Most men go through life having never seen another man’s dick, outside of porn. Sure, there’s the occasional glance across the bench in a men’s locker room — penis and eyes meeting in the middle of a crowded communal shower — but that’s hardly enough time to really take inventory.
No, most men’s dick education is sadly relegated to their own dicks, and of course, giant porn donkey-dicks. The obvious problem with such dick-norance is that it can leave men with the feeling that they’re not enough. “Men come to understand their bodies in regard to porn, rather than what they encounter in real life,” says Justin Lehmiller, a research fellow at The Kinsey Institute.
This is why, according to Stephen Snyder, a sex therapist in New York City and author of the new book Love Worth Making, a lot of men worry on some level about whether women will find them adequate — a sort of body dysmorphia focused solely on the dangly bits. (FYI: The average size of a man’s penis is just 5.1 inches.)
Scientifically speaking, of course, actual penile dysmorphic disorder isn’t really the same thing as occasionally wishing for an extra inch, or wondering what it might be like to have a thicker head. “If you have a smaller penis, it’s normal to feel disappointed that your penis isn’t bigger,” says Snyder. “But it only becomes a real penile dysmorphic disorder if you become obsessed about it, spend lots of time over-thinking about it and start to avoid partner situations because you’re afraid of a partner’s response.”
To Snyder’s point, several men on Reddit identified that their dick dysmorphia — clinical or not — is related to worrying about being able to satisfy their partner. “I’m just thinking everyone has a 7 inches if not more big and I feel I won’t be able to feel ‘full’ to my future partners,” wrote one redditor [sic throughout]. Another claimed that he would get really self-conscious if a girl didn’t immediately remark on the size of his penis.
But while online forums and casual conversations with friends can make it seem like dick inadequacy is a shared trait for all men, Lehmiller tells me that this isn’t necessarily the case. He points to a recent nationally representative study of American men that found that 85.9 percent of guys reported being satisfied with their genitals, as well as another study with a much larger sample — but that wasn’t nationally representative — that found that 55 percent of men were satisfied with the size of their penis.
“Based on all of the data, it seems that most men are satisfied with their genital appearance; however, there’s a sizable minority who are dissatisfied (most of whom wish to be larger),” says Lehmiller. The irony, Lehmiller adds, is that the majority of heterosexual women are perfectly satisfied with their partner’s penis. Studies back this up: In 2015, researchers at UCLA and Cal State LA published a report showing that 84 percent of women feel “very satisfied” with their man’s penis size. “Fourteen percent wish it were larger, and 2 percent would prefer smaller,” reported Psychology Today.
Snyder argues that not that many women are really that “into” penises, anyway. “They’re usually more preoccupied with other things about a man,” he tells me. The same isn’t necessarily true for gay men, though: “Most gay men are way into penises, so there can be more pressure as a gay man to have an impressive penis,” says Snyder. Miller also notes that, based on data he collected for his book, Tell Me What You Want, gay men are more likely to fantasize about changing their bodies and genitals. “I think this stems from the fact that there is cultural pressure on gay men to have perfect bodies and large genitals,” says Miller.
The major issue with a genuine penile dysmorphic disorder is that it can precipitate a host of other problems. According to a 2015 study on body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) concerning penis size, men with BDD are more likely to have erectile dysfunction and less satisfaction with intercourse. But what can a guy with such intense dick insecurity do to feel less inadequate?
“The best way out of this vicious cycle is to reduce the amount of emotional energy you’re putting into it,” says Snyder, suggesting you should try stepping back and noticing your compulsion and avoidance behaviors. While responding to a similar inquiry made by Men’s Health, Snyder offered the following advice: “Notice how often you compulsively masturbate in order to reassure yourself you’re okay. Or compulsively measure your erection. Or compulsively surf the net for penis enlargement advice. Or avoid dating because of fear of humiliation. See if you can drastically reduce compulsive and avoidance behaviors.”
Alternatively, Lehmiller suggests that the best thing to help quell thoughts of dick dysmorphia is educating oneself about what’s normal when it comes to penis size. “Data suggests that most men who have penis dysmorphia are actually normal size to begin with,” he says. “Their perception of being small isn’t founded in reality.”
Instead, it’s probably founded purely on Pornhub.