Why are men such willy-worriers? Cybershrink looks at men's obsession with their penis size.
Why such an obsession with the penis?
Why such concern about the size of one part of the body, when they're generally not bothered about the dimensions of their toes or the shape of their elbows?
Well, for a start, with something as important and at the same time secretive as sex, people will feel insecure, especially if they see it as somehow competitive. We're usually content to assume that most of our other bodily functions are broadly average, but in sex we'd like to be sure that we are all above average. Preferably, well above average!
Until it becomes an Olympic event, with judges, we'd want some sort of yardstick by which to measure our prowess or capabilities. Something physical and measurable comes in handy. As in most other areas of life, we can easily decide to prefer the accurate measurement of something irrelevant, to the vaguer measurement of something really important.
Women tend to worry about their breasts. A weary surgeon once commented that in his experience, breasts only come in two sizes - too small, and too big. Men worry about their penis, though rarely feel concerned that it might be too big.
Women's sexuality is, in many senses, internal and internalised, like the primary sexual organs. Internal feelings are recognised as important, and in the sexual act, she is generally receptive, penetrated, she absorbs, receives, incorporates.
Male sexuality is much more externalised - his organs protrude, they're predominantly "out there". And when aroused, he projects still further. And similarly, he's more attentive to externals, appearances, and less comfortable with internal emotions. Women compare emotions; men compare penises, mainly via surreptitious sidelong glances in the toilets and locker-rooms.
In holding to this obsession, men misunderstand much basic anatomy and physiology. Not much penis is needed in order to be sexually satisfying to a partner; far less than men assume. The vagina is, on average much smaller than men assume - not that yawning chasm demanding enormous organs to fill it.
Obviously, it is very accommodating - if it is able to allow a full-term baby to pass through, it can handle the penis of any man ever born. Except by being more visually impressive, a large penis isn't needed functionally. And except if it gives the man enough self-confidence to pay more attention to his partner than to stroking his own ego, it doesn't benefit him much either.
Myth of the vaginal orgasm
For some years much was made of the mythical vaginal orgasm, probably a projection of male fantasies - a view that ignored the actual central role of the clitoris, and assumed an important role for sensations, theoretically produced in the vagina. If this were so, one could imagine that a large penis could donate better vaginal orgasms. If they existed.
But there is no substantial nerve supply to the surface of the vagina or cervix, and no capacity for such orgasms. So the large penises which the hydraulically-minded Freudians assumed would be needed to induce the non-existent vaginal orgasms, don't actually occur.
Except in the very rare condition of micropenis, where the organ is small enough to cause real problems, all men are adequate physically. The only real determinant of his sexual capabilities, is his skill, his sensitivity to his partner's pleasure, not his physique.
Let me try an allegory. Vusi decided, to impress the love of his life, to take her out for a very special dinner at the best and most famous restaurant in town.
But when he arrived, he paused and asked the receptionist - "Before we come in, can you tell me how tall is the chef?" She smiled and said that actually, as she'd just ordered him a new outfit, she happened to know. Monsieur Pierre was just 5 foot 2.
Vusi looked shocked. "Cancel our reservations!" he insisted: "The food can't possibly be any good, with such a short chef! We'll go to that hamburger joint down the road we passed - their chef must be at least 6 foot 4 - the food must be fabulous!"
You wouldn't assume that tall chefs inevitably cook better than short cooks? Then why insist on measuring the skill of a lover by his length? – Health24's Cybershrink, Prof M.A. Simpson
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Check out a graphic on the average penis size per country.
- (Updated, January 2010)