When a woman starts sleeping with a new dude, there’s a customary round of questions most of us field from our friends: What does he do? How’d you meet him? Do you actually like him?
There’s only one that’s actually any fun to talk about, though, and that’s what the sex is like.
A few months ago, I had a round of these conversations with the usual suspects in my life. Trying to describe a sexual appendage you’ve only seen a couple times is difficult — you were probably at least a little drunk, the lights were low, and if things went well, the penis in question spent most of its time hidden in various places that prevented it from being visually observed.
While struggling to explain the details to a friend — “Big, but I’m not sure exactly how big; not huge, but I was happy when I saw it…” — I finally arrived on a phrase that felt right. This guy had a “boyfriend dick.” Though neither of us had heard the term before, my friend immediately knew what I meant: “Mmm. That’s the best,” she replied. For those who don’t immediately identify, a boyfriend dick is, more or less, a penis you could settle down with, or at least see three times a week. It’s a dick you could metaphorically take home to meet your parents. Basically (and fortunately), every dick can be a boyfriend dick to someone.
A boyfriend dick isn’t a measurement, per se, but a range. Think of it as a dick Overton window: a continuum of acceptability, but in this case, one that varies from person to person. Boyfriend dicks have a measurable component, of course, but not a consistent one. Vaginas vary in depth and sensitivity just like penises vary in length and shape, and where some women may enjoy the mix of pleasure and pain she gets when someone hung repeatedly bashes into her cervix, others want nothing to do with it. For the first group of women, a 10-inch monster looks like a Christmas gift wrapped up in a pair of boxer-briefs. For the second, it’s a bad time that the dick’s owner will nonetheless feel very proud providing, as though he was put on this planet to bless people with his genetic gift.
“Small dicks aren’t a problem for me,” Elisa, 29, told me. “I’m more worried on the larger side of things, and I’ve said that to a couple guys and they’re always like, ‘Well, shouldn’t you be turned on by that?’” But for other women, like Sandra, 34, the top end of the cock-size window is purely theoretical: “I’ve never met one I didn’t like.” (For penises whose size extends beyond a partner’s preferred everyday range, the attendant terminology might be “stunt dick,” or as one Urban Dictionary contributor termed it, “vacation dick.”)
What really makes a boyfriend dick is a holistic evaluation of the situation at hand. There’s a Goldilocks element to it: It needs to be big enough to hit all the right physical spots, but not so big you can’t see yourself dealing with it on a consistent basis for years. It’s reliable in a way that works for you, which maybe means it stays hard while its owner goes down on you, or it matches your preference of mornings instead of evenings.
But as much as American sexual norms have evolved over the past several decades, one stubborn idea remains relatively unchanged: When it comes to dicks, bigger is better. The accepted wisdom states that average penises are fine but big penises are greatly preferable. And small ones — well, women hate them, and gay men hate them even more. This belief presupposes almost no variation in preference or anatomy, which makes it easy to pick out as false by a person of any gender who’s ever had a dick inside them. Size matters, but not in the way men are taught it matters. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, even (and maybe especially) when it comes to genitalia.
When I asked Chris, 34 — a man I’ve slept with a few times and who I can confirm has a Certifiable Boyfriend Dick (for me, that’s somewhere around seven inches, I think) — whether he has ever had size anxiety with a new partner, he said, “Especially at a young age, it’s pretty much the source of your biggest fears.” And that hasn’t changed as much as you’d think as he’s gotten older. “I’m not generally insecure about my penis, but I’m also realistic. No guy would turn down a bigger dick, unless it’s already massive.” My friend Jeremy, 32, said that although he knows he’s statistically above average (between five and six inches in the U.S., depending on your source), “I assume [women] always want bigger.” And to think, these are the men who should be at peace with their appendages, relative to most of the penis-having population!
That’s where boyfriend dicks — and women’s actual desires — come in. Every woman I spoke with agreed with the central thesis: Women have a more nuanced appreciation for their sex partners’ bodies than those partners have for themselves. Part of this is surely because of the narrow confines of traditional masculine ideals, but Elisa acknowledged that women play into it too. “I think part of the reason this [idea] persists is because maybe women like to keep this card in their hand,” she said. “There’s so much men can say to women to make us feel bad, but what are you going to say to a dude? Your dick is bad.”
For men who read this and are still unsatisfied with their anatomy, I’ll let you in on another little secret. All of the women I spoke with, even the ones who self-identified as size queens, seemed at least a little baffled by how so many men prioritize their dicks as a way to satisfy women. At one point in our conversation, Elisa stopped, looked at me and said, “You know, it’s never about their dicks.” And she’s right — sex is an experience that goes way beyond a single body part, or at least it does if it’s good. Sandra put it best: “Being a decent person makes your dick better.”