As someone without a penis, I can only speculate as to what it feels like when your dick and balls shrivel up so tiny you think they’ve gone back inside your body. This can happen on a number of occasions — so I’ve heard — including in the cold, when you exercise, when you’re stressed or if you have a decrease in testosterone (which can happen if you over or under exercise, take steroids or drink heavily, to name a few reasons). While shrinkage in these instances is typically short-term, I’m afraid to say, your dick and balls can also permanently shrink, most notably as you get older.
But just how small can they get?
First of all, let’s find out the science behind shrinkage. As C. Brian Smith previously reported for MEL: “Shrinkage occurs when tiny muscle fibers in the penis and scrotum automatically contract to draw them closer to body heat. It also takes place when the body sends more blood to vital organs — your heart, lungs and brain foremost among them — to preserve heat and energy in the cold. The reason why? Less blood is now sent to your appendages — namely, your fingers, toes and penis.”
The body also does this to protect your sperm production, which thrives in an environment that’s one degree below body temperature, so about 36 degrees Celsius. That’s why your balls dangle outside of your body in the first place — to keep cool. Still, they don’t want to get too cold, as that could impact sperm production, and therefore, fertility — hence why they retreat closer to your body, where it’s cozy and warm. Nicole Prause, a neuroscientist who researches human sexual behavior and the physiology of sexual response, explains, “This can vary quite a bit, where some men may only notice a slight retraction of the testicles, and others may feel that their testicles have retreated fully into their pelvis. All of these differences are normal, and just depend on your individual anatomy and physiology.”
Don’t fear, though! As soon as your body warms up again, your dick and balls will return to their usual size in just minutes.
Blood flow changes happen when you’re exercising as well, as more blood is needed in your joints and muscles, rather than in your dick. The same for when you’re stressed — in fact, psychological stress can have “the same effect as a cold shower.” Low testosterone simply shrivels your dick, and makes your testicles atrophy or become “squishy instead of firm.” According to Prause, “Testicles also are drawn up to, sometimes partially inside, the body during high states of sexual arousal.”
In terms of the maximum amount of shrinkage a person’s dick can go through, there’s no (sorry in advance) firm answer. That’s because, as Prause tells me: “There isn’t great data on shrinkage.” Still, according to Men’s Health, what we do know is that, in the cold, your dick can shrivel up by about 50 percent in length and 20 to 30 percent in girth. In the long-term, Healthline reports, the length of your penis can decrease by up to an inch.
To get more anecdotal evidence, I asked the guys over at the r/AskMen subreddit how much their dicks shrink in the cold. “Mine literally shrinks to the size of a pinkie finger,” one wrote. “It’s amazingly small. Fully erect, I’m bang on six inches.”
“Better than half,” responded another, “down to a couple of inches.” One redditor said their dick goes down to “an inch total” when they’re cold or anxious. Someone else described how their circumcised “grower not a shower” turns into “an oversized belly button.” Another revealed that their penis shrinks from “four by four inches to three by two inches.”
Then there were some more descriptive answers, like: “I’m uncut… so it kinda looks like Gandalf’s hat”; “I have pulled it out more than once using forceps”; and “It doesn’t, it has its own coat. I sewed two scarves together to form a three-foot sock. I fold it in half and shove it in there. My ding-a-ling generates its own heat.”
So, while we can’t confirm the actual human limit to shrinkage, we can at least estimate that dicks can decrease to about an inch in length, or — and again, I’m sorry in advance — the diameter of a quarter.