Does Penis Size Actually Affect Female Sexual Pleasure?

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Do heterosexual women have an easier time reaching orgasm if their partner has a larger than average penis? For several decades, the answer reported in most sexuality textbooks has been an emphatic no. However, this answer is based largely on speculation by Masters and Johnson in their classic 1966 book Human Sexual Response [1], in which they argued that the vagina is highly elastic (and therefore capable of accommodating a range of sizes) and contains relatively few nerve endings. But what do women actually think? Is there a relationship between penis size and personal pleasure? A new study suggests that there is for some, but not most women [2].

In this research, 323 sexually active women (most of whom were university students from Scotland) completed an online survey about their sexual attitudes and experiences. The survey inquired about the frequency with which they reach orgasm, how much they enjoy different forms of sexual stimulation, and how an above average length penis affects their ability to reach orgasm during penile-vaginal penetration. “Above average” was defined as longer than a U.S. dollar bill or £20 note (which corresponds to 6.1 and 5.8 inches, respectively).

Results revealed that fully 50% of the sample reported never having had an orgasm during intercourse or that they did not have enough prior sexual partners to make size comparisons. These participants were therefore excluded from the main analyses. Of the remaining half of the sample (i.e., those women the study authors deemed “qualified to judge penis size importance”), approximately one-third of them (33.8%) reported that a longer penis makes them more likely to orgasm. The rest of the participants reported that penis length makes no difference in their ability to reach orgasm (60.0%) or that longer penises actually make them less likely to climax (6.3%). The researchers also found that among those women who preferred longer penises, they reported experiencing the most vaginal (but not clitoral) orgasms in the past month.

Of course, this study has some major limitations. For one thing, they only asked about penile length and not girth (i.e., width). It is unclear why the authors only assessed length in light of past research suggesting that women tend to care more about girth than length [3]. In addition, this research is correlational, which means that we do not know whether longer penises really cause more female orgasms. It could be that some other variable is confounded with having a bigger penis (e.g., perhaps well-endowed men are perceived as more attractive and confident, or maybe they have more sexual experience and ability), meaning that it may not be size itself that matters so much as one of these other characteristics. In support of this idea, those women who preferred longer penises in this study appeared to be having sex more frequently, which would seem to be a plausible cause of more orgasms.

All in all, this study tells us that bigger is indeed better for some women, but most do not think it makes any difference at all in terms of their sexual pleasure. This is consistent with other research indicating that the vast majority of heterosexual women in relationships (85%) report no complaints regarding the size of their partners’ genitals. Findings like this suggest that rather than perseverating on the size of their penis and trying to enhance it with the hope of pleasing their partners, men should focus their efforts on communicating with their partners and learning what really matters to them in bed.

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[1] Masters, W. H., & Johnson, V. E. (1966). Human sexual response. New York: Bantam Books.

[2]Costa, R. M., Miller, G. F., & Brody, S. (in press). Women who prefer longer penises are more likely to have vaginal orgasms (but not clitoral orgasms): Implications for an evolutionary theory of vaginal orgasm. Journal of Sexual Medicine.

[3] Shaeer, O., Shaeer, K., & Shaeer, E. (2012). The Global Online Sexuality Survey (GOSS): Female sexual dysfunction among Internet users in the reproductive age group in the Middle East. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 9, 411–442.

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