Straight Talk Advice

Aug 05, 2014

Self-confidence and resourcefulness more important than “size”

Dear Straight Talk: I'm 20 and I hope you take this question seriously as a men's-rights issue because nobody talks about it except through hurtful jokes. With no concern that men might have body-image issues, girls seem to think it's okay to laugh about a guy's "size" — all the while, insisting size doesn't matter! I had one girl laugh at my size and another break up with me over it. This hurts and I'm nervous about getting in a new relationship. I'd really like some honesty from girls about what matters and from guys about how to deal with this (not that anyone will admit he's small; it's the ultimate shameful thing for a guy). —James, Lenexa, Kansas

Katherine 17, Redding, Calif. Ask me a question

It's time we realize men are insecure about body image, too. Those girls are not worth the stress. I know girls who like a bigger size, and it may seem like all girls do, but I guarantee, most don't care.

Brandon 22, Mapleton, Maine Ask me a question

Lots of guys worry about being “small”. It's on every dude's mind, the whole, “I hope she's not expecting X”. Truthfully, from girls I've spoken with, the saying is true: “Size doesn't matter, it's how you use it.” However, not every girl shares that belief, as you've noted. I had a friend who was very open about having three inches. Why? Because he and his girlfriend (who scored high on the “hot-o-meter”) enjoyed their sex life very much. My friend was willing to work with her sexually, worrying about HER climax before he worried about his. What girl could laugh at a guy who wasn't well endowed when she was having the best orgasms of her life?

Nicole 24, Grass Valley, Calif. Ask me a question

A boyfriend of mine was smaller than average. On our first time, he said, “I know it's small, but let's work with it.” And let me tell you, we worked with it! I hear the hurt you've endured, but don't be discouraged. You have everything needed to please a woman.

Justin 27, Redding, Calif. Ask me a question

I understand male body-image issues. I was mocked constantly, “Ew, you're so skinny! Eat something!” I still hesitate going shirtless in front of new people — and I'm in fantastic shape! Everyone rails about media depictions of females, yet every male superhero and action star has an impossible-to-obtain image, driving many boys to steroids. All boys grow up hearing they'll be inadequately endowed. I'm not big, and I could be nervous or ashamed, but the fact is, there's nothing I can do about it! Why even spend even a second thinking about it? If a girl is so shallow she can't enjoy what I've got, that's her problem.

Ryann 17, Tustin, Calif. Ask me a question

The most important quality, to me, is personality. If someone just cares about your appearance, that person obviously doesn't care to know you on a deep personal level, which is what a good sex life is all about.

Rachel 22, Corte Madera, Calif. Ask me a question

Unfortunately, pornography has glorified large penises, but with erect size averaging five inches, there's a LOT of variation. Vaginas are all different, too. I had a boyfriend say he'd never seen one like mine, which made me think something was wrong with me — which was ridiculous! Some people are just mean, usually due to their own insecurities. They aren't worthy of you. With the right person, nothing is an issue.

Dear James: I cringe at your mistreatment and take this very seriously. The good news is, you had the cojones and resourcefulness to write us! Self-confidence and resourcefulness are a man's sexiest features (Brandon's friend is a good example). While you can't change certain things — or certain people — you can change your own thinking and have a wonderful sex life. Imagine you're an athlete in a slump. To get back in the game, stop comparing, shrug off negative thoughts (they are ridiculous), let the past go, and focus on your partner. If you don't get anywhere, I recommend a good counselor and/or the Landmark Forum.

Editor's Note: I'm so glad James wrote in on this topic. He is correct that penis size is more the object of snickers and jokes than respectful discussion — either that, or the subject is taboo. I'll be amazed if all our newspapers run this column. If this was a women's body part being ridiculed, or censored from discussion, the women's movement would be up in arms.

Actually there is one place where penis size is being discussed a LOT. That's in your spam filter. Click on, actually don't click on any of those links or you'll be taken to pseudo-scientists hawking non-surgical stretchers, vacuum pumps, "exercises", pills, sprays, and lotions — none of which, according to the Mayo Clinic's website, are effective and some which cause permanent damage to the penis. Ouch.

Everything you wanted to know about penis size but were afraid to ask: From everything I read, almost all men who think they are "small" are within the typical size range of 3.8"-6.3" at erection, with average being 5" at erection, according to Wikipedia. There is a condition, though, thought to be due to fertility drugs and other endocrine disruptors, known as micropenis, which is when the penis is less than 2.75" long when erect. This condition is recognizable in infancy and occurs in only 0.6 percent of males and can be treated hormonally.

So are men are just catching up to women in the insecurity department? Hardly. Women still galactically exceed men in this department. That said, male body-image issues have gone from 0-60 in the past 20 years, coincident with pornography becoming an unfortunate staple in the online diet of many males, including prepubescent boys, who grow up not measuring up to the "wood" they see in pornography. Frankly, this industry is proving itself to be as bad for good sex as the "Whopper" and "Big Mac" are for good health.

Regarding actual surgery, Fortune magazine reports that there were only 61 surgical penile enhancements in 2013 in the U.S. (the fewest in the world, other than Iran), compared to 313,000 breast augmentations (the most in the world, Brazil running a close second). The top prize last year went to Germany with 2,786 penile enhancements. The comparatively low numbers may be because, according to the Mayo Clinic, the surgery, at best, only adds a half inch to the relaxed penis, and infections, scarring, and loss of sensation or function can result.

The penis is complicated piece of equipment! Best to leave well enough alone. Most men are within the normal size range and even if they are on the small side of that range, most women are more concerned about the resourcefulness, character, and personality of the man behind the penis than its size — or even its erectile function. With good communication around sex, and because the overwhelming majority of women's orgasms don't even require a penis, a great sex life is there for any man if he gives it a go. Counseling can really help! Women can help, too, by treating men with compassion, as they themselves would want to be treated. I really appreciate James' and the panel's honesty on the topic and hope we start a productive conversation. —Lauren

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  1. By Jennifer, age 16, from Sacramento, CA on 08/06/2014

    I think guys worry about things like this way too much.  I’ve never been intimate enough with a guy to see “it,”  but when the time comes that I am, the size of it will be the last thing I will worry about.  I’m much more concerned about a guy’s character and how he treats me, and I think that’s true of most girls.  I do have friends who are intimate with their boyfriends who talk about some very explicit things, but I’ve never heard anyone being concerned about the size of it.  It’s like girls who worry about the size of their breasts.  Guys like to look at girls with big breasts, but I don’t think it’s their main concern when it comes to wanting to be with a girl.  I’m about average and it doesn’t concern my boyfriend that I’m not bigger.  However, my stepsister is so paranoid about the size of her breasts that she actually stuffs her bra!  We share a room on visitations, so I’ve seen her bare breasts many times and there is nothing wrong with them or their size and they are no smaller than many of my friend’s whom I’ve seen nude who have no problem finding boyfriends.  I can’t help laughing when I see her stuffing her bra, and she really gets mad.  For both guys and girls, size is not what matters to the opposite sex.

    Jennifer

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    1. By J.R., age 23, from Northern CA on 08/07/2014

      Jennifer, right there with you on personality. I didn’t fall for my husband because of his appearance, I fell in love with him because we had so much in common, he was kind to me, intelligent, and funny. For me it was and is one hundred percent personality. I mean don’t get me wrong, I can see a guy and go, “Oh he’s hot” but it’s a passing thought. Any woman (or man) worth being with will care more about who you are, not something superficial like penis or breast size.

      As for your stepsister, I understand why you laugh but I have a request. Imagine how self-conscious and insecure your stepsister must be to feel the need to stuff her bra. I would beg you to hold back your laughter in the future, and perhaps instead when you see her comment on something about her looks you really like. Heck, even compliment her breasts if that won’t come across wrong, or tell her that she looks about the same as many of your friends who have boyfriends. Even if she insists you are ‘wrong’ and that ‘she is hideous’ or you are lying I guarentee you, it will help her in the long run, and you will have the gift of knowing you’ve hopefully helped someone with deep confidence problems somewhat overcome them.

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  2. By C.N., age 17, from Santa Ana, CA on 08/08/2014

    I’ve only seen the penises of and had sex with 2 guys.  One was somewhat bigger than the other when he had a boner, but I could not feel any noticeable difference during intercourse or oral sex.  In fact, sex was better with the guy who was smaller because he was more experienced and knew better how to pleasure a girl.  He also had much better “staying power,” and that is much more important than size.

    I think it’s true that guys worry too much about the size of their penises, and girls worry too much about the size of their breasts.  Like Jennifer’s stepsister, my sister is paranoid about being flat chested and thinks that’s why she doesn’t have a boyfriend, so she also “stuffs” but it hasn’t done her any good.  We share a room and see each other nude and her breasts are not that much smaller than average, based upon other girls whose breasts I have seen.  Besides that, if she gets close enough with a guy to let him touch her there, it will be obvious that she’s “stuffed” and that likely will turn him off.  I agree that size is only of minor importance to most guys and girls.

    C.N.

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  3. By P.R., age 17, from Anaheim, CA on 08/08/2014

    I’m gay, so I thought I would write from that perspective.  Personally, I find a big penis to be a bigger turn on than a small one, and also find it more pleasurable during anal intercourse.  Therefore, I prefer a large penis to a small one when it comes to pure sex.  However, when it comes to a serious relationship, it is not a major concern and as the girls have written, I am much more concerned with someone’s kindness and character.

    On the breast issue, since I’m not attracted to girls in the first place, a girl’s breast size means nothing to me.  However, I know that my sister really worries about it, although her breasts look fine to me even though I’m obviously not a good one to judge.  We have to share a room and my mom and sister see no problem with it since I’m gay, and there’s no risk of sexual stimulation.  Like other guys who have written to Straight Talk, my sister has no problem with nudity in front of me, especially since I’m gay.  However, even though it does not give me sexual feelings like it does with others who have written, it still makes me very uncomfortable and embarrassed to have to see her nude as well as to have to undress in front of her and have her see me.

    P.R.

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    1. By Sam, age 19, from Citrus Heights, CA on 08/08/2014

      I just want to say that P.R. doesn’t speak for all gays.  For me, a small penis is just as attractive as a large one, and I have experienced no difference in anal intercourse, either.  What is more important to me is shaving.  I fine a cleanly shaven pubic region a great turn on and shave mine regularly, and boyfriend also likes me that way.  There was a Straight Talk column about the shaving and waxing issue for girls, but I’ve never seen anything written about it for guys.  I can only speak for myself, but I find a guy why is cleanly shaven much more attractive than someone who is “hairy,” and that is far more important to me than size.

      Sam

      Reply to this comment

  4. By Tom, age 16, from Rohnert Park, CA on 08/08/2014

    I’m glad to hear that size isn’t that important to girls.  My stepbrothers, whom I have to share my room with when they stay with us, are bigger than I am in every way, including our penises.  They put me down for not being big and “macho” like they are and especially put me down for having a smaller penis than they do and go out of their way to make sure I see the “evidence.”  They say that no girl will ever be interested in someone who is so “tiny” down there.  It normally doesn’t bother me for other guys to see me naked, and I have no problem with my guy friends seeing me.  However, it’s become so humiliating that I have to leave my own room and change in the bathroom when they’re here.  I’d rather let them have my room when they’re here and share my sister’s room, but my mom and stepdad won’t allow it and say we need to “learn to get along.”  My sister is willing.  We are close and trust each other and could handle the “undressing” issue that has been written about in Straight Talk many times by just turning the other way.  I don’t know why others have not thought of this very simple solution to this issue.  I don’t see why P.R. couldn’t do this.  Nobody is forcing him to look at his sister when she’s nude, and he could ask her to also look the other way when he undresses.

    Tom

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  5. By Leslie, age 17, from Carmichael, CA on 08/09/2014

    I agree that this is not a big issue for me or for most girls I know.  I’m no expert, as the only penis I’ve seen is my twin brother’s.  I’ve read the Straight Talk columns that say that it’s a bad idea for a brother and sister to share a room and see each other naked, so nobody needs to comment on that in my case.  While it may be a problem for some, it has never been a problem for us, maybe because we’re twins.  We’re very close and are able to advise each other about explicit matters concerning the opposite sex, but there is nothing sexual between us.  I can ask his opinion about how my shaving and waxing looks from a guys perspective, and he can ask me about things like his penis size. 

    He’s worried about his size, but I’ve told him that it certainly looks big enough to me, especially when he has an erection.  Just like all teenage guys, he gets erections, but I don’t take it as sexual attraction toward me, since he gets them just as often when I’m completely dressed as when I’m undressed in our room.  I’ve told him that size would not make a difference to me and from what I’ve heard from friends who are having sex with their boyfriends, it is not something that they are concerned about.

    Leslie

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    1. By T.C., age 17, from Toledo, OH on 08/09/2014

      Leslie,

      I know you say that nobody needs to comment on the brother-sister room sharing/undressing issue in your case, and it’s not actually this week’s topic.  However, based upon my experience, I really feel the need to comment anyway.  My twin brother and I had always shared a room and preferred it that way, even though we have an older sister who has her own room with whom I could have shared.  We weren’t shy about undressing in front of each other and even seeing him with a boner when he started getting them didn’t concern me, as I figured that all guys get them from what I’ve heard.

      Then, one night he came home drunk from a party and made a “pass” at me in our room, if you know what I mean.  It scared me to death, and I knew then and there that I could NOT go on sharing a room with him!  I didn’t want to get him in major trouble by telling our mom what happened, so I just told her that we were no longer comfortable sharing a room as opposite sexes and that I should start sharing with our sister.  She said she totally understood and had always assumed that we would need to make this change some day, but had never brought up the issue since everything had seemed to be working out so far.  My sister was not happy about it to say the least after always having her own room, and took it out on me by being very mean to me at first.  However, after a few months, she came to accept it and realized that it was necessary.  We are now getting along fine.  We even had to get used to undressing in front of each other as we never had since we were in separate rooms.  It may sound strange, but in the beginning, I was less comfortable undressing in front of her than I had been with my brother before the “incident.”  But since we’re both girls and are sisters, it didn’t take long to get comfortable with each other in this way and now we’re actually pretty casual about nudity in front of each other in our room.

      After he sobered up my brother apologized profusely, and promised that it would never happen again.  I believe him and forgave him, and I never told our mom what happened.  I still love my brother very much, but I could never share a room with him again.  Looking back, I think we should have made the room change when we reached puberty at the very latest.  If we had done so, this never would have happened.

      T.C.

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      1. By LAUREN, from StraightTalkAdvice.org on 08/11/2014

        T.C.—Thank you so much for sharing this. And SO GLAD you switched rooms and, in this case, have forgiven him. Immature guys really are not able to control things always, especially when drunk. It’s such a perilous situation when opposite-sex siblings are thrown together in one bedroom! I’m really glad you handled it like you did and shared it with us. For all we know, all this time, it’s been very difficult for him, like other brothers have shared, but they never let on out of embarrassment.

        Leslie—I hope you are hearing this and will get a room divider ASAP! Our columns on this can be read at http://straighttalkadvice.org/teen-advice/entry/hey_sis_put_some_clothes_on

        Love, Lauren

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  6. By David, age 80, from Auburn on 08/10/2014

    The Auburn paper ran your column. I was a bit surprised but I heartily agree that size is less important than what is done with it. But something here is missing. I think it would be a very good thing is all young men had to take a class on how to satisfy a woman. Very few learn the need or the art of foreplay. It has been generally thought that “Doing what comes naturally” does in fact come naturally. It is an art to be learned with long term benefits. And in case you are wondering it is not necessarily over when he gets to be 80 (my age). So guys, learn the art of good foreplay. All body parts are involved not just your penis.

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  7. By Laurie, age 53, from Newcastle, CA, USA on 08/10/2014

    Regarding this column which appeared today, 8/10, in our local paper:

    Let me say that it is EXTREMELY INAPPROPRIATE to have a 17 year old female (“Katherine”) included in the panel answering this question. A) it is illegal in every state for a 17 year old to have sex with a 20 year old; and B) too many teens, girls and boys alike, rush into intimately sexual relationships and having sex at 17 should not be encouraged through her response in print.

    If teens are struggling with their sexuality and inquiring about initiating sexual relationships then peers their own age responding in kind to the problem would be appropriate; however a 17 year old female responding to a 20 year old male’s question about the size of his penis is disturbing.

    Reply to this comment

    1. By Sharon, age 17, from Carmichael, CA on 08/10/2014

      Get real, Laurie.  I’m not saying it’s a good thing and I’m 17 and still a virgin.  However, the fact is that many underage girls are having sex, and it does no good to say that in an advice column for teenagers, that teenage girls (or guys) should not be allowed to comment on sexual issues.  You need to get your head out of the sand.  It’s like those who think underage girls shouldn’t be given information about birth control because it supposedly would keep them from having sex.  LOL! It just leads to teenage pregnancy.  Is that what you would want???

      My sister is only 16 and sad to say, she is already sexually active.  She wanted me to help her wax so she would look good for her boyfriend,  since we’re sisters and share a room and are comfortable with seeing each other nude.  I refused to do it especially because of the reason, but it didn’t do any good as she found a friend to help her.  I don’t know the answer, but not pretending that under age teenage sex does not go on and those who are underage should not be allowed to discuss it, is NOT the answer!

      I really like Straight Talk because it allows open discussion of these matters, rather than sweeping them under the rug and pretending that they do not exist.

      Sharon

      Reply to this comment

  8. By LAUREN, from StraightTalkAdvice.org on 08/11/2014

    Dear All—I really appreciate all the comments that have come in on this topic. It’s so important, but rarely talked about. I’m very proud of our papers, too. Only 1 out of 11 asked for an alternative column! I was really surprised.

    Super great to hear from quite a few guys, plus all you girls who shared, and older readers Laurie and David! Yay! Thanks also to Sharon for explaining to Laurie why you like Straight Talk. :)—Love, Lauren

    Reply to this comment

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