Why So Many Men Think Their Penis Is Too Small

Men at urinals
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Many men think their penis is small, often too small. It's commonly thought that straight men worry about penis size because it's something their female partners care about. 

But research indicates that heterosexual men worry about penis size more than women do and that they are more dissatisfied with their penis size than their female partners are. Changing one's feelings about penis size doesn't happen overnight. How you feel about your penis is about a lot of things, not least among them, your body image. 

One place to start is to understand why it is that you think your penis is so small.

Early Penis Sightings

For some men, the first time they see penises as adolescents will be seeing a male parent or caregiver naked. The difference in genital size between adults and children, plus the angle that most kids will see an adult penis from (i.e. seeing something from below can make it look bigger) can influence and skew our first understandings of penis size.

Locker Room Syndrome

Most heterosexual boys and men don’t see too many penises outside of the change room or locker room, and possibly home if there are male siblings or parents in the house. Checking out other men’s penises in a locker room situation carries many pitfalls. For one, you rarely get a chance to take a really good look. As well, the size of a flaccid penis may vary greatly from man to man, but the size of an erect penis doesn’t vary as much (a phenomenon referred to as showers vs. growers). In locker rooms (well most of them) the penises you see are usually flaccid.

In one study men who sought medical help for concerns about having a small penis, 62% of men said their concerns began in childhood as a result of comparing penis size to that of their friends.

Porn Comparisons

A lot of men will get sex information from watching pornography, which is a terrible way to learn anything about sex. Male porn stars have larger penises and there are lighting and pubic hair styling tricks that make them look even bigger. Do you know that saying about the camera putting on ten pounds? Well it's not just around your waist. In the same study cited above, just over 37% of men say their concern about penis size began after seeing porn.

Visual Orientation

When you look at your own penis you are probably most often looking at it from above. This is an angle that makes your penis look smaller. If you stand naked in front of a full-length mirror both facing the mirror and in profile, you’ll get a better idea of what your penis looks like to others (if this is your concern). Just as looking from below can impact our earliest ideas of penis size, always looking from above can make you think your penis is smaller than it is.

What’s Average?

Finally, men who think their penis is too small are probably unaware of what average penis size is thought to be. According to several review studies, the average erect penis length is between 5.1 and 5.7 inches. Other reviews put it slightly higher at 5.5 to 6.3. In either case, somewhere around five and a half inches is an average penis length. It’s not that there aren’t men who live with very small penises (known as a micropenis) but statistically speaking, most men will be somewhere in the middle.


Mondaini N, Gontero P. “Idiopathic Short Penis: Myth or Reality?” BJU International Volume 95 (2005): 8-9.