It is an uneasy preoccupation fuelled by peers and pornography. But a new study suggests many men are mistaken in deeming their penises aren't up to size.
The study, published in the June edition of the journal Urology, found that all 92 patients who complained of stunted penises actually had normal-sized members. Several even had longer-than-average endowments.
Slightly more than half of the men, 54 per cent, attributed their angst to childhood, when they began comparing their genitals to those of their friends. And 41 per cent said their concern began in adolescence as they started watching erotic movies and reading pornographic magazines.
"They don't feel equal to other men. That's a problem," said Rany Shamloul, the study's author.
Keith Jarvi, a urologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, said he has seen many similar patients. "Men really don't have a handle on what is normal in their own anatomy," he said. "In North America . . . men have a much better handle on how long fingers are than they have on how long their penises are."
A minority of men who underestimate their penis size are subject to depression, anxiety and social withdrawal, said Dr. Shamloul, who is studying at the University of Saskatchewan.
Dr. Shamloul conducted the research in Cairo at a clinic for men with sexual-health dysfunction. Over two years, he examined 92 patients aged 19 to 52 who complained of having short penises, either while flaccid or erect.
Almost all the men overestimated the normal length of a limp member, with answers ranging from 11 to 17 centimetres. A flaccid penis is considered normal if it is four or more centimetres. The norm for a stretched penis, where the appendage is extended from the tip, is seven or more centimetres. None of the 92 men had penises shorter than the norm. (All measurements were taken from the pubic bone, not the base of the penis).
While anything less than normal is considered short, the average penis is longer. U.S. studies have concluded the American average is 7.5 to 9 cm flaccid and 14 to 16 cm stretched.
After the study subjects' penises were measured, the men were tutored about the "relation of penile size to sexual power and satisfaction." They were told the key factor in satisfying one's partner during intercourse is not penis size but the ability to sustain an erection.
The study recommends that men who underestimate their penis size receive sex education to erase their misconceptions and stem their interest in as-yet unverified lengthening procedures. The study, Dr. Shamloul said, "really signifies that more work should be done."