Facts about penis sizeWritten by Dr David Delvin, GP and family planning specialist and Christine Webber, psychotherapist
Even in this supposedly enlightened century, men fret about penis size. Though the vast majority of guys have more than enough bulk to perform well as lovers, there is a widespread masculine obsession that 'more would be better'.
We get a constant flow of emails and letters from males who are worried that they are 'too small'. Vast sums of money can be made by exploiting this obsession, but other than surgery, there is little that is clinically proven to increase penis size.
Any woman reading this article may find it puzzling that so many men are concerned about the length of their penis and wish they had 'just a couple of inches more'. But that's the way that a lot of men are.
Size mattersTo the average man, his penis is, consciously or unconsciously, one of the most important things in the whole world. At an early age he discovers it and immediately becomes fascinated by it.
But then a note of uncertainty enters his mind: 'Isn't mine rather small?' Look at Dad's, look at big brother's, look at those in the men's changing room - and he asks himself if he will be as big as that.
And so he goes on through life, always a tiny bit sensitive about the size of his organ, always convinced that it would be nicer if it were just that little bit longer.
No matter how often it's written that penile size doesn't matter, and that women aren't attracted to a man because of the length of his organ, the average male continues to think the same way.
The average female cannot understand this obsession with penile measurement. So if you're a woman, never belittle a man's penis in bed, even as a joke, or say anything to indicate that you think it's small. The guy may take you seriously, and if he does, he'll be deeply hurt.
We have known men who have gone on to have problems with impotence (erectile dysfunction) after someone made an unthinking remark about their dimensions. But almost all of these men had a perfectly normal male organ. Each one just thought he was very small compared with other men.
A question of perspectiveThe trouble is that every man sees his own penis in a foreshortened view. The angle at which you look down inevitably makes your penis seem shorter than it is.
But when you glance at another man's organ, there's no such foreshortening effect, so very often it'll look as though the other guy is slightly better endowed.
A lifetime of comparison of this sort (and virtually every male does a quick mental check on each naked man he sees) can easily make you feel a bit inadequate. But it's important to realise the facts about penis length.
Average penis lengthA non-erect penis usually measures between 8.5cm and 10.5cm (3-4 inches) from tip to base.
The average figure is about 9.5cm (3.75 inches), but this kind of precise measurement is rather valueless. Many factors can cause a temporary shrinkage of two inches or more, for instance cold weather or going swimming, so you needn't worry if you happen to fall short of the average figure.
Of course, it's true that some men have big penises and some have smaller ones, just as some men have small feet and some have big feet, but the measurement is not - repeat not - an index of virility.
Most people think that a tall man will usually have a large penis, but this is not true. The distinguished American researchers Masters and Johnson measured the penile lengths of more than 300 men.
The largest organ was 14 cm (5.5 inches) in the flaccid state. It belonged to a slim man who was 5' 7" tall (170 cm).
The smallest penis measured 6cm (2.25 inches). It belonged to a fairly heavily built man of 5' 11" (180cm).
It's also worth pointing out that there is no correlation between penile size and race.
Average size of erectionsWe've talked about the length of the penis in its ordinary non-erect state, but how long should it be when it's erect?
Interestingly, most penises are very much the same size when erect.
The man whose non-erect penis is smallish will usually achieve about a 100 per cent increase in length during sexual excitement.
The man whose non-erect penis is on the largish size will probably manage about a 75 per cent increase.
This means the great majority of penises measure between 15cm and 18cm (6-7 inches) when erect, with the average figure being about 16.5cm (6.5 inches).
So you can see that even if a man has got a 'small' penis, he's got a built-in compensating factor that will bring him up to about the same size as the guy who appears to be 'better equipped' in the shower room.
Sex and womenVirtually every man forgets that it doesn't matter how long or how short your penis is, because the vagina will accommodate itself to any length.
The vagina of a woman who hasn't had a child is only 7.5cm (3 inches) long when she's not sexually excited. The figures for women who have had babies are only slightly different.
Even when aroused, a woman's vagina usually extends only to a length of about 10cm (4 inches).
This means any man's penis will fill her vagina completely, unless you happen to be one of those rare guys with an erect penile length of less than four inches.
You're probably now wondering how the average man with an erection of six inches manages to insert his penis into the vagina at all.
The vagina has the most remarkable capacity for lengthening if something is introduced into it gradually.
So the exceptional man whose erect penis is eight inches long can still make love to any woman, providing he excites her properly and introduces his organ very slowly. If he does this, her vagina will lengthen by 150 or 200 per cent to accommodate him.
What if I'm not happy about my penis size?If you're really worried that your penis is the wrong size, go and see your doctor.
If you're not happy about consulting your GP on such an intimate matter, you could see one of the medics who spend their entire day checking men's penises. You can find these doctors at:
private 'well-man' clinics, but take care: a few of these are run by quacks
NHS urology clinics
NHS sexual medicine clinics
NHS genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics
NHS family planning clinics, although these tend to be oriented towards women and don’t have much time to deal with males.
Brook advisory clinics (for the under 25s).
What treatments are there to increase penis size?Many companies claim they know how to enlarge your penis - for a price.
We have been to several medical conferences this year at which leading experts have spoken about penis size and penis enlargement.
Their opinions on the various methods that are so widely advertised to the public can be summed up as follows.
Pills or patches for increasing penis size: a complete waste of time.
Penile enlargement surgery: of uncertain value and sometimes dangerous.
Penile enlargement exercises: probably pretty futile.
Penile suction devices: probably of little use.
Several European experts say that the relatively new stretcher or extender devices may sometimes be of value in giving a man a little extra length.
Surgery to increase penis sizeA number of private clinics now offer operations that claim to make the penis look bigger. The expense of this type of surgery is very great and there is a risk of complications like bleeding, infection or deformity.
One surgical procedure that has become popular since 2005 is slicing through the ligament that supports the penis.
This makes the penis dangle more, so it looks longer when not erect. But it will make no difference to the size of your erection - and it won’t come up as high as it used to before the op.
Another type of surgery involves injecting your own fat into your penis to make it more bulky. This may not work, and it can lead to complications.
We recommend that you do not agree to undergo any surgery unless you have seen an NHS consultant urologist who feels that you really need it.
Penis stretchers (extenders)Some urologists are beginning to use a special extending frame to try to stretch the penis.
These ‘stretchers’ are small rectangular frames that you wear on your penis for hours at a time, every day. They pull your organ out to its maximum length, and the idea is that it will gradually remain longer.
The devices are said to be undetectable under trousers.
There have been several reports from Italy and Spain by surgeons who claim a modest degree of improvement in length from this kind of traction.
We don't think these devices are some sort of miracle discovery, but one surgeon reported that a group of men achieved an average increase in length of 1.8cm after using the device daily for four months. This is less than three-quarters of an inch, but for some men this would be significant.
What treatments are there to reduce penis size?Occasionally, a man with a big penis feels that he wants it reduced in size. This can be done, but there is quite a risk that the operation might go wrong.
Again, we advise you not to have this operation unless an NHS consultant urologist has said it is necessary.