And by “my” penis I mean “your” penis, of course.
This is a perennial question. For some reason, which I do not understand, the feminist perspective (note: I’m a feminist) is often to belittle the question, but really, that isn’t fair. It is not that difficult to imagine how anyone would come to a question about whether or not a particular organ of the body, the head, the breasts, the butt, the thumb, is somehow out of proportion. The penis is just one of many body parts that people may obsess over, and the larger scale issue of the intersection between physical and mental health should not be put aside for the penis, even if it is the Organ of the Patriarchy.
This is also a question that typically results in a plethora of jokes. That is understandable. “Dick jokes” as they are called may or may not be funny but there is no shortage of them. In fact, here, I’ll provide a space for you to write in whatever “dick joke” you happen to be thinking of at the moment:
OK, are we done? Thanks. That was very funny, I’m sure.
A large penis size study
Interestingly, it has been hard to get a handle on the question of average penis size for humans, and even more importantly, the range. The range is more important because it is actually possible for a person to suffer what is generally called “dysmorphic disorder.” This is where a perceived disproportion of mis-shapennes of some body part causes psychological problems of some sort. In order for medical practitioners to place a person’s penis in the proper perspective, it is necessary to have an idea of what the range and nature of variation is. Partly to this end, a study looking at penis size across 20 separate studies involving over 15,000 males has been conducted by a team of medical scientists in London, and it was just published. The abstract of “Am I normal? A systematic review and construction of nomograms for flaccid and erect penis length and circumference in up to 15 521 men” by David Veale, Sarah Miles, Sally Bramley, Gordon Muir, and John Hodsoll reads in part:
To systematically review and create normograms of flaccid and erect penile size measurements….Study key eligibility criteria: measurement of penis size by a health professional using a standard procedure; a minimum of 50 participants per sample. Penis size nomograms may be useful in clinical and therapeutic settings to counsel men and for academic research.
The results? Here:
9.16 +/- 1.57 cm
3.51 +/- 0.62 in
13.24 +/- 1.89 cm
5.21 +/- .74 in
13.12 +/- 1.66
5.16 +/1 0.65 in
There are a lot of details in the paper, which is available on line. The samples were collected by medical professionals (as opposed to some other studies which were self-reported) and under a variety of conditions.
The most important result, for clinical use, is a nomogram that allows one to check where a particular value is typical or atypical across the general population. This one shows penis length for flaccid, stretched, and erect penises.
There are similar data for circumference, you can check the paper out for that.
Does hand size or foot size predict penis size?
Some will find it interesting that there was a reasonable (but small) correlation between penis length and index finger length in one of the studies reviewed here. This is potentially interesting because the timing of hormonal conditioning in utero is thought to affect the growth pattern of various body parts. Also, there is an “urban belief” (I’d rather not call it a myth unless it is shown to be false, and I’m not sure I’d say that based on this study) that there is a correlation between “hand size” and “penis size.” At present, the penis-hand link is not exactly hard science.
Check out our new science podcast, Ikonokast.
You’ve heard, I’m sure, that there is an urban belief that a man’s foot size predicts penis size. This is not supported by the present research.
Does penis size vary by “race”?
If you are a regular reader of this blog you probably know about the “science of race” problem. Numerous studies, mostly done quite a few years ago, seemed to demonstrate racial differences in things like intelligence, criminality, etc. These studies have largely been debunked on two main grounds. First, the definition of and biological validity of the “races” is poor; humans really just don’t have races, even if you happen to think they do. Second, the studies themselves tended to be deeply flawed, sometimes to the point of absurdity. For example, one study found that “blacks” have smaller brains than “whites” but to obtain this result each estimated brain size for the “black” data points was reduced by a standard value.
Penis size as a race thing was also looked at in those studies, and there are plenty of cultural and social tropes surrounding this issue. If there was a “black”, “white”, and “mongolid” (so called) set of races, earlier work done by some of those racists scientists ranked penis size in that order (from largest to smallest) and some researchers wrongly linked that to level of evolution; as penis size gets smaller brain size gets larger, humans grade from animalistic to civilized, that sort of thing. The penis-brain relationship is, of course, absurd, but it is possible that humans vary in penis size across geography just as humans vary in other physical traits like skin color (not by race but by space). The present study showed no such relationship, so if there is a difference across humans in penis size it is not very striking. Having said that, this study was mostly done of white males (320 “Negroids” as the study uses the term, and 445 “Mongolids”)
Do men exaggerate their penis size?
It is also interesting to note that self reported data (not used here) tends to indicate larger penis size, but it may not be a matter of exaggeration.
Herbenick et al.  found from their self-report data of 1661 men, a mean erect penile length of 14.15 cm and a mean erect penile circumference of 12.23 cm. This is about 1 cm larger than the mean erect length and 0.6 cm larger than that the mean circumference from our nomograms. This might be dismissed as the unreliability or bias of self-report but they argue that their sample was more accurate, as the data were reported anonymously over the internet and were motivated to obtain a condom that fitted their erect penis. Their data also suggest that the mode of getting an erection may influence erect penile dimensions (e.g. being with a sexual partner at the time of the measurement) and that this may be more accurate than self-stimulation especially in a clinical setting.
So, maybe they do, maybe the don’t, but if the do, they are not doing it by much. I suppose that when it comes to lying about penis size, one does not want to get caught with one’s pants down. As it were.
Note: Robert Martin has quite a few posts on penis size, which you can look over here.
Other posts of interest:
Also of interest: What is the link between Bigfoot, Aliens and Sex? Read In Search of Sungudogo: A novel of adventure and mystery, set in the Congo.