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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Does Size Matter?

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Last month, retailer Condomania released information from its database of the penis sizes of male customers who had ordered TheyFit brand condoms, which require users to measure the length and width of their erect penis before ordering. Naturally, they used this data to rank 20 cities and all 50 states according to which locales had men with the largest penises, because larger is always better, right? Milwaukee did not crack the list of top 20 cities (New Orleans was No. 1), and Wisconsin stood at No. 31 among the 50 states (interestingly, New Hampshire was first in that category). However, my irritation with the way the data was publicized has nothing to do with our state's midrange ranking.

Many men worry unnecessarily about their penis size. Anything that contributes to that worry—porn featuring unnaturally endowed stars, for example, or weak data analysis that ranks cities with larger penises at the “top”—has a negative impact on our collective sexuality. Anxiety about our bodies can really get in the way of healthy sexual expression. I'm kind of disappointed that a company that purports to promote sexual health would spin their data in a way that might be harmful to a lot of men's self-image.

I also doubt that any of the men who purchased TheyFit condoms thought that one day the information that they trustingly typed into their online order forms would be used to rank their hometowns according to penis size. The data itself is questionable, since the information collected is not from a random sample of men in any state or city—it just represents a subset of men who chose to purchase a particular brand of condoms that comes in a wide variety of sizes. I imagine that men who fall outside of the "average" range of penis sizes might be more likely to buy custom-fit condoms, since they may be more likely to have difficulties with standard condoms. There's no way to tell whether TheyFit users match up with the rest of the male population in terms of size, so the rankings are, in essence, meaningless.

If any piece of the data was interesting, it's the tidbit that the penis sizes in their sample formed a perfect bell curve: 25% were less than 5 inches in length, 50% were between 5 and 6 inches in length, and 25% were more than 6 inches in length. I wish that they had emphasized this more, instead of focusing solely on which cities and states came in at the 6-inch-plus mark. There are an equal number of guys on the smaller end and the larger end, and both can be considered well within a normal distribution.

Penis size does matter during sex, but not in the way that people usually assume, which is that bigger is always better. A preference for the size of your partner's penis is highly individual, and what can feel just right to one person may seem too big or too small to another. I have more customers come into the store saying that their partner's penis is too large than the other way around. Our best-selling dildo is a very average 6 inches long and 1.5 inches wide, and the one that's been flying off our shelves recently? 4.25 inches long and a tad more than 1 inch wide. These two far outsell the monster cocks that we carry (although those have their fans as well!). So men, whatever the size of your equipment, there's someone out there ready to love it, and you should love it too.

Want Laura to answer your questions in SEXpress? Send them to laura@shepex.com. Not all questions received will be answered in the column, and Laura cannot provide personal answers to questions that do not appear here. Questions sent to this address may be reproduced in this column, both in print and online, and may be edited for clarity and content.

Laura Anne Stuart has a master’s degree in public health and has worked as a sexuality educator for more than a decade. She owns the Tool Shed, an erotic boutique on Milwaukee’s East Side.