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Penis size may be driven by women (oh, and it matters)

How important is penis size? Authors from the Australian National University, Monash and La Trobe provide the most complete answer yet: the size of a flaccid penis can significantly affect how attractive…

Warning: This article may contain traces of jokes about penises – most unintended. Lynie

How important is penis size?

Authors from the Australian National University, Monash and La Trobe provide the most complete answer yet: the size of a flaccid penis can significantly affect how attractive a man’s body is to women.

Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (a journal commonly known by its initials as PNAS), Brian Mautz, Bob Wong, Richard Peters and Michael Jennions use a clever experimental manipulation of computer-generated imagery - CGI - to test the effects of variation in penis size relative to height and torso shape (shoulder width relative to waist width) on the attractiveness of male bodies to women.

twiga269 ॐ FEMEN

While they found that torso shape was by far the most important determinant of attractiveness, penis size has about as much influence on attractiveness as height.

It’s the kind of science made for easy-reading 100 word news-porn in the tabloid press (“Size really does matter”). Or for wowser columnists to work up a morning’s indignation that a scientist somewhere did something interesting when everybody knows the rules:

Scientists should be finding new ways to extract coal-seam gas or cure the cancers that tend to afflict late-middle-age columnists (see the recent controversy when Fox News attacked Patricia Brennan’s research on duck penises).

If Tom Waterhouse wasn’t so busy swotting for Friday night football, he’d have already installed Mautz as hot favourite for the next igNobel Prize (for science that makes you laugh and then makes you think).

And yet for such a tabloid-ready topic, the paper itself is a study in how science should proceed in sober and restrained steps.

Evolution of penises

Genitalia tend to vary more dramatically than almost any other physical trait. And evolutionary biology has made stunning progress in resolving why.

For the most part, studies of animal penis size and shape have focused on the effectiveness of various structures in delivering sperm to where it needs to be, in removing sperm that a female had received from previous mates, in stimulating the female to use that male’s sperm, or even inflicting damage on the female so she would not mate again.

bobosh_t

One of the more striking features of the human penis, when compared with other primates, is its length. Relative to body size, the human penis dwarfs that of bonobos, common chimpanzees, gorilla and orangutan. And our erect stance and face-to-face social interactions make the penis a highly conspicuous feature.

That conspicuousness has led anthroplogists and pop-scientists alike to speculate on the potential for penises to act as a sexual signal. Some have even suggested that a large penis may be a signal of more general health and vigour, and that the evolutionary loss of the human baculum (penis bone) may make the penis an honest signal because size and arousal can’t be faked.

The function any preferences for penis size serve remain, for now, largely in the province of hypothetical speculation. Because much murkiness surrounds whether such preferences exist, and if so just how important those preferences are.

Hot property

Titillating news stories, fictional references and even song lyrics belie a persistent fascination with properties of the penis. That fascination hints at a deeper, largely unspoken obsession with the links between size, virility, masculinity and attractiveness.

Gino

Some might say that penis size presents an exclusively male obsession - pointing to the importance of embellishments such as Renaissance codpieces and New Guinea phallocarps in male-male interactions. Are not men at least as obsessed about questions of size as women?

Unfortunately for this line of argument, men are expected to obsess about precisely the traits that women - overtly or subtly - use to discriminate among mates.

And a strong whiff of male insecurity about how women are likely to judge their equipment inheres to most public discourse about penis size.

What Goldilocks saw

Consider what I call the Goldilocks cop-out. Most media stories on the topic of penis size conclude that as long as the penis in question isn’t way too big or way too small, it’s likely to be “just right”.

And within the large zone of “just-rightness”, few commentators are willing to claim that size really matters.

.sophie.wilson.

The Goldilocks cop-out mollifies male insecurity. If evolutionary pyschologists are right - and I believe they are - then men’s obsession with paternity presents a tectonic force shaping behaviour and societies. It doesn’t take much imagination to see that part of that insecurity can be bound up in fears about penile inadequacy.

Makers of penis enlargers promising “extra inches” and purveyors nasal snake-oil guaranteeing “longer-lasting sex” exploit those fears. Fears that they will never attract a mate. And fears in those who already have a mate that they might inadvertently be raising another man’s progeny.

Measuring up

If one accepts women may have preferences for penises of a certain size, one is left with the not-inconsiderable challenge of how to measure such preferences. Asking people doesn’t always work.

davitydave

Women - and men - have all sorts of reasons to prevaricate, or to grow indignant that the question has even been asked.

My colleague Barnaby Dixson used a series of five line drawings, manipulated to have different sized flaccid penises, to study women’s preferences in Cameroon, China, New Zealand and the USA.

He found that slightly larger than average penises tend to be favoured by women.

Important as this study was, it cannot illuminate how important penis preferences are relative to other preferences - such as for muscular torsos or for taller men. If the only thing that varies among stimuli in an experiment is the trait of interest, then we shouldn’t be surprised to find it has an effect.

And subjects quickly cotton on to what the experiment is about. Also, the smallest and largest penises may have just looked strange, relative to the body on which they had been drawn.

Enter the Avatar

Mautz and colleagues used a higher-tech method, building three-dimensional computer models - 343 models in all - that varied in torso shape, height and flaccid penis size.

They then showed each female subject a subset of 53 bodies, one at a time, projected life-size on a wall, and asked them to rate the attractiveness of each on a 7-point scale.

Still images of three of the stimulus models, illustrating the extremes in variation. At left: short stature, low shoulder: waist ratio, small penis. Right: tall stature, large shoulder: waist ratio, large penis. Centre: intermediate for all three traits. Dr Brian S. Mautz.

According to Mautz, the life-size projection of the images was important:

While using small figures can provide important insights into how mate-choice might affect particular traits, I think responses will be affected by the size of the pictures (or stimuli if you will). Ever wonder why they do so many close-ups in pornographic videos?

Well, no. But moving right along.

For me, the stroke of genius was the independent manipulation of three traits, two of which (height and torso shape) are already well-known to influence attractiveness.

This allowed Mautz and his colleagues to calculate that penis size affects attractiveness - of CGI models at least - about as much as height does.

It also allowed them to test for interactions between penis size and the other traits. While well-endowed models tended to get the best ratings, they did so especially in taller men who had more masculine bodies.

That is to say the effects of all three traits - height, torso shape and penis size were not independent; rather, models who were tall, broad-shouldered and with large members did particularly well.

The ANU has produced a very informative video, hosted by Professor Michael Jennions, explaining the study in more detail:

Size Matters: Professor Michael Jennions.

Selection

Critics of this type of study love to point out that women usually decide if they will have sex with a man well before ever sighting his genitals. And, if so, then how can penis size influence choice?

Well, let’s just stress the importance of repeat business. A first-time disappointment can rapidly become a one-time-only thing. And an unsatisfied customer can talk to other potential customers, ruining a reputation.

Not becoming physically acquainted before making a lifetime commitment has its perils, including in the genital department. Last month the world’s media got to rehash its stock small-penis-as-grounds-for-divorce stories, when a Taiwanese woman’s wedding night was marred by the disappointing discovery that her groom’s member measured a mere five centimetres long.

In Mautz’s experiment, women certainly chose among the models presented. They took an average of three seconds before scoring each video clip - and were mercilessly faster than that with the least attractive figures. According to Mautz:

That’s so quick that you can’t really, in that short space of time, consciously go through the pros and cons of each character; that rating is an overall impression of attractiveness, not focused on any particular body part.

scion_cho

The reflex to disbelieve that women can and do discriminate about penis size echoes 150 years in which evolutionists and the public alike have often doubted that female sexual agency has the power to shape the evolution of male traits.

And yet female choice - across the animal world - represents one of the most potent forces driving the evolution of male traits.

Showing that women choose among large numbers of CGI models isn’t quite the same as showing their in-the-flesh mating decisions are biased in quite the same ways. Eye-tracking technology confirms that while men tend to look at the faces and chests of pictures of nude women, women tend to look at the faces and crotches of nude men.

For now, Mautz’s study suggests that female choice may well be responsible for the prodigious size of the human male penis.

Even if not everyone feels comfortable admitting it.


Please include Professor Michael Jennions @Mikejennions and me @Brooks_Rob in any tweets.

Join the conversation

116 Comments sorted by

  1. Gerard Dean

    Managing Director

    Being an early riser I often comment first on interesting articles on The Conversation.

    This morning however, I may not, especially after comparing myself against the 3 avatars. Whilst I matched the tall one in the upper body area, sadly, I fell short in the lower area, well short.

    Thank you for making my day.

    Gerard Dean

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    1. Stuart Purvis-Smith

      Clinical Cytogeneticist (retired)

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Good morning Gerard. Never had a problem in that area myself and I find that a daily dose of JetA1 works wonders!

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    2. Ron Chinchen

      Retired (ex Probation and Parole Officer)

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Disturbing enough that we men are enslaveed by the dimensions of a woman's breasts. Now you're telling me that women suffer from a form of penile servitude.

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  2. Stephen Ralph

    carer

    hard to comment (but i will of course) on this article.

    we've had much discussion in this forum on women in today's society, and now this article would seem to put them back a step or two.

    personally i think it is just silly to even intimate that women prefer a big dick over other male qualities.

    perhaps in the dark dark past when clothing was less optional women had the chance to check the goods before sampling.......but give me a break.

    does RB really think women these days think...."hmmm wonder if he's got a big dick, i'll mate with him for better progeny"

    and in the end how many women "end up" with men with a big dick anyway.......i'm sure the greater % of women married men with an average size dick......

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    1. Rob Brooks
      Rob Brooks is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Professor of Evolutionary Ecology; Director, Evolution & Ecology Research Centre at University of New South Wales

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      Interesting and thought-provoking comment, Stephen. A couple of things:

      The kind of choice we are talking about here can operate quite separately from women (or men) "thinking" about the attributes of the model (or, in real life, a potential partner). A lot of this can operate beneath conscious awareness - but the PNAS study does show that something is operating ...

      Also, this study only assessed two other male qualities - torso shape and height. How other - perhaps more edifying - male qualities…

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    2. Stephen Ralph

      carer

      In reply to Rob Brooks

      hi rob

      thanks for your reply.

      i s'pose it might be a good thing to ask the women who comment herein what their HONEST thought are........

      and it might turn out that mens humour, sensitivity, compassion or lack thereof might actually turn women on more than any physical attribute.

      and it might be considered that an ugly head on a great body is a turn off, or that a eandsome head on an ugly body might also detract - who know.

      we are a long way from cave men days

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    3. Matty Silver
      Matty Silver is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Sex Therapist / Sex Commentator

      In reply to Rob Brooks

      Dear Rob,

      I am a sex therapist and sex commentator and happened to write a blog about penis sizes a while ago. I have to disagree with your article, I did quite some research and found that men are more worried about the size of their penis then women are.

      A review, conducted by Drs Kevan Wylie and Ian Eardley in the UK, combined the results from more than 50 international research projects into penis size since 1942 and came up with a general guideline. The ‘average’ size of an erect adult…

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    4. Rob Brooks
      Rob Brooks is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Professor of Evolutionary Ecology; Director, Evolution & Ecology Research Centre at University of New South Wales

      In reply to Matty Silver

      Thank you Matty. What you say makes perfect sense, and I will go look at the Wylie/Eardley reference. Of course the PNAS study didn't get anywhere near the question of erections, much less what one "can do with it", which I am sure is resoundingly important.

      For me the most interesting question is this sphere is why men are so likely to be unhappy with their size. I have a few ideas, but I am still grappling with how to test them in ways that aren't obvious or simplistic. Thanks for taking the time to make an informed and interesting comment.

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    5. Stephen Ralph

      carer

      In reply to Rob Brooks

      my guess as to why men are unhappy with their penis size may have a correlation with my women aren't happy with their weight or looks - the relentless perception in the media and elsewhere about perfection and image.

      men may feel they need to be a STUD, and as we all know studs have big penises.

      it's the bull in the cow paddock syndrome.

      the emphasis in sex is on men to perform and let women lie there and take it all in....!!

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    6. Matty Silver
      Matty Silver is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Sex Therapist / Sex Commentator

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      We only know that studs have large penises, since porn is so accessible. Male Porn actors are chosen solely for the size of their penis and unfortunately some men and especially young "teenage boys" believe that size is "normal" and envy the fact that theirs is so much smaller.

      Women can do something about their weight - it is impossible to change the size of one's penis - even when many advertisements will tell you they can.

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    7. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      Stephen

      Depends. On whether one is going for a fling or the long term (pun not intended).

      Penis size is just a part of the overall package, so to speak.

      No matter what dick size a man may have, if he lacks humour and a reasonable level of intelligence, 's far as I'm concerned won't be wasting my time.

      Does anyone remember Elaine on Seinfeld deciding whether a male would be a suitable sexual partner if they were "sponge-worthy"? She was right.

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    8. Stephen Wade

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Matty Silver

      I think what you are saying is reasonable; however they are not in contradiction with the discussion in the article (hence I don't understand your disagreement).

      Example:
      The conclusion that 85% of females are satisfied with their partners size does not imply that larger penises aren't preferable. You could easily observe 85% satisfaction rate amongst females and still observe a preference for larger penises. One would have to test the level of satisfaction against the length/size of the penis to determine if there is a correlation between size and satisfaction level. If (and this is probably not entirely true - it is just hypothetical) 15% of females were unsatisfied with their partners penis length/size, and all of the penises that were unsatisfactory were the smallest 15%, then you would have to conclude females prefer average or larger penises - in spite of the 85% satisfaction rate for the population.

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    9. Stephen Ralph

      carer

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      hi dianna

      yep - i mean who's gonna turn down a gorgeous face cos he's got a small whatsit?

      sponge-worthy - now there's a mental picture

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    10. Gary Myers

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      "..i'm sure the greater % of women married men with an average size dick......"

      Statistically, we can assume that about half of women end up with men with a smaller that average dick. And the other 50% 'enjoy' the larger than average.

      Perhaps we can also assume that, to extend the Goldilocks analogy, those that were too long or too short have pretty much gone by the way, and we are all closely related to those who were just right.

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    11. Henry Verberne

      Former IT Professional

      In reply to Matty Silver

      It's satisfying to have a woman's perspective on this topic. From what I can gather there are many other qualities which rate higher with women but a man with the qualities you describe and a good size penis is ticking all the boxes.

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  3. Pat Moore

    gardener

    Good one Rob...i know why you have that twinkle in your eye..agent provokteur and media tart?This one will get the pirannahs thrashing out in The Conversation stream. Bet you TC writers aim for comment records? Loved the double entendres in Gerard's and Stephen's comments! God knows we need oceans of humour in these dark days of having so much more to worry about than size of geneative organs?

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    1. Rob Brooks
      Rob Brooks is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Professor of Evolutionary Ecology; Director, Evolution & Ecology Research Centre at University of New South Wales

      In reply to Pat Moore

      Comment records are a good idea, Pat. Gonna talk to TC editors right away and see if we can set that up automatically!

      You should know how much restraint it takes to write 1600 words about penis size without lapsing into one knob joke every (short) paragraph.

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  4. Robert Darby

    logged in via Facebook

    Interesting. I wonder whether the authors of the study thought to include the structure, shape and functionality of the penis in their studies, and specifically the effect of the presence or absence of the foreskin. It is impossible to tell from the images supplied in the article. The prepuce has been a feature of both the male and female genitalia for at least 65 million years of primate evolution; among primates, human males not only have the largest penis relative to body size, but also the longest…

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  5. robert roeder
    robert roeder is a Friend of The Conversation.

    retired

    For a fair comparison maybe we should ask the the obvious question What size of female genitalia do men prefer, perhaps the answers are related.

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    1. Matty Silver
      Matty Silver is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Sex Therapist / Sex Commentator

      In reply to robert roeder

      Hi Robert,

      I believe men will probably be more interested in breast size then 'vagina' size.

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    2. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Matty Silver

      And there's another interesting thing: women in our society spend a lot of time choosing the right support to enhance their breast shape (as well as comfort, of course).

      How many men are wearing genital-enhancing underwear to "advertise" themselves?

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    3. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Not sure how effective advertising via underwear is Ms Sue ... pales into insignificance compared to the old penis gourd, though some could see it as unsubtle.

      No point hiding one's light under a bushel when you can flaunt it under a gourd!

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    4. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      There's genital-enhancing underwear? Stephen is right I do need to get out more.

      I always thought a rolled sock or two would suffice.

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  6. Doug Hutcheson

    Poet

    Compared with the avatars, I have a negative shoulder:waist ratio. My excess body fat renders any discussion of genitalia size redundant: I am reconciled to being a fat older guy and find other things to do with my time than obsess about my physical attributes. "8-)

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  7. Emma Anderson

    Artist and Science Junkie

    Perhaps the general aspects of physical attractiveness have been over-inflated (pun intended) and in this article, potentially overriding personality attractiveness ignored?

    Surely people do size each other up (pun intended again) but not just for breasts, penises etc, also for reliability, strength of character, sense of humour/conversational skill, etc.

    That would be for all genders and orientations.

    Consider maybe that physical attractiveness or attributes is an indicator of the odds…

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  8. Peter Ormonde

    Farmer

    I suspect there are far far too many confounding social factors at play to put much weight on this size preference business Dr Rob - not the least clothing and as the Taiwanese tragedy points out - the size of membership was not often seen prior to the wedding night - by which time it was all too late by far. Free to choose? Not quite.

    Moreover women of recent times have also been sold the notion that sagging size counts - no matter how underwhelming the final performance might prove to be…

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    1. Stephen Ralph

      carer

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      now there's an image...........

      perhaps the ailing channel 10 could promote a new show called "the member"......

      i think in the end penis size is a phallacy

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    2. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      "But thanks for explaining why I get so many admiring glances when I am wandering the streets of Woolibuddha in my phallocarp."

      ROFL

      Those New Guinea men have a plethora of uses for the humble gourd, don't they? Do you don a headdress of Bird of Paradise feathers to complete the look?

      I like a man with an imagination.

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    3. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      No Ms A ... I just stick with the customary tamoshanter ... I think the full headgear would seem a tad overdressed... it's only a small town and a little light on for decently decorative birds.

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    4. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Rob Brooks

      Rob

      Dale isn't Fred - two distinct entities. Yes I do know more than I am prepared to say. However I believe your use of the word 'tools' is definitely warranted.

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    5. Stephen Ralph

      carer

      In reply to Rob Brooks

      it's taking off on an evolutionary thread of it's own.........shows where a lot of our thoughts lay tho.

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    6. Rob Brooks
      Rob Brooks is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Professor of Evolutionary Ecology; Director, Evolution & Ecology Research Centre at University of New South Wales

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Was just using Occam's razor, Diana. But I've no desire to see you and Fred slanging it out over your intriguing intersecting history, so I will consider them distinct (but interchangeable).

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    7. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      MMM interesting Dianna, the two are easy to confuse though, haven't seen Mr Minns around for a while, but he and Fred have a great deal in common. This is usually the type of article they love to troll though, perhaps the moderating team are well aware of this and are taking steps. Just a thought.

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    8. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      Sadly Stephen the real remorse sets in on the wedding night I'm afraid once the true nature of the beast is revealed sans gourd. Often creates simmering issues of disappointment that no relationship in my experience can withstand. A classic case of overselling really.... grossly inflated expectations pricked by truth. Mick Jagger has the same problems I've heard.

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  9. Danderson

    logged in via Twitter

    I can see weather coming into this. In hotter environments men are more likely to be uncovered - say Alaska vs Jamaica - and also the hotter environment allows the member to hang more loosely (the Cold Pool Effect). My anecdotal experience tells me the latter is an equaliser in the member wars as they prefer to contract to warmer quarters (yes the penis too).

    In the covered scenario it's quite a different kettle of fish. It's more of a lucky dip for the lady, only finding out her good luck/misfortune at the last moment. She might flick the guy off after one disappointing encounter but for him that one insemination might be enough. So while she bails up her Ron Jeremy for the long haul Mr Weener is jumping from one to the next so might even produce a greater number of offspring.

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  10. Sue Ieraci

    Public hospital clinician

    Has the author found any evidence for the "law of inverse proportionality"?

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    1. Emma Anderson

      Artist and Science Junkie

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Are you referring to the "pocket rocket" concept (the bigger the man, the smaller his appendage) or the Russel Peters joke about the population of Asia being proof that smaller men make more use of their equipment?

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    2. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Reminds me of a skit from Andrew Dice Clay: "Bodybuilders, three hundred pounds of explosive with a one inch fuse."

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  11. Stephen Ralph

    carer

    all jokes aside....there's this old gay (ish) joke that ends with - "is it in yet?"

    now if you really want a penis culture try homosexuality for size.

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    1. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      Stephen

      That's a gay joke? Nah, nada, no.

      However, for reasons of, erm, comfort I would've thought a smaller penis would be preferable to one that really penetrates. However, that does explain the highly profitable business of sex aids such as the anus enlarger. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

      ;)

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    2. Stephen Ralph

      carer

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      speaking of which - i wonder if women buy dildoes just as a hen party chuckler, or if there is significant use of the aforementioned.

      it sort of has a correlation with this discussion thread.........

      i'm leaving the anus enlarger out of this ....... to tell you the truth i've never heard of it......perhaps you get out too much now.

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  12. Peter Kington

    Raconteur, ideas man and food whore at Self Employed

    I'm interested to know when the companion study will be done?

    That is, the study which measures whether heterosexual men choose their mate according to the size of their breasts; the common criterion being sexual organs which hang from the body?

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    1. C Allan
      C Allan is a Friend of The Conversation.

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Peter Kington

      The breasts are not a sex organ, they are for nurturing the offspring. A man's attraction to well sized breasts as part of the sexual appeal of a woman is likely to be related to the way in which he subconsciously rates her ability to look after his progeny.

      This is similar to the female's preference for intelligent, successful men - they are expressing a sexual bias to a man who can provide for them and their young. Romantic movies, the soft porn for women, rarely features genital exposure. The…

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  13. Bao-Luo Zhidao

    logged in via Facebook

    I've been a reader of The Conversation for a while now, and I know it is *meant* to be a place of *intellect* ...but I'm so amused I had to respond...

    Somewhat infamous internet culture quotes can be used to express my sentiment behind all this: "jimmies were rustled" and "9/10 many lulz were had" etc etc

    Women like larger penises? Tell us something we don't know... But in what proportion to the rest of the features required for passing on our genes? Not too much I don't think. "Boo hoo hoo…

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    1. Stephen Ralph

      carer

      In reply to Bao-Luo Zhidao

      hi blz

      interesting thoughts.....

      my thoughts re evolution and the passing on of the ol gene pool would be that the size of the penis is irrelevant, more of what's in the cojones.............

      and to rehash the old joke >> a lot of humanity shows it comes from a the shallow end of the gene pool.

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    2. Emma Anderson

      Artist and Science Junkie

      In reply to Bao-Luo Zhidao

      Has 9/10 replaced over 9000 for the lulz?

      Anyway, re your question, the movie Idiocracy explains what will happen if all the smart people use condoms and all the unintelligent people don't. That is, if you subscribe to a genes as destiny type thing - afaik with intellect, genes help but environment helps more and there's the issue of slanted measurement per se, so Idiocracy is more of a if the idiot culture breeds and the not idiot culture doesn't, such is the future.

      Or something like that.

      Maybe what is the size of your Kindle library is the new what is your dick size question, if women want smart kids (with fathers wealthy enough to purchase electronics equipment)?

      Although if Idiocracy is correct it'll be more like "ZOMG you've got like over 9,000 twitter followers and all you've done is use the words "tits" "bitch" and "yo" creatively....totes celebrity and bling yo"

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  14. George Harley
    George Harley is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Retired Dogsbody

    Nature v Nurture. An Army colleague of mine was well know for his enormous appendage. His explanation for it was that as a baby, his parents had employed a one-armed nanny to look after him and she had to get him out of the bath somehow.

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  15. Pat Moore

    gardener

    Thanks Dr Rob & all for this occasion for some great humour therapy. Sexual "smutiness" as opportunity for hilarity reminds me of that great British comedy "Are You Being Served". Peter O you always have us rolling in the aisles so to speak. And yes i'd tend to think you're right about the feminine eye towards buttock musculator appraisal. The attractive thing about the West Irian penis gourd (and hail the Morning Star) is that they are so Nature based and a very artistic and striking self adornment…

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  16. Lydia Isokangas

    Australian in Finland

    It would be interesting to continue this study in Finland, and perhaps in other Nordic countries.

    In Finland where I am, people often have mixed naked saunas so the women in the market for a mate would know the all the physical attributes of the men surrounding her well before mating (or even a date) takes place.

    Has anybody studied the preferences of women who regularly see naked men? Perhaps the desirability of a large flaccid penis is an 'Anglo' thing.

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  17. Judith Olney

    Ms

    Rob it never ceases to fascinate me what attributes people find attractive in a potential mate. I could ask 10 of my female friends and get 10 totally different answers. Me, I tend to like a well developed upper body on a man, and dislike skinny legs. However, personality beats any physical attribute hands down.

    I think the perhaps unconscious preference for a larger penis size is purely biological, and mostly to do with sex as a means of procreation, rather than pleasure. For a very large number…

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    1. Matty Silver
      Matty Silver is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Sex Therapist / Sex Commentator

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Hi Judith,

      Yes it is quite interesting that there are many men and women who don't know that only 20-25% of women achieve an orgasm with penetrative sex only, even with a man with the "perfect penis"!

      Stop worrying guys!

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    2. Steve Phillips

      Nurse Practitioner

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Good comment. I cant pretend to be an expert on sex but I am aware that some women prefer clitoral stimulation to achieve orgasm and the 'size' (how is that defined?) sometimes impedes the pleasure.
      I have been surprised by requests not to use a this or that position because it results in unwanted deep penetration.
      Im only average apparently. Some research on the web relieved my male anxiety about size long ago. God bless the web I say :)

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    3. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Steve Phillips

      You make a good point, women vary in vaginal size, due to genetics, physical body size, age, having given birth, or not, and for some women having sex with a man with a large penis, would be a painful experience, which for the vast majority is not conducive to enjoyment.

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    4. Graham Houghton

      Archaeologist, Writer

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Judith, I thought that mallard drakes have been engaged in a penis arms for millenia, if not millions of years. And its less about size, more about evolving apparently fantastically intricate shapes to match the females' similarly rapid change in vagina (do ducks have vaginae?) shape as a means of limiting their availablity to drakes. And we humans think we have problems.

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  18. Dale Bloom

    Analyst

    Too big is a waste.

    Having read a number of theories from evolutionary biologists, I have become completely convinced all their theories should be tested out on themselves before inflicting them onto members of the general public.

    So the experiment should have been to "use a clever experimental manipulation of computer-generated imagery – CGI – to test the effects of variation in penis size relative to height and torso shape (shoulder width relative to waist width) on the attractiveness of male evolutionary biologists to female evolutionary biologists".

    If the experiments produce results, then it should be discussed with the public whether the experiment should take place on members of the public, or remain with evolutionary biologists only.

    That discussion could take a number of years, during which everyone could forget about it.

    Hopefully.

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    1. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      I will give you a brief account of human sexuality, without the aid of an evolutionary biologist.

      To maximise the chances of producing healthy children, most women instinctively prefer men who are not skinny and not fat. Being skinny or fat is a sign of ill-health, and this would be verified by doctors.

      Similarly, most men instinctively prefer women who are not skinny and not fat to be the mother of their children.

      However, many women also prefer men to have flat, strong stomach muscles, and firm and muscular buttocks. They seem to relate this to an increased ability of the man to carry out thrusting during sexual intercourse.

      So there you have it, a brief account of human sexuality.

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    2. Matty Silver
      Matty Silver is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Sex Therapist / Sex Commentator

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Dale - Being "skinny" is not a sign of ill-health, especially for a man. As the average "thrusting time" during sexual intercourse for males is between three and six minutes, I doubt if they need all the above attributes you mention, to do that - but women would find flat, strong stomach muscles and firm muscular buttocks extremely pleasing on the eye - I suspect!

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    3. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Matty Silver

      3 Minutes!!!!??? Whole entire minutes? Don't be so silly Ms Matty - you're just making that up.

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    4. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Matty Silver

      Normal male physique is rated most highly, and I forgot to mention, money

      For example:

      "All women, regardless of their age, education level, or family income, rated figures with WHRs [waist-to-hip ratio] in the typical male range and higher financial status more favorably. "

      http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/psp/69/6/1089/

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    5. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Matty Silver

      What a wonderful romantic field of science you have embarked upon Ms Matty!

      For those keen on evaluating comparative performance the link leads to an abstract detailing a study on the time taken by blokes in various countries to get the whole business over with. Yes, with a woman Dale. And a stopwatch. Or a team of observers with starting pistols and a ribbon.

      Times ranged from a a very disappointing 0.5 mins (the Usain Bolt) to a very traumatising Marathon Man @ 44 minutes! The latter would have at least one of the participants pausing to be popping out for a cuppa I'd be thinking.

      Sadly I suspect that your normal Aussie blokes - who were not even included!!! - would be off down the pub telling their mates well before the 0.5 benchmark.

      My rooster does better than that. And he's just an animal that bird.

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    6. Matty Silver
      Matty Silver is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Sex Therapist / Sex Commentator

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      No Peter, I am not that interested in the science at all.

      I just have to explain those details to my clients who often have acquired performance anxiety believing that they have to perform for 20 minutes. Especially young teenagers who are getting their "main" sex education from looking at porn.

      I can't tell you how relieved they are when I tell them these statistics.

      That's what I call "satisfaction" excuse the pun!

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    7. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Dale, I'm willing to place a bet that in your unique universe the woman falls asleep first - before sex.

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    8. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      She possibly will if he doesn’t have a suitable waist to hip ratio, a symmetrical face, a V-shaped torso, broad shoulders etc.

      Wikipedia gives a detailed account of this under “Physical attractiveness”

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physical_attractiveness

      I don’t think their article fully addresses the issue of money, (possibly because it is too PC), but if it is true that women are more attracted to men with money, then governments will have to factor this in when planning for the future.

      Feminists also have to go back to the drawing board.

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    9. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      I don’t know if that was a he or she snoring, but of course men are actually discerning.

      “Men, on average, tend to be attracted to women who are shorter than they are, have a youthful appearance, and exhibit features such as a symmetrical face,[12] full breasts, full lips, and a low waist-hip ratio.”

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physical_attractiveness

      Still no mention if she should have any money, but I don’t think most men care about that.

      If women do care about money, then the big question is whether they want the man to have more and more money.

      If he has to get more and more money to please her, then basically we are going to see more and more destruction of the natural environment, (so that men can get more and more money by extracting more and more resources from the natural environment).

      And there is no question about that.

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  19. Stewart Lancaster

    Tutor/Associate Lecturer

    So, let me get this right:

    Using a convenience non-probability sample of presumed-to-be opposite sex attracted women; and
    Presenting them with 3D avatars of pictures of men

    penis size was as much a determinant of attractiveness as height?

    Or, in other words, when a sample of people collected from around ANU/Civic were given no other information on men but some 3D pictures, women assessed the pictures of men's 'attractveness' on the physical characteristics available to them and this is some sort of evidence of evolutionary biology determining how they select a mate?

    There are so many holes in this research it's hard to know where to begin...of if there's a dick big enough to fill that hole!!!

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  20. Tim Allman

    Medical Software Developer

    Being a heterosexual male, I don't get to see a lot of erect penises but my girlfriend and a gay friend tell me that men tend to be either "showers" or "growers". That is, the size of the flaccid penis is either close to the erect size (shower) or is considerably smaller (grower).

    If we look at the situation of a woman deciding upon a potential partner, perhaps in a bar, for the evening based upon penis size she may find that the bulge in his jeans is a poor indicator of the size that really matters. This leaves me wondering whether flaccid penis size, seen either indirectly in the bar, or directly while skinny dipping, really indicates anything at all.

    Perhaps a big bulge indicates a better chance of a large penis than a small one but, to be honest, the connection seems a bit tenuous to me.

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    1. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Tim Allman

      With current fashions, its unlikely that any bulge, large or small, could be seen on casual viewing. Gone are the 70's tackle mashers, (as my Dad used to call them), where it was all very obvious, even to what side the guy dressed on.

      Today we are more likely to see half a guys bum hanging out, along with the top of his undies, (mostly seen in very young men), than any indication of penis size. Maybe that alluring bit of bum crack is what draws women in, if so, I know several plumbers and council…

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  21. Chris Booker

    Research scientist

    I'm really not sure how to feel about this study. Sure, on the one hand it's a well-known idea that women prefer bigger penises, and I guess it's okay for someone to go about studying this is a more controlled way.

    The problem is it fits right in (no pun intended!) with the news-porn you speak of. It's all over the internet, and yet there's barely any mention of the fact that body shape was the more important determinant. So for me, it's just yet another example of how the real results of research get warped in today's media environment.

    My other reaction to this is actually complete non-surprisal. I mean, who would've thought sexual selection might actually operate on body shapes and sizes?! What a crazy idea that would be...

    In other news tomorrow - internet security companies report a large increase in 'enhance your tool' spam overnight.

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  22. Ron Chinchen

    Retired (ex Probation and Parole Officer)

    I wonder if there are any businesses advertising transplants.

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  23. Bob Constable

    logged in via Facebook

    First checked the date on this (not 1st Apr)

    Statistics damn statistics % % %

    All I know is mine works for me and the wife for the last 35 years (two kids)

    All the hype seems to me to be media conditioning nowadays.
    at the dawn of mankind when clothing was optional men did wear clothing that enhanced their appendage

    but since then we have moved on (maybe a small part of our brain hasn't). I know some men wear socks down there in the same way that women wear push-up bras. but when the clothes come off the socks and push-up bras are forgotten for the moment.

    I also might comment that alcohol was invented to overcome physical inadequacies for both sexes

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  24. John Harland

    bicycle technician

    Unconvincing.

    The preference was for *slightly* larger than average.

    As with women's breasts, for which it is not the size that is the main determinant but the proportion in relation to hips and the rest of the body, and the apparent vigour and hormonal state as evidenced by the condition of the breasts.

    "Slightly larger than average" may simply reflect the fitter and more vigorous of men. The average is possibly swayed by the proportion of unfit and older men in the broader population.

    It may also reflect a notion of adequacy. Small sizes may just not look right but it may need to be significantly larger than normal before it starts to look strange.

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  25. Edmund Esterbauer

    logged in via Twitter

    If the authors are correct, why did, for example the Roman and Renaissance statues use "below average" penis sizes? The author fails to control for culture, fashion and tastes and take account of extraneous factors. Nice idea but a little naive in its approach. An example of an extraneous may be that the "above average" (not defined in the article) do not function as long as the "below average" due to energy requirements and become flaccid more quickly and therefore inhibit procreation and hence their minority status amongst penises in the gene pool.

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  26. Lydia Isokangas

    Australian in Finland

    A question for the men folk:

    Imagine that you're living during the stone-age, before the comforts of supportive men's underwear was invented. Now, imagine that you're being chased by a man-eating tiger. Is it easier to run away with a shorter or a longer penis? Is it possible for a long penis to 'get in the way' in this kind of situation? I'm just asking, as I don't know how distracting it would be to have a penis flopping about while you're trying to run for your life.

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    1. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Lydia Isokangas

      It is best that sperm is deposited close to the cervix, so penis size in males is related to the length of the vagina in females.

      In human females, the cervix and uterus are located above the pubic bone, so the length of the penis is more related to female bone structure than any other factor.

      http://cnx.org/content/m44781/latest/#fig-ch38_01_12

      You will also find numerous articles on penises in The Conversation for some reason, but not one of them has ever mentioned why the penis exists.

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    2. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Lydia Isokangas

      Lydia, you pose a good question.

      In my experience (not from running away from tigers), the penis hardly intrudes on my moment-to-moment life, unless it is erect, or damaged. I imagine that an erect penis would be an inconvenience to running, but danger is a good antidote to erection, so it would not be a problem for more than a few steps.

      If it was recently damaged, however, the pain may well hamper the speed of escape. I surmise clothing may have been developed as a protection against genital damage, although the New Guinea tribes, with their penis sheaths, argue against such an interpretation: surely such an adornment would get in the way and catch on passing foliage?

      I expect a flaccid penis to be no obstruction to escaping from tigers, but seeing it flopping around at high speed may cause amusement to observers.

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    3. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Doug Hutcheson

      One thing I discovered very early on in my phallocarpic career was that the highlands of PNG are significantly devoid of chihuahuas and other nippy critters. Too angry to kick, too small to run from. And all incredibly envious.

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    4. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Doug Hutcheson

      Doug fully understand your reply.

      There was a time when bicycles were designed differently for each sex. I guess the reason for the 'female' bicycles was to allow for voluminous dresses as the triangle design (though more stable) wouldn't allow for flapping material (could be deadly) and then there was the idea of "laaaadeeez".

      My point being, given the male genitalia being rather vulnerable (the phallocarp is making more sense) to the accidental blow such as hitting the top part of the frame, I used to joke that 'female' bicycles would be a safer option. Of course with advent of hybrids and vastly improved design my little joke is now entirely moot.

      I don't think any of my comment has anything to do with penis size, apart from a small penis being a smaller target.

      ;)

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    5. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Dianna, my earlier comment was in reply to Lydia. I don't see your comment on this subthread. Am I missing something?

      You said "My point being, given the male genitalia being rather vulnerable (the phallocarp is making more sense) to the accidental blow such as hitting the top part of the frame". The only blow to my male appendage, from riding a bike, was when I accidentally rode over a 4ft embankment and my privates were mashed by the nut on top of the steering head as I crashed, an accident that could have affected either gender, I suspect. The point of contact was below the phallocarp position, so my European heritage did not increase the risk.

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    6. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Doug Hutcheson

      Apologies for intruding on a private discussion.

      Here's me thinking this was The Conversation.

      Further apologies for what was a poor attempt at levity.

      Next time just tell others they cannot contribute unless invited by lofty superior: Doug Hutcheson.

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    7. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      No, no, Dianna, I didn't mean to imply you could not comment. I was referring to your use of "My point being" and "I don't think any of my comment", when these comments don't appear on the sub-thread your are now posting on. I am the last person to try to muffle responses. If you took me amiss, I apologise: it was certainly not intended. "8-)

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    8. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Doug Hutcheson

      Apology accepted with the grace that was intended.

      So easy to be misunderstood. The sub-threads are something of a dog's breakfast to unravel, therefore, I don't bother and comment if I am inspired to do so.

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    9. Graham Houghton

      Archaeologist, Writer

      In reply to Lydia Isokangas

      It shrinks in times of stress, eg cold water. And supportive men's underwear is neither comfortable (particularly in the heat), nor good for fertility. Sorry about the details.

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  27. Michael Holloway

    Pharmacist Manager

    What I keep wondering about is that one fact is not mentioned. The flaccid size of a penis has no bearing on the size of the same penis when erect! Some peni (?) /penises have a magnification ratio of maybe 10 fold. This a genetically advantaged situation where for action the penis remains small and safe.
    Some have no magnification factor and what you see is what you get, but at a new angle. Surely this has a bearing on the results, and as the author states "on return business"?

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  28. Shirley Birney

    logged in via email @tpg.com.au

    Why be a penis head?

    It's not the size that matters, it's how you use it.

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  29. Yoron Hamber

    Thinking

    This will be a article often cited by plastic surgeons, emphasizing why plastic surgery should be written in as a human right. Yes, i envision a society of males on three legs,or more? Followed by a throng of their closest female admirers

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  30. John Morton

    logged in via Facebook

    A lot of talk here with barely a mention of the voluminous material available from cultural anthropology and psychoanalysis.
    One of the most interesting things I found in the piece is the idea that evaluation of size is relative to other attributes. Two issues arise (no pun intended).
    1) There is of course massive literature on phallic attributes, where it is explicit that phallic qualities are not actually in the penis, but in other things. These things differ dramatically cross-culturally, notwithstanding…

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  31. Comment removed by moderator.

  32. Tom Kruzbrick

    Manager at Andropenis Australia

    The simple fact is everyone's different. Some women like a man with a big penis, others don't care.

    Each to their own.

    I can however state that many, many men are interested in penis enlargement, so penis size is as much of an issue as anything else, if the viewer or owner considers it so.

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    1. Arthur James Egleton Robey

      Industrial Electrician

      In reply to Tom Kruzbrick

      Is there a penis size reduction method? Just asking.

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  33. Suthap Klomrod

    logged in via Facebook

    The old saying "use it or lose it" can be applied to nearly anything, and when it comes to penis function and overall health, it is especially true. A lazy penis that rarely gets up and goes is much more likely to put on a limp performance when the opportunity arises than one that is in top form. Like the rest of the body, keeping the penis in shape requires some effort at physical conditioning. Activities that benefit the whole body are a good place to start. But for men who just don't have the time for a full workout, or those who aren't feeling motivated to get up and go, some simple, yet effective, penis exercises can help to pick up the slack and can be done just about anywhere. Visit http://www.growyourpenisfast.com/?hop=25151020 for more information about treating common penis health problems

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  34. Havaneiss Dei

    Research Scientist and Author

    The "Darwinian ideal" is in this case not driven by the guidance of natural evolution, but is controlled by cultural forces entirely the product of prurient perversions. It is not a matter of whether women can be trained to prefer a particular physical form: the reality is that we have built entire industries and invested enormous fortunes in doing *exactly* that, and with undeniably and profoundly great success in our such efforts, entirely -- or almost entirely -- without any regard for the moral product of our making.

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  35. Lee Hatfield

    logged in via Facebook

    whenever i met a new boyfriend, i always noticed his personality first, then his looks and if both were ok and he was interested, it was all go...i never considered clothed bits til the occaision arose. most people are like that and don't demand a naked viewing first up so they can make their decision! this story is just a male fantasy!

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  36. John Harland

    bicycle technician

    Whilst people may scan nightclubs and bars for their ideal physique or genital proportions, not many people choose their breeding partner on that basis.

    An interesting study would be how close people's spouses approximate their ideal body type, let alone their ideal of genital generosity.

    I have known very few women who admit to a preference for size in men, and those who do are generally not into procreation.

    It is possible that flaccid size correlates with testosterone levels and general vigour. This may link with the perrceived preference for *slightly* larger.

    Given that testosterone in excess engenders behaviours that tend to deter women and endanger their offspring, a little too large might be a deterrent, rather than an attractant.

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