So really…does size matter?

As we stand on the threshold of a new era of scientific discovery‚ one where genetics and technology promise an end to disease‚ hunger and suffering‚ perhaps it is now possible for science to address one of our most pressing concerns: does size matter?

A quick search in a database of scientific journals will tell you that yes‚ it does‚ as evidenced by the substantial amounts of time‚ energy‚ and money researchers have spent answering this question. Despite Scottish comedian Billy Connolly’s assertion that “One size fits all‚ m’dear‚ I haven’t got a fucking telescope‚” scores of psychologists‚ surgeons‚ and evolutionary biologists have scrutinized the size of the male organ and tried to discern its importance.

Kinsey pioneered the systematic study of penis length‚ being the first to ask patients to report their penis size using paper strips. A 1991 study however found “considerable discrepancies” between the lengths of the strips that men handed in and how long their penis actually was (naturally meriting a “duh” response from any layman). Modern penis researchers have solved this problem by devising new high–tech ways to measure penis size‚ like “volumetric plethysmography” (essentially sticking your member in a tank of water and measuring the volume of liquid that spills out).

With new techniques in hand‚ scientists have carried out an abundance of rigorous‚ serious studies on the nuances of the penis. Research has found‚ for example‚ that shoe length has nothing to do with penis size. Gay men will no doubt be pleased to hear that they have larger penises on average‚ according to some research. One study even looked at correlations between penis size and political preferences.

Numerous studies have asserted that ethnicity‚ in accordance with certain popular beliefs‚ is correlated with penis size. Researchers claim that people of African descent have‚ on average‚ the largest penises‚ Caucasians come next‚ and Asians have the smallest ones.

One researcher‚ University of Western Ontario’s Dr. J. Philippe Rushton‚ who has been termed a racist by many‚ has taken this trend a step further. He says having a small penis might not be so bad‚ because his research says that intelligence is inversely correlated with penis size; in other words‚ the smarter you are‚ the smaller your penis (which‚ of course‚ merits suspicion as to his intellectual motives). Rushton says this relates to the fact that Asians are statistically “more intelligent” than whites‚ and blacks “less intelligent” than whites—more penis‚ less brain. Rushton also asserts that blacks are statistically more promiscuous‚ have higher crime rates‚ and do not spend as much time caring for their children.

When asked by The Varsity in a phone interview if he could further comment on the significance of penis size‚ Rushton replied‚ in his faded English accent: “I think you’re focusing on this trait too much. You see there are 60 different traits that [consistently rank Asians‚ whites‚ and blacks sequentially]…these factors are based in biology‚ and we have to begin to accept that there are different varieties‚ or subspecies‚ of humans.” It is curious to note that missing from Rushton’s list are verbal dexterity‚ a sense of rhythm‚ musical ability‚ and athletic prowess (sound familiar?).

While Rushton’s work is generally considered illegitimate and offensive‚ most research that looks at penis size is usually accepted‚ even if it may denigrate some ethnic groups.
Studies suggest that‚ despite the assertion of Kyle’s parents on the series South Park that circumcision makes the penis “look a little bigger‚” circumcised penises actually tend to be a bit smaller. In fact‚ it is not unknown for “over–exuberant” circumcisions‚ as one MD calls them‚ to cause a condition known as “trapped penis‚” where a normal–sized phallus appears small because it has been trapped in the fat of the groin and must be surgically liberated.

Medical science must come to the rescue for thousands of misfortunate baby boys born with physical abnormalities that fall under the umbrella term “inconspicuous penis.” This includes “concealed penis‚” (also known as “buried penis” or “hidden penis”)‚ “webbed penis‚” “micropenis‚” and no doubt most unfortunate‚ “absent penis‚”” in which the penis does not form at all but the testicles do (this happens to about one in 20 million boys).

As methods for correcting debilitating birth defects have advanced‚ so have methods for enlarging the penises of adult men. Between 1990 and 1997‚ 10‚000 American adult men underwent surgical penis enlargement‚ or “phalloplasty.” Surgeons will typically increase the girth or length of a penis with the patient’s own tissue‚ much like using a woman’s own fat to enlarge her breasts. Veins and fat are normally used‚ but one study from Yugoslavia reports‚ in a pseudo–Biblical spirit‚ how to use a piece of a man’s own rib to enlarge his penis (giving new meaning to the term‚ “ribbed for her pleasure”).

But do most men seeking surgery really need it? Studies show again and again that a man with a normal–sized penis will commonly underestimate his size. This psychological condition even has a name: penile dysmorphophobia. One study of Korean military men found that fully 70 per cent of them believed their penises were “small‚” while only five per cent thought theirs was “normal” in size. Moreover‚ those men who underestimated the size of their penis were found to have higher rates of hypochondria‚ depression‚ phobias‚ obsessions‚ compulsions‚ and anxiety. These‚ results‚ however may have more to say about the effects of being in the Korean military than about penis size.

So science has established that men think size matters. They will underestimate how large theirs is‚ exaggerate when reporting lengths for scientific studies‚ and will readily undergo experimental surgery for lengthening (which‚ on a number of occasions‚ has resulted in unforeseen side effects and costly law suits).

But what do women think? Surely the real value of penis length should be measured by what those who don’t have one think?

Out of some 450–odd studies found in scientific databases‚ The Varsity was able to find only one study that looked at the feminine perspective. It found that 55 per cent of women surveyed said the length of the penis was not important‚ and 22 per cent of all women said length was “totally unimportant”; more than three–quarters of all women don’t think length matters. Twenty per cent said it is important‚ and only one per cent said it is “very important.” In fact‚ more women‚ 32 per cent‚ said that girth was important‚ although they were still in the minority.

So‚ if you ask women‚ it is usually the motion‚ not the meat. In fact‚ studies show that many women may in fact find their partner’s penis too big—pain during sex is one of the most commonly reported problems.