with an average-sized penis were perceived to have a “smaller” penis than shorter men with the same size penis. The same was seen when comparing overweight men to men who were slim.
There is evidence that ethnicity plays a role in penis size, but the association is not straightforward. When looked at as a whole, the difference in average penis length between ethnic groups is not all that significant.
Does Penis Size Matter?
Many people have been conditioned to believe that “size matters” and will experience stress if they feel they fall short. They may also believe that they will be more attractive to a partner (or perceived to be more masculine) if they have a larger penis. This is largely untrue.
According to a 2015 study in PLoS One, cisgender women shown photographs of erect penises preferred a penis size of 6.4 inches for a one-night sex partner. For a long-term partner, the preference was slightly smaller: 6.3 inches.
Other studies have found a disconnect between what female and male partners feel about penis size. In a study of heterosexual people published in the British Journal of Urology International, 85% of women were satisfied with the size of their partner’s penis, while 45% of men thought that their own penis was too small.
The dynamics are slightly different in men who have sex with men (MSM). Penis size commonly factors into who takes the insertive (“top”) or receptive (“bottom”) role during sex. With that said, MSM are 50% less likely to regard their penises as “small” compared to heterosexual men and far more likely to regard them as “above average” (35% versus 22%).
Big Penis | Large Penis
Having a larger penis may not always be a good thing. In fact, a 2015 study found that, among 75 women surveyed, one of every 15 had left a relationship because their partner’s penis size was “too large.”
There are other concerns. A large penis—particularly an uncircumcised penis—is linked to a higher risk of bacterial vaginosis (BV), an infection of the vagina, in part because the increased friction against the vaginal wall damages tissues and allows more bacteria in. A larger penis poses similar risks in MSM who have anal sex, including an increased risk of HIV.
When do penises stop growing?
Penises usually stop growing by the time a male completes puberty, between ages of 18 and 21.
What factors influence penis size?
Genetics plays the largest role in determining penis size. However, other factors contribute, including hormones like testosterone. Certain genetic conditions like Klinefelter syndrome can impair testosterone production in boys.
Does ethnicity influence penis size?
The short answer is maybe. Some studies have said that ethnicity influences penis size, but the differences among various ethnicities were minimal.