I’m sure all men have felt…small…at some point in their lives. Perhaps they have felt…inadequate for some reason, or felt that they just did not…measure up.
(Don’t worry guys, everyone’s been there.)
The double entendres in this paper could occupy me ALL DAY. And I want to hang their table of findings of “penile dimension” above my desk. It would make me smile. But as it is, I will post it for all of YOU!
Mondaini et al. “Penile length is normal in most men seeking penile lengthening procedures.” International Journal of Impotence Research, 2002.
First of all, what IS the normal length of a penis? Sci had always heard somewhere around 6 inches, but never had any proof. But now, she’s got the official numbers.
For those of you unable to read the rather fine print (sorry, had to get it in frame), the table shows a summary of the last ten studies to research normal penile length in men. The years range from the first in 1899, to the most recent (2001 as of this publication, which, admittedly, is 2002). The results even include one by Kinsey of the famous Kinsey reports. Subject pools ranges from 50 to over 3000 subjects surveyed (Kinsey surveyed a whopping 2770, I think this report was done to deliberately beat out that number), and age anywhere from 17-82. Measurements were taken flaccid, stretched, and erect, and in the most recent study, measurements were also taken of circumference.
Over all surveys, the average flaccid length was around 9.3 cm (3.7 inches). Stretched length averaged 14.29 cm (5.6 inches). The length of the fully erect penis (presumably the measurement that mattered most) was 5.8 inches, pretty close to the mythical 6 inches Sci was always told about. Unfortunately, for this particular study (the most recent), results all came from a group of Italian army conscripts, so there was probably relatively little racial variation and no data were taken to measure whether all those stereotypes you hear about held any water.
Anyway, using the most recent study data, the authors of this study (conveniently, also the authors of the previous study) came up with a nomogram to illustrate the range of penile length in men.
Based on these data, the authors determined the bottom and top 2.5% of penises to be outside the normal range. This means that if you have a flaccid penis length of 12 cm (4.7 inches), you’re probably good porn star material, while if you have a flaccid penis length closer to 3.5 cm (1.4 inches) you have a ‘short penis’. That’s the medical term. Actually, I believe the medical term is “micropenis”, which is a penis which is smaller than the norm by 2.5 standard deviations.
The condition of micropenis can have several causes, such as low androgen levels, androgen insensitivity, or hypogonadism. But what about those penises that just…look small? Sometimes the penis can be thought to look smaller than normal due to being concealed in fat around the penis, or to delayed puberty, or simply to not looking proportional. And some of the men who feel that they have a short penis seek treatment for their problem. Treatments can include things like cutting the tendons under the penis, which will increase apparent length (though this means that erections will go down instead of up, which I imagine could be awkward), hormone therapy, or other surgical treatments.
But of those men who seek treatment for “short penis”, how many of them actually HAVE it? This study set out to find out. Of the 67 patients who came in for treatment of short penis, you’d think that most of them would be worried about the erect penis length. That’s what matters, right? WRONG!
It turns out that 65.7% of the men surveyed actually felt uncomfortable with the length of their flaccid penis. They recruited a bunch of men referred for complaints of “short penis”, but with no other health problems and no evidence of erectile dysfunction, aged 16-55. 32.8% felt uncomfortable with length when both flaccid and erect, and only ONE of all the men surveyed only felt uncomfortable about his erect penis. A good 22.4% also complained that their circumference didn’t measure up either, but unfortunately the study didn’t really cover that.
And so, did these poor guys have tiny penises?
You can see here the distribution of the research subjects against the “nomogram” for normal flaccid penis length. Most of the guys (62.6%) ranged in the 25-50th percentile, so maybe a little below average, but certainly not what anyone would call a teeny peen. It turned out only 5 of the subjects fell under the 5th percentile, and NONE of them qualified as having a real “short penis” in the last 2.5% of the bell curve. Interestingly, a good 9 of the patients (13.4%) actually fell in the 75th percentile and above, being exceptionally gifted in the flaccid penis measure. Unfortunately, no measurements of erect penises were done, probably because most of the men referred were only upset about the length of their flaccid penis.
One of the interesting things about this study is that the authors also asked the patients to estimate what they felt a normal flaccid penis length should be. 85% of the patients felt they could estimate normal penis length, and confidently asserted that a normal penis should be 12 cm long when flaccid. Of course, that’s the 95th percentile of ALL flaccid penises. Clearly, these guys had a distorted view of what flaccid penis length should look like.
When asked what made them think that their penises were small, most of the men (62.7%) said their problems with their penis size had occurred since childhood, when they felt they didn’t measure up to other boys (which could easily have been caused by being in a slightly different stage of development). However, a good portion of the men (37.3%) said they first felt inadequate when they were teenagers and watched porn for the first time. So clearly the gigantic penises often featured in porn videos have given more than one guy a sense of inadequacy.
Luckily, this paper has a mostly positive ending. The researchers took measurements, and then showed the men where they fell on the nomogram for penis length. When thus reassured, 71.7% of patients said they felt better, though 28.3% were still thinking about the possibility of enlargement.
So men, if you’re feeling inadequate, small and alone, check out that nomogram, and chances are you fall in the normal range. Stand proud, walk tall, and only consider surgery as a last resort. Now, if only we had a study to compare the ratio of hand and foot size to penis length. You know what they say about guys with big feet…
Mondaini, N., Ponchietti, R., Gontero, P., Muir, G., Natali, A., Caldarera, E., Biscioni, S., & Rizzo, M. (2002). Penile length is normal in most men seeking penile lengthening procedures International Journal of Impotence Research, 14 (4), 283-286 DOI: 10.1038/sj.ijir.3900887
Filed under: Friday Weird Science