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Supersize Me: Does Penis Size Matter to Women?

Media portrayals of sexuality perpetuate the notion that, when it comes to penises, bigger is better. This size bias is likely due, at least in part, to cultural messages that equate penis size with masculinity and sexual prowess. Pornography reinforces the notion that men with large penises are better lovers and more desirable to women. But does a man’s penis size really matter for heterosexual women’s sexual arousal and satisfaction?

Nearly 30 years ago, in response to evidence suggesting that penis size has little impact on women’s physical pleasure,1 researchers set out to examine whether penis size has a psychological impact on women’s sexual arousal. Undergraduate women (and men) were asked to read an arousing story where the male character was depicted as having either a small, medium, or large size penis. Despite the fact that the stories were significantly arousing, there were no differences in women’s sexual arousal based on the man’s penis size.2 But one interesting difference did emerge: Women who were higher in erotophilia (i.e., those who are especially likely to respond positively to sexual stimuli), reported more arousal in response to the story where the man had a large as opposed to medium or small penis.2 Therefore, women who have a tendency to respond positively to sexual cues may experience higher arousal in response to a strong sexual cue such a as large penis.

Beyond hypothetical written descriptions of a man’s penis size, researchers have also explored how women feel about their partner’s penis size.3 Most women rated their partner’s penis size as average (67%), about a quarter rated their partner’s penis as large (27%), and a few women rated their partner’s penis as small (6%). Importantly, the vast majority of women were satisfied with their partner’s penis size (84%), and this was a significantly higher percentage than the number of men who were satisfied with their own penis size (55%). Only 14% of women wanted their partner’s penis to be larger, and, in fact, 2% wanted their partner’s penis to be smaller.

Media messages about the importance of penis size are linked to ideas that “real sex” requires penetration. We know from a previous post that many sexual activities (that don’t require penetration) are considered sex and are linked to pleasure and sexual satisfaction. Research on the importance of penis size suggests that a guy’s size may matter more to him than to her. Although some women were more aroused by and desired a partner with a larger penis, a few wished their partner’s penis was smaller, and for the majority of women, bigger was not necessarily better. 

Note: This is Part 1 of a two part series...See Part 2, by Dr. Justin Lehmiller, here.

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1Masters, W. H. & Johnson, V. E. (1966). Human Sexual Response. Boston: Little, Brown.

2Fisher, W. A., Branscombe, N. R., & Lemery, C. R. (1983). The bigger the better? Arousal and attributional responses to erotic stimuli that depict different size penises. The Journal of Sex Research, 19, 377-396.

3Lever, J., Frederick, D. A., & Peplau, L. A. (2006). Does size matter? Men’s and women’s views on penis size across the lifespan. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 7, 129-143.

Dr. Amy Muise - Sex Musings | Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV
Dr. Muise’s research focuses on sexuality, including the role of sexual motives in maintaining sexual desire in long-term relationships, and sexual well-being. She also studies the relational effects of new media, such as how technology influences dating scripts and the experience of jealousy.

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Reader Comments (5)

I frequently have men come to me with major concerns about their penis size.

In spite of all the reassurance they have had from their wife and from other people about their penis size, they STILL have major concerns about it.

Why do they have this concern? Why do they have such a concern over this that they literally squelch all their wife’s attraction for them?

It’s because they have a major desire to give their wife the greatest sexual “pleasure” she has ever felt. They very much want to pleasure their wife to her maximum threshold. In and of its self, this desire and intention is a good thing — but the problem is that they have linked the size of their penis to how much pleasure their wife can feel sexually.

Moreover, they can look around and see 100 other guys with penises the same size or even smaller than their own but that doesn’t mean anything to them because they saw this one guy at a bar one time…or in a porn movie…who was way bigger than they are…which means in their mind…because of how they have linked penis size to female sexual pleasure…that they cannot possibly please their wife to her maximum sexual threshold…and that is a very “bitter pill” for them to try to swallow. Consequently, they continue to struggle with concern over the size of their penis.

Well, here is just one of several points I make to men:

If you were to watch adult female masturbation videos, such as:

Real Sex Magazine: All Masturbations
Real Female Masturbation
100% Masturbation
Female Masturbation Sensations

You would see girls masturbating solo and the guy doing the movie providing them with vibrators and dildos of all different sizes.

Guess what else you would see?

You would see these girls reaching right past the big toys and picking up a small one.

Guess what else you would see?

You would see that these girls stimulating their clitorises and inserting the toys 1 – 2 inches deep.

So let me ask you…if big and deep were important, why do they pick up the little toys and barely stick them in?

In these movies, these girls achieve orgasm after orgasm on little toys that are barely inserted into their vagina.

The point is that big and deep isn’t important to a woman. You can give your woman orgasm after orgasm – no matter what the size of your penis is.

June 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCalleZorro

Great post! I think not matter what women say, it matters to a certain extent. With that being said, I do believe it matters more to men than it does to the women. If you can find other ways to satisfy a woman, they will be able to tolerate it depending on your personality. However, men just cant seem to live with the fact they have a below average penis size! Thanks for a good read!

October 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTyler M

The bottom line is women use 'size' to slam men...its a 'get back' a barb...whenever a women feels scorned (even when she was treatred well) after a relationship she will propagate a rip about his small one even if he was not small.I could throw up easily over a hundred links that would take you to female-centric websites where this topic is being discussed and show you how disrespectful YOUR gender is on the size thing.Way more detrimental,hurtful and destructive than any fat jokes or ugly insults a woman could get.....completly ripping apart a guy based on his d--k size (which is also something that he can't change) There have been people who have offed themselves because women had to go there and destroy someone on this.Its not even about being "small" anymore thanks to the reprobate porno industry now even an "average" sized guy is considered "small"....i love women but i guess the sugar and spice bit was just that---a lie.Alot of women have become everything beyond cruel that they thought men were all these years....except worse and that is sad.

October 26, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteranon

It really is all on women if they want to eliminate the size "problem" when it comes to penis size.
All they need do is refuse to bare children of men with small or even average, 6inches(?) penises
and eventually there will be only large ones.
Of course this may force more than a few of the women to have to get jobs in order to provide for themselves financially since that is often the impetus provided for them to overlook deficiencies.

February 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJim Richey

14% is actually a lot, referring to the amount of women who want their partner to have a larger penis. You'd think almost everyone, if they are in a consistent sexual relationship, are pretty much satisfied with each other. That it would be a fairly rare exception that someone was like "yeah I need you to have more dick." Size kinda does matter, some. Excluding people whose dicks are so huge they are of no use, nobody wants their partner to have a smaller dick. Some people want it bigger. Size does matter some. We just need to acknowledge that, but keep it in its place as one very small (ha) aspect of sexual experience, which is one small aspect of human experience.

September 24, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJ'on
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