Does Size Matter?
For many men around the world, one very intimate subject has often been a source of anxiety: the size of their genitals. These worries are fuelled by many sources, ranging from widespread misconceptions about typical penis size, popular overemphasis on the importance of this measure, and cultural views of genital size as a sign of personal masculinity. Even the word "manhood" itself is sometimes used as slang for a man's penis.
Clearly, many people do believe that size matters – but we decided to take a closer look. In what ways does penis size matter? Who feels it matters the most, and how has this influenced male self-image? Ultimately, do men really have that much to worry about? We surveyed thousands of people, both men and women, to get a bigger picture of what the world thinks about this question. Read on to find out how much size really matters.
Two elements play a key role in concern over penis size: how big someone thinks a penis is, and how big they think it ought to be. We first asked men and women to offer their estimates of what the average penis length is, as well as what they consider to be an ideal length. It's important to note that estimates of average size may not reflect the reality of penis size, as many people don't necessarily have an accurate idea of which sizes are typical. When it comes to perceptions of average size, men and women have very similar ideas: Women estimated the average penis length to be 13.8 cm, and for men, this was only 0.3 cm greater. Compare this to the results of a 2015 review of studies on penis size that included over 15,000 men from around the world: the average penis length when erect was found to be 13.12 cm – almost one whole centimeter less than the average estimate given by men in our study.
When considering notions of an ideal length, it becomes clear that expectations don't always match up with reality. Women's perception of an ideal penis length was 2 cm greater than the average length. While it's concerning that even an average penis size is seen as less than ideal, it's unclear whether a difference of only 2 cm would have a meaningful effect on sexual satisfaction for a man or his partner. Yet men may be evaluating themselves even more harshly: Despite having an estimate of average size that's similar to women's, they believe the ideal penis is 2.5 cm longer.
We then posed the same questions to men and women in nine European countries as well as the United States, and we found massive variations in ideas of average and optimal penis size around the world. Out of the nations we studied, Poland had the highest estimate of average length at 15.7 cm, and the second-highest ideal length of 17.3 cm. Austria took second for estimates of average length (15.6 cm) but held the top spot for estimates of ideal size (17.6 cm). Not every country offered such dramatically high guesses – the United Kingdom had both the lowest estimate of average size, 12.4 cm, and the lowest ideal length, 14.2 cm.
One theme was universal among the countries we studied: In each one, the ideal length endorsed by our respondents outpaced perceptions of the typical size, again showing how many people believe that even average genitals may not be "big enough." However, the gap between notions of average size and ideal size varied substantially. These estimates were the closest in the Netherlands: This country's ideal length, 15.1 cm, was only 1.1 cm longer than their perception of the average length. And in the United States, these guesses were the furthest apart – while Americans estimated an average length of 14.3 cm, their concept of an ideal length was much greater at 17 cm.
We also took a closer look at estimates of average penis size from the 50 states of the U.S., and it turns out there's as much variety among these states as there is among different countries. West Virginia offered the lowest figure, estimating an average length of 12.8 cm, and Arizona and Nebraska were close runners-up with an estimate of 13.4 cm each. At the other end, Maine had the highest estimate in the nation: an average length of 16.5 cm, almost 4 cm greater than West Virginia. Idaho offered the second-highest estimate at 15.9 cm, and Hawaii was third with 15.7 cm. Overall, there seemed to be no clear regional trend to these estimates – almost every area of the U.S. was host to many different ideas of the average penis size.
Many of the same patterns were seen among U.S. states' notions of an ideal penis size. West Virginia, which was in last place for estimates of average size, appeared second-last for notions of ideal size with an average of 15.3 cm.
Similarly, Maine was first in the nation for estimates of average length (16.5 cm) as well as for ideal length at 19.3 cm, a difference of almost 3 cm. This was followed by Kansas and Arkansas at 18.6 cm and 18 cm respectively. Altogether, the U.S. shows an even greater range of beliefs about optimal genital size than it does about average size.
Across Europe, major nations show a great deal of diversity in their perceptions of what the average penis length is. Poland has the highest estimate of average length at 15.7 cm – only 0.1 cm greater than the runner-up, Austria. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom offered the most conservative estimate: 12.4 cm, more than 3 cm shorter than the highest estimate in Europe. As with the United States, even throughout these nearby nations, popular ideas of the typical penis can vary tremendously – with all the more potential for uncertainty and insecurity about one's own size.
Even as perceptions of an ideal penis size ranged from 14.2 cm to 17.6 cm, all European nations we studied agreed on one point: Perceptions of ideal penis size exceeded perceptions of the average size. Austria, already in second for its estimate of average size, had the highest ideal length: 17.6 cm. In contrast, the United Kingdom reported the lowest ideal, 14.2 cm. It's easy to see why size is such a frequent concern: Perceived ideals reliably outpace the perceived average size almost everywhere – yet notions of what's "big enough" are far from universal or agreed-upon. Depending on location and cultural context, a man of average or even above-average size, unfortunately, still has ample opportunity to perceive himself as inadequate.
Ideas of typical penis size vary greatly around the world and even within individual countries like the U.S. In this uncertain environment, how do men actually feel about their own size? We asked men from four age groups to state their level of satisfaction with the size of their genitals. Overall, very few men reported dissatisfaction with their size – only 10.3% said they were dissatisfied, and a mere 1.7% said they were very dissatisfied. 29.5% had neutral feelings about their size, being neither particularly satisfied nor dissatisfied. A majority of men were indeed content with their size: 44.5% reported that they were satisfied, and an additional 14% noted that they were very satisfied. In light of the widely varying expectations of average penis length that we found across several countries, all of which regarded the perceived average penis length as less than ideal, it's a pleasant surprise to see that a majority of men remain personally satisfied with their bodies, and only a small number experience dissatisfaction.
We were also able to chart how men's personal feelings towards their genitals differed by age group. The number of men who reported being satisfied with their size was quite different across the age groups we studied: While 39.4% of men aged 18–24 reported being satisfied, this increased to 51% among men aged 45 and over. The proportion who were very satisfied showed little change overall, starting at 15.7% of those aged 18–24 and growing to 16.9% of men aged 35–44, before slightly declining to 13.5% of men aged 45 and over.
Meanwhile, levels of dissatisfaction appeared to decline more significantly with age. 13.1% of men aged 18–24, but only 7.7% of men aged 45+, reported being dissatisfied with their size. And while 3% of men aged 18–24 noted that they were very dissatisfied, this fell to 0% of those aged 45 and over. It's possible that young men may have plenty of exposure to popular misconceptions about penis size and its relevance to sex, and less life experience that would indicate otherwise – experience that they may acquire as they age and have more opportunities to learn that size may be less important than they once believed.
We also wanted to find out just how much these concerns over size were influencing men's confidence in their sexual capabilities. Reflecting the fact that a majority of men were satisfied or very satisfied with the size of their penis, 59.4% also reported that size did not affect their sexual confidence – and another 24.7% noted that their size even increased their confidence. Merely 15.8% said that the size of their penis had decreased their sexual confidence.
When it comes to belief in their own sexual prowess, a vast majority of men don't seem to be negatively affected by widespread cultural uncertainties about which sizes are most desirable. And as with satisfaction, sexual confidence related to penis size appears to trend upwards as men age. While 57.6% of men aged 18–24 reported that their size doesn't affect their sexual confidence, this grew to 65.4% of men 45 and over. Similarly, among men aged 18–24, 16.2% felt that their penis size had decreased their sexual confidence – but this fell dramatically to only 10.6% of men aged 45-plus.
Insecurity and lack of confidence about size is more than an idle concern – these worries can have a very real impact on men's sexual lives. It has been shown that anxiety and worries can reduce a man's abilities to get and keep an erection. ED can affect men regardless of their penis size, and is not caused by having a smaller penis. Intimacy is a moment of intense vulnerability and exposure, and for a man who feels uncomfortable about his size - regardless of the reality, anxieties about his penis being seen and sexual performance can therefore directly contribute to erectile dysfunction (ED). For all men, the occurrence of ED can create even more anxiety and reduce sexual confidence – a vicious cycle. This may be more noticeable in younger men, as young men in our study showed less satisfaction about their size and a greater impact of size on their sexual confidence, and one recent study showed that 1 in 4 cases of newly diagnosed erectile dysfunction was in men under 40.
We surveyed the men in our study to assess how frequently they experienced symptoms of erectile dysfunction. While 70.2% of men aged 18–24 reported never having ED, this meant that a surprising 29.8% did sometimes experience these symptoms – and 10.6% experienced ED during half of sexual encounters or even more frequently. As men age, erectile dysfunction can become more common, due to many factors caused by medical problems more common in older men. Our findings reflected this, as the proportion of men who never experienced ED declined from 70.2% among those aged 18–24 to 57.7% among those aged 45 and over. Those who had ED symptoms less than half of the time grew from 19.2% of men in the youngest group to 26% in the oldest. However, even among older men, a high frequency of ED symptoms is still somewhat uncommon: 7.7% of men aged 45-plus had symptoms half of the time, 4.8% experienced ED more than half the time, and only 3.8% said they experience these symptoms every time.
One of the aspects of men's size anxiety that looms the largest is concern over what partners might think and how important they consider size to be. To get a better idea of how realistic those worries are, we asked the women in our study how much they value penis size as an important aspect of a man's body. About two-thirds of women, 67.4%, said that size is somewhat important – not of overriding significance or major concern to them. A further 21.4%, more than 1 in 5, felt that penis size simply wasn't important. Only 11.2% of women said that size was very important to them. Clearly, plenty of women don't place a heavy emphasis on the importance of size. And when asking if size matters, women have good reason to say: not nearly as much as many men think.
Finding Health, Happiness and Confidence in Your Sexual Life
Men's worries about size occur in the context of many social pressures. Perceptions of penis size have become so distorted in the popular imagination that the reality is often ignored and exceeded by exaggerated notions of an ideal size. More than that, these beliefs vary substantially between nations and even states - what's considered "ideal" in one place may not be so in another. Is it any wonder that men often struggle with anxiety about this very personal issue? But as we've found, most men continue to show satisfaction with their size, and most women don't consider size to be a crucial issue. At the end of the day, there's much more to satisfying relationships and sexual confidence than this one simple measure.
At Zava, we believe that you deserve to feel proud of your body and your sexual health. We offer a variety of professional and discreet personal health services for sexual concerns, such as treatment for erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation, as well as confidential STI testing. Our services are run by by doctors, who can give advice or prescribe medication, to be quickly delivered to your home. Visit Zava today because your health is what really matters.
We surveyed 2,121 respondents on questions relating to sexual health and ideals of male genital size. 1,148 respondents identified as male, with 973 respondents identifying as female. Of these respondents, 1,055 were from the United States and another 1,066 were located within Europe. Of European respondents, 489 were located in the United Kingdom. States represented by fewer than five respondents and countries represented by fewer than 10 respondents were omitted from map results. Age ranges of 45 to 54, 55 to 64, 65 to 74, and 75+ were grouped into the 45+ age range due to a small number of respondents (237 total).
Fair Use Statement
We grant permission to use the images found on this page freely. When doing so, we ask that you kindly attribute the creators by linking to Zava and this page so your readers can learn more about the project and its methodology.