One of the most common questions men ask in my sex therapy practice is, “Is my penis too small?”
Many men worry about this, perhaps because very few actually know what a normal penis looks like outside of what they see on pornography—which vastly distorts reality.
Men often underestimate the size of their phallus. Recently over a two-year time span, 67 men went to an Italian hospital to have their penises enlarged. All turned out to have normal-size sex organs.
Small penis concerns and self-esteem
While most penises are normal, penis size is key to a man’s self-image. Because this is such a major part of a man’s body image, men suffering from body dysmorphic disorder (a disorder in which one is preoccupied with an imagined defect that others often cannot see) often focus on penis size.
Less than one percent of men have a phallus smaller than normal. But about 45 percent have this concern. They THINK their penis is smaller than normal. Extreme cases may require professional psychological help, but most only need reassurance they are perfectly normal.
Some men worry about the size of their erections, but a larger number wonder about how their penis looks when it’s flaccid, studies find.
The interesting thing is, while so many men are concerned about size, 85% of heterosexual women say they are satisfied with their partner’s sex organ size and its functioning.
What’s normal? 5 ½ inches (flaccid and stretched)
So how can a man know if he measures up? Not by his shoe size, which is a disproved myth. The best way to find out is to measure, and the best measurement is called SPL — stretched penis length.
To learn your SPL, press a ruler snug up against your pubic bone. Then gently pull your limp penis as far as it will go. Measure from the pubic bone to the tip of the stretched penis.
Most men, if they measure correctly and put the ruler flush against the public bone, will find they are at or very close to the standard.
Can surgery make a small penis larger?
It’s hard for a man—or woman–to open their email without being bombarded with an offer of a miracle drug, device, or surgery that will give him a bigger penis. It’s all spam. But are there bone fide ways to make a penis longer?
The short answer is no. Augmentative phalloplasty procedures promise to make a penis wider by grafting fat from another part of the body. They add weight to the penis, making it a half-inch or so longer when flaccid. But this can result in a lumpy penis.
Another technique cuts the tendons inside the body that provide the leverage for the penis to maneuver, making the penis look longer. This also often leads to movement problems.
I don’t recommend any of the procedures for men who think their penis is small, because of the rate of complications. Severe complications include shortening of the penis, a penis that looks lumpy or not even, scars, changed sexual function, and a curved member. These outcomes are seldom correctable.
Traction and vacuum
Traction devices, designed to stretch the small male sex organ, may actually add an inch or so to penis length, but they have to be worn several hours a day, for months. Most people, even if they are highly motivated, don’t have that kind of time.
Vacuum devices may help with erectile dysfunction – but they do not make the penis larger.