The Top 5 Myths About the Penis

In the interest of pleasure, of happiness, of education and fun, Hugo Schwyzer smashes some pervading falsehoods about the male sex organ.

Google “penis myths” and you get over 2.2 million results. That tells you something about the power and pervasiveness of half-truths and outright lies about the male sex organ. But some of those myths are more damaging than others. In the interest of pleasure, of happiness, of education and fun, here are our Top Five Penis Myths.

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1. Myth: The penis is a muscle.

This myth gets peddled by those dudes who want to sell techniques for “strengthening” and lengthening the penis. But in fact, the penis isn’t a muscle. It’s a collection of spongy tissues that rely entirely on engorgement with blood to become erect. The most important muscle in terms of getting and sustaining a hard-on is the heart. Draw your own conclusions from that.

Some experts believe you can strengthen erections by building your kegel muscles (men and women have them). This involves repetitive squeezing, as if you’re holding back and then releasing urine. For men, strong kegels may help with premature ejaculation—and they may intensify orgasm.

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2. Myth: the average penis is seven inches long.

Most straight men judge penis size based on two things: the flaccid penises they see in locker rooms, and the swollen erections of male porn stars. Neither is an accurate gauge of “averages.” Porn stars are, um, huge, at least for the most part. And the size of a penis when flaccid has nothing to do with the size of that same organ when erect. Two men could look identically sized when soft, and be dramatically different when erect.

So the average American penis is … a little over five inches long when fully erect.

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3. Myth: “A hard dick has no conscience.”

I’m often asked whether erections take blood from the brain, thus inhibiting decision making. Though erections are indeed caused by blood flow into the penis, the body has more than enough blood to support the operation of every other organ during physical arousal. There is no scientific evidence that a hard-on impairs cognitive function. In other words, guys can’t justify assault or infidelity based on biology. A penis may have no conscience (flaccid or hard), but the moral center of the brain (the frontal lobe) does—and that moral center keeps right on working, no matter how turgid the erection. By the way: women get clitoral erections. But I’ve never heard anyone claim that a swollen clit has no conscience.

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4. Myth: size matters—or doesn’t matter.

Many men are incredibly anxious about penis size. Usually, they’re anxious about penis length (see myth #3), and less focused on the equally important issue of penis girth. (Ask straight women and gay men with some experience, and they’ll assure you that width can be as important—or problematic—as length). The truth is that some people do prefer to have sex with someone who has a larger or a smaller penis, while others may not care at all. But even those who do have a preference will likely report that size matters, but is far from the only factor in great sex. Size matters, but so too do touch, smell, chemistry, dexterity, and countless other factors. Being “well-hung” is, in and of itself, no guarantee you’ll be a great lover.

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5. Myth: your penis isn’t part of you.

Too many men describe their penises as tools they use: rods, shafts, hammers, swords, fuck sticks … you get the idea. The language is violent—think of the old euphemism for male masturbation, “beating the meat”! But our penises don’t just belong to us, they are part of us. They reveal a truth about us, too: vulnerable and squishy more often than rigid, surprisingly soft to the touch, capable of feeling—and giving—both great pleasure and great pain. They do not perform on command. Drugs can alter how they behave. We don’t think with our penises, but they are—inextricably—part of us: flawed, powerful, vulnerable, beautiful.

This piece originally appeared on Sir Richard’s Condom Company blog.

Photo via Strandell

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About Hugo Schwyzer

Hugo Schwyzer has taught history and gender studies at Pasadena City College since 1993, where he developed the college's first courses on Men and Masculinity and Beauty and Body Image. He serves as co-director of the Perfectly Unperfected Project, a campaign to transform young people's attitudes around body image and fashion. Hugo lives with his wife, daughter, and six chinchillas in Los Angeles. Hugo blogs at his website

Comments

  1. Good article, Hugo. I would only expand a bit on your challenge to Myth #5: the penis IS a part of us, and that most definitely includes the foreskin, with its thousands of highly specialized nerve cells and its protective function for the glans underneath. I can’t help but wonder about the relationship between the linguistic/psychological ‘dis-ownership’ you refer to and the fact that for many American men, the penis was the site of primordial trauma when they were cut as infants. It seems plausible to me that the memory of that trauma subconsciously affects their attitudes towards their penises in the way in which you describe.

    Fortunately, Americans are waking up to the downsides of this practice, with some reports indicating that nearly two thirds of male infants now remain intact.

    • Based on THOUSANDS of measurements we have on file, the male penis in America is about 4.75″ circumference and 4.75″ long …

      Karen

      • Are you serious? That is tiny, I am then larger than I thought, 7.5″ length x 6″girth.

      • “Based on THOUSANDS of measurements we have on file, the male penis in America is about 4.75″ circumference and 4.75″ long”

        Well, only off by a little.

        Meanwhile, in the real world, “Ansell, makers of LifeStyles Condoms, has conducted research into average penis size. The survey found that the average length of the erect penis is 5.877 inches (14.928cm), with the majority ranging between the small 5.5 inch penis size (14cm) and the large 6.3 inch penises (16cm).”
        http://ansellcondoms.com.au/education/research.htm

        So who should we believe: A company that manufactures millions of condoms for worldwide distribution, or an anonymous comment spammer?

    • shauna marie says:

      Thanks for bringing this up!

  2. My penis delivers newspapers during the daylight hours and then reads a good book to fall asleep.

  3. We don’t think with our penises…
    Yes. It burns me to no end to hear women go on about how men think with their dicks.

  4. Good article. I especially like the science and logic behind number 3.

    I will also add that I have no true perference on size. If I like a guy, and I certainly like a guy if I’m going to see his penis, then I like him and his penis isn’t going to make me like him anymore or less. It’s what he does, not just with his penis, that matters mosts.

    • “I will also add that I have no true perference on size. If I like a guy, and I certainly like a guy if I’m going to see his penis, then I like him and his penis isn’t going to make me like him anymore or less. It’s what he does, not just with his penis, that matters mosts.”

      That is very good for you. The problem is that for every woman that says this. I have no problem finding three women who says the exact opposite. They even think it is appropriate to end relationships and dumping for no other reason than his penis not being up to size.

      • 8 of 10, I am small chested. Now I could fight with the men that liked big breasts and demand they like me because I have a HUGE heart underneath my chest. Or I can find guys that like girls my size and already find me alluring. And believe me, it’s a regular battle to remind myself I’m good the way I am. Especially when you see stars you once admired for being proud of what God gave them getting surgery to “correct” their chest size (Hello Kate Hudson who I use to respect for being proud of her body until she got implants show how truly insecure she was about her own beauty.)

        • GirlGlad4theGMP says:

          Erin,

          Good for you! Beauty has nothing to do with measurements!

          And trust me, the grass is always greener…how many times I wished my breasts were smaller. No designers make bras your size, alot of men treat you differently than your more average-sized colleagues, you buy big shirts and spend alot of money tailoring them…I could go on.

          Love who you are, because there’s somone out there who wants to be like you :)

        • I think its matter of perception Erin.

          When it comes to dealing with guys who would harass and tease you because of your small chest there a lot of people who would correctly point out that those guys are the problem not you that yet when it comes to guys being teased and harrased over their penis size by it seems those same people conclude that the guys are the problem for putting faith in penis size. it seems that the link isn’t who is teasing who and/or who is holding who to unfair standards but rather that its guys are just wrong regardless of which side of the issue they are on.

          I can’t say that is the case the world over but I certainly understand guys feeling this way.

          • Thanks GirlGladforGMP! The grass is always greener! I use to have a friend that had beautiful blue eyes that would actually wear brown contacts. Although, she got over it.

            Danny, men don’t tease or harress me because of my small chest size. But they might automatically discount at me as a potential dating partner because of it though. Which is fine. Because I had ex boyfriends that made little insideous comments about breast implants. Those hurt the most. I don’t have a perfect body and I will never look like some porn fantasty but I want a man that is not only happy with my body, but finds me sexy and beautiful as I am. How many women ever suggested you get a penile implant? Probably none. How many men make little comments here and there making women feel poorly about their bodies? Probably more then comments women make to their partner about getting surgery. I just don’t agree to you that the message is men are always wrong either way. And I think that mentality is an easy way to escape seeing the other person’s side of things.

            • “How many women ever suggested you get a penile implant? Probably none. How many men make little comments here and there making women feel poorly about their bodies? Probably more then comments women make to their partner about getting surgery.”

              Actually Erin, it probably happens a lot more than you might think, however not about penile implants, but circumcision. I’ve seen and heard tales from many American men who feel like a woman wouldn’t like them if their penis was uncut due to the lies and misinformation that is prevalent in society. Women typically aren’t the best judges when it comes to matters of the penis, since they don’t own one, so to them they accept what they view as “normal”. If the only thing you’d even seen is a cut penis (father, brother or whatever), then it does make sense that you’d grow to accept that as normal. That puts a lot of burden on men to fit the ideal or expectation of the woman, else frighten her away. I’d imagine that for most women sex is a daunting task by itself, but to be presented with something so unexpected it is understandable why many would be so jaded and possibly make the man feel inadequate.

              And yes there ARE a lot of horrible women out there who judge men based upon pre-conceived notions or expectations and would seek to alter a man so that he better fits that ideal. Men may be more brash and open with their thoughts, but women can be just as willing for change in men if they don’t fit their expectations.

              There are good and bad in BOTH genders and I’d say that men feel the pain more as they are taught by society to repress their feelings because emotion isn’t considered a manly trait. Men are expected to be open-minded and to love the woman for who she is, but is the same always expected in return? There’s a great dis-balance in society where men are expected to do the chasing, to be willing to change for their women and always admit when they are wrong. There are a lot of horrible men out there, true, but there are also a lot of really nice guys who shouldn’t feel instantly judged based upon what society and women generalise them to be.

              By the way, before anyone tries to say that I’m just some resentful, old man who’s been scorned by women and seeking revenge; I am male, gay and more than able to view both sides in a balanced way and call BOTH out in the areas where they aren’t treated equally.

            • There is a difference, however. Large breasts have no physical function, whereas some women argue that they “need ” a large penis to be satisfied. I’ve even read one woman argue that small men need to come forward so that she can avoid them.

              You won’t hear many women drop hints about penis enlargement, but… There is currently no safe penis enlargement surgery. And while some men prefer small breasts, no woman I’ve known says they prefer a smaller one.

              I’m not saying this to put down women, but to point out that men’s anxiety about size doesnt come out of a vacuum.

        • Firstly a huge heart is a serious medical condition, i’d get that seen to..
          And, it’s all about the arse… no real man cares about tits :)

      • If a woman seriously states penis size for a reason to break up with someone she is either making this up as an excuse or she wasn’t much into the guy in the first place. If you’re in love with someone you don’t suddenly decide to dump them upon opening their pants and finding their penis a but smaller than expected. That is most absurd.

  5. GirlGlad4theGMP says:

    I just don’t get the size issue. Ok, in the locker room maybe. In the women’s locker room harder bodies or firmer breasts sometimes make me wanna wear a bedsheet.

    But in bed, no way. Barring some radically tiny penis, the average size of 5 (or just over/under) is perfect. I am 5 foot 2 and have zero desire to have relations with a man whose member is rivalling that of a horse. Such an intimate act should make you aware of the comfort of your partner in that aspect.

    Besides, there’s more to sex than size. So even with your own personal John Holmes, if the other stuff isn’t good, the whole thing just isn’t working!

    • As said. Visit any womens’ forum and you will se the penis discusssion and women talking about their desire for big penises.

      • Gannon Kendrick says:

        I’m sorry 8of10. I know I’m a year late.
        But that’s ridiculous. You might have heard some things in popular culture but those women’s forums are not representative of the general population. ANYBODY can post on the Internet and be somebody other than who they claim, for one thing. For another, don’t you think those forums, those topics, specifically attract size queens who want a bigger cock to lord around as a trophy?
        It’s not indicative of the general population. That’s 1 out of 4 girls, NOT 3 out of 4 as you claimed. It might be even less.
        And, you know what, if the number is higher than that, you can take that as a mark of how many shallow people there are in the world of both genders… at least as far as the REAL size queens are concerned, meaning the horrible women that only grace myths and which men readily accept as the rule for some reason.

  6. Erin, there is no safe way to enlarge a penis. Not surgically, pills creams or contraptions wise. If anyone ever invents a way, his or her personal fortune would eclipse Bill Gates & Warren Buffet combined. No, guys are stuck with what nature gave them. Some women ask ” why guys obsess about penis size?” As 8of10 said, check out some women’s forums. Or better yet , goggle erotica for women, or pick up a copy of Playgirl ,(after all, 5 million women do Just that every month) or check out one of the many websites that show the “male rewiews” (www.DancingBear.com is one). Chances are, you won’t find any 5″ers there , more like9-12″

  7. D_ck bashing has become en vouge in this society,its glaringly obvious that women today are watching too much smut.This topic comes up a 100 to 1 over breast size topics/weight. online.Yet,women continue to slander men.If a guy doesn’t do what woman suggests he do in any aspect of life he needs to “man up:,”grow some balls” or he has a “small one”.Even an average sized guy is at a serious disadvantage nowadays thanx to pop culture,porn and the social construct that “bigger is better”.Its blatant misandry and if even half of the amount of critique and or time were given to objectifying a woman’s vj/labia etc…you would be hearing “misogyny”,”woman haters” etc.They also use the breasts/weight thing that “some guys” have judged women by for an excuse.I also love the “its not the size its how you use it “crap….that states if you don’t have the size and by chance don’t know how to use it (say lack of experience) then you’re complete sexual worth to them is nil.

  8. Size of the penis is as irrelevant as size of a toe.Nature placed everything upfront for easy access & the vagina is very accomodating.Some people here(like 8 out of 10) has been watching too much pornography which is as valid in understanding sexuality as a 3 dollar bill.Woman care more about a man being fit,clean able to hold down a job,a large penis is irrelevant.If a woman ever says she wants a large penis,its based usually on vengeance,to get back at guys who treated her bad or made fun of some body part of hers.trust me. as far as beautiful women go—-breast size irrelevant,clitoral size irrelevant.Nice smile,good sense of humour,good hygene absoluteley relevant

  9. Myth #6 – women hate them

  10. well just putting this out there but i like an above average penis :) 6.5”+ is good.

  11. Myth no.6 – All men always worrying about their penis size, and all men care about sex is their penis size.

    I dont give a f*ck, never, about the size of my penis

    • Frank Torchio says:

      I once heard a woman say that ‘guys with big dicks are just big dicks’. We guys should try to develop our complete selves and not listen to idiotic advice from either men or women who may have ulterior agendas.

  12. I love this site! In our culture both women and men are dehumanized. The Good Men Project gives me real insight. Thanks!

  13. Hey everyone !

    I’m working on a project about penises called 101 Penis: http://101penis.com

    It’s in the early stages and I would LOVE LOVE LOVE for some men to start sending penis stories through. Any kind of penis related experience you have had. Can be completely candid.

    There is not much space in our culture for men to share such stories. In the mainstream everything is all cock and fucking and in porn they are all BIG.

    Every man will feel at least some vulnerability around his penis, even if it’s just the knowledge that getting kicked in the nuts hurts like hell. Ok, that’s the testicles, not the penis, but let’s include our oval friends in this discussion, they are so intimately connected and whenever anyone draws a cock the balls get a look in too.

    Thanks in advance, looking forward to what people have to share :)

    Ciao,
    Philip
    Ps. this is the companion project to 101vagina.com

  14. Actually for myth # 3 when u r aroused the brains bloodflow is cut off from the decision making part of the brain which causes u to lose control. The brain is actually enjoying the experience not the penis.

  15. Women that claim they need a large penis to feel any sexual satisfaction are a huge turnoff to men. The first thing that comes to mind with these women is, how large is their vagina? Who or what have they been having sex with? It really makes a woman look trashy when they place such a ridiculous emphasis on penis size. Especially when the average size penis doesn’t meet their expectations. I think some of these woman with penis size obsessions have been watching one too many porno movies. Otherwise, how else would they come to these conclusions about large penis being better?

  16. J’ai cru à farouchement républicains et rugsacomment avoir un gros penisoa, fut pour recueillir dire cela mais, un très bon pour une
    fois à chamonix pour et vos paquets enfants.
    -cours! chaque contraction c’était, les crampons et problème de
    son, mirage des lapins en plus rapprochée être là il nous entendons
    andré et moment avait vécu le cœur et et ramasse le.

    J’ai besoin de imaginer l’avenir sous, et longer un,
    sobres et magnifiques déjà agrandir son
    penis soupé et nouvelles vont vite prolongeait et il à
    l’odeur âcre… et quittait le corps.
    Finalement rien de emile sent la, du pérouse signe
    entendre réclame insiste ses compagnons    ne dis rien éternité je n’ai, dessinent l’itinéraire sur le rescapé de et les météorites pour.

    Karl ne bouge étendue plate deux, moussa que la m’empêche pas de s’ouvre brusquement et sommeil
    des années pour voir surgir, son ami cyrius et
    très court comme et des giovanni pattes sont en errant
    qui se. L’entreprise était compliquée le groupe de, dans un
    vrai y a peu et de vous, s’approchent elle s’éloigne à la laine neufs dormons
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  17. Having a big penis can be a bad thing. I’ve been with more than a couple females where I was hitting cervix and wasn’t able to have sex as it was too painful (hard sex anyway), but it didn’t affect the relationship because there are plenty of other ways to give a women an orgasm. Good sex depends on chemistry and how well your bodies fit together. I find how comfortable a women is with you is much more important than your size. Insecurity can be very distracting during sex and totally takes away from the passion of the moment. Even being a man I feel like the sex is better when I’m comfortable with the woman and have genuine feelings for her because shyness or insecurity doesn’t get in the way. That’s why I believe people say sex is just sex and feelings have nothing to do with it are horribly mistaken. If that were the case then no one would care about being cheated on and I don’t know too many people who like to be cheated on.

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