The Truth About How We Feel About Penises.
âPenis Envyâ was published February 14 on PsychologyToday.com and removed two weeks later.
The center of a manâs existence is his penis. At the root of his self-worth is how he feels about the size of his penis and what he thinks about its ability to please his partners.
As men, our relationship with our penises is a complicated affair related to our sense of power. For some, life is a dick-wagging contest, a competition played out in the boardroom, bedroom and on the playing field. The guy with the big dick proudly asserts his entitlement with authority while the guy with the small dick bullies co-workers and acts like a-know-it-all.
There isnât a man who hasnât compared the size of his penis to other men in the locker room or at the urinal, a sizing-up that leads to either a prideful smile or a sense of inadequacy. Itâs the shame, thatâs coined a catch phrase: âIâm a grower, not a shower.â
One handsome, straight, young man told me, âMen think about their penis at least ten times a day.â
How often have men worried if they are going to measure up, literally, when getting naked with a new partnerâs previous lovers? Will a grin or a smirk greet the bared private part? And when itâs two men about to have sex, isnât there always that moment of anxiety when they wonder whose dick is bigger?
Then thereâs foreskin. Prefer cut or uncut? Do you want to change that ?
Of course, if a guy deals with all these size issues and actually starts having sex without a panic attack, thereâs always the matter of sexual performance nagging at him. Will he be able to sustain his erection? Letâs face it. There isnât a man whose uncooperatively limp penis hasnât embarrassed him at some time during sex.
All of this pales in comparison, though, to the mortal fear of premature ejaculation or taking too long to come and boring, no pun intended, oneâs partner to death.
Itâs a wonder any man ever has sex.
A penis is tied to a manâs sense of his virility. Beyond athleticism, job prestige or earning potential, the powerful penis is considered the true physical manifestation of masculinity. A man is supposed to spread his seed and have the proper tool to do it with.
Perhaps the anxiety begins in boyhood when, all too often, the first unforgettable penis comparison happens with a much bigger oneâa father’s or older brother’s.
Into adolescence, popular films and shows like âHungâ and âSex in the City,â where attractive women vocalize their preferences for well-endowed men, doesn’t alleviate the anxiety.
Watching pornographyâas do most men–can set off alarm bells. The average human penis is about six inches long, but porn stars set the gold standard higher, at a whopping eight-plus inches.
The rationalization that âItâs not the size of my penis that matters, but who I am as personâ doesn’t really seem to put the matter to rest.
To find out more directly what women think, I spoke with my daughter Alyssa, a fellow psychotherapist in Portland, Oregon, whose practice is largely female.
âMost men donât speak about their penis to their partner, so most women take it for granted that men donât worry about their penises until they come across the man who asks more than once for reassurance,â she told me. âMy male clients express their concern more about maintaining an erection or pleasing their partner at first, but then as they get more comfortable with me, they might acknowledge that size is a concern. Thereâs isnât a man with whom Iâve discussed this who hasnât measured his penis and then gone online to see how his size stands up against others. I think the insecurity comes from a deep sense of male competition thatâs inbred in our culture. Most men fear that that they will not be able to attract and keep a mate. Will she will fantasize about another man and leave me for someone better endowed?â
Some female patients have told Alyssa their partnersâ sizes was not something they remembered except for those penises outside the average range. One woman said, âThe really thick or really Maxoderm small ones are hard to forgot for different reasons, but, personally, I place more of an interest on our emotional relationship than on the size of his penis. When I see a nice one, I think itâs a lovely bonus.â
âI once had a patient who came to therapy,â Alyssa said, âbecause he felt that his penis was betraying him. When faced with the opportunity for intercourse, his penis would rarely comply. He was erect during masturbating but limp when faced with the actual prospect of intercourse with a woman. Until the therapy progressed, he did not make the connection that his emotions influenced his performance. Instead, he thought his penis had a mind of its own.
âSome women envy men for their ability to become quickly aroused and reach orgasm, but most donât envy what Freud assumed: that women envy men simply because they have a penis.
âOne women had the perfect rejoinder: âMen canât fake it. We can. So we have the power.ââ
My own patient Sam, 30, worried about the size of his penis for as long as he could remember. He felt ashamed and depressed because of it.
By the time he came to therapy, he believed his penis was shrinking. He measured it regularly, his findings showing daily fluctuations. On some days, it even grew. Yet this is what he told me: âOverall, the data proves it’s getting smaller.â’
I had once read about Koro, a culturally specific syndrome from Southeast Asia in which thereâs an overpowering belief that an evil spirit has the power to shrink a penis until it eventually disappears. But that was not quite Samâs case.
When I asked Sam about his sex life, he told me he was still a virgin, too shy and self-conscious to have sex. He said he masturbated excessively and wondered if that might be the cause of his problem. When I asked what he thought about when he masturbated, Sam told me that he fantasized having an enormous penis that every woman admired. Unfortunately, though, Sam’s penis embarrassed him.
Naturally, the first thoughts I entertained were that Sam felt deeply inadequate and was metaphorically expressing his obsession with the small size of his penis.
But the truth was actually more interesting.
Samâs father, a warm and affable fellow, worked as a rabbi in a local synagogue. To earn extra money he served as a mohl in the religious ceremony called a bris, when baby boys are circumcised eight days after birth.
After performing a bris, Sam’s father would make jokes at home. âThat boy was hung like a horse. Not anymore!â Sam’s mother, Paula, a math teacher, stifling a big laugh would reply, âOh, Murray. How many centimeters?â
Sometimes in jest, his father would chase young Sam around the table with his âbutcher’sâ knife.
Sam was a handsome boy who did well academically. But even his popularity in school didn’t spare him some needling about his father’s religious duty. Sam took it all very personally. He internalized the teasing and began to taunt himself. He focused his attention on his penis and increasingly lived in fear of losing it.
Obvious, right? But when youâre caught in an obsessive spiral, it really is not so clear.
It took several sessions for Sam to make the connection between his past experience and present concerns, and when he did his familyâs sense of humor returned.
During the fourth session, I handed Sam a ruler and asked him to go into the restroom and measure his penis. âFour-and-a-half inches flaccid,â he said when he returned.
I took the ruler and went into the bathroom to measure myself.
I came back and sat in my therapist chair. âYou’re bigger than I am Sam.â
After a moment he said, with a hearty laugh, âI belittled it.â
It was the perfect beginning to our therapy.
Now Sam could learn to have sex.
As for myself. I have an average sized penis that has certainly changed with age. Like every other part of my 65-year-old body, it has more wrinkles than it once did and works better sometimes than others.
But, of course, it has something that a younger penis does not have: years of experience and the wisdom that comes with that.
Mar 8, 2012
Great article, Stanley – nothing like a little controversy to raise awareness of a cause; an individual; or underlying societal biases!
I say: Take your column elsewhere! They are written by you, and thus, belong to you, correct?
Now, about the article: I was just reading the part about Freud and women having penis envy.
Never been a fan of Freud, however – in true Jungian mentality – I am SO glad he existed to inspire Jung!
I did grow up hearing this patriarchal theory, and assuming it was true.
It was not until I began my first relationship with a penis, that I realised: Womb envy exists!
Myself, I do not envy the penis – I enjoy its company, difference, purpose, pleasure, reunion, and sacredness (myself, I am a Goddess Worshipper, so thrilled to possess The Womb) – however, I learned of womb envy, in the sense that ‘He’ will die, cease to exist, without ‘Me’.
He was desperate for a child; something to live on ‘from’ him.
Through this, I realised my power as a woman: a Creator, and Guardian of life, itself
(though, I don’t necessarily have to make babies to be a creator and guardian, and people don’t necessarily have to possess a womb to be creative and guardians; its an esoteric balance of yin/yang thing).
All this said: please find a way to continue to be graphic, promote sexual healing, and raise awareness of healthy sexuality, confidence, self-worth, and the very foundation of life itself.
I see it as the battery power of our individual life force.
Flat batteries cannot power a thriving celebration of Life on Earth.
The ‘issues’ are greater than just ourselves; sex is exploited, manipulated, and polluted – deliberately or ignorantly – perpetuating a Human Race that is sexually infantile.
(The dominant education system on Earth is geared towards expanding only the intellect, and thus, humanity is sexually, emotionally, Heartfully, physically, creatively, and spiritually malnourished.)
Sex ‘should’ be a religion instead of junk food.
Censoring ergo damaging the sexuality damages ‘life’ itself.
I find your writing engaging, enlightening, relate-able, personal, and friendly. Great insight into the penis, wisdom, and envy.
x Mardi x
tj writer says:
Jul 14, 2012
Womb envy…and you actually believe this? I’ve feminists talk about this, but never thougjt they were serious. What ever you have to tell yourself sister. As a male who believes is reincarnation, the one thing frightens me is coming back as a female. I’ve known many men with similer belief systems, I can remember only one saying he didn’t if he lost that lottery. That area of a female interest us in one way only, and afterwards…well, not to be crude but the bulldog eating mayo joke comes to mind. After intercourse, I think most guys find that atea a little repulsive…for about twenty minutes.
Which guy do you know who cares much about making little burdens. In dream analysis don’t childen often/usually represent burdens.
Danielle Cavallucci says:
Mar 8, 2012
You are amazing for helping another man overcome his insecurities and become fulfilled. We should all be so lucky to share our gifts to empower other human beings to achieve what they long for. Thank you for your work & a compelling and wonderful article. We are so afraid of the subject in this culture, it’s bred a chasm of hell for many men AND the women that love or want to love them in a “more than friends” fashion. It’s the measure of the man, not the penis.
Mar 9, 2012
Thank you so much for such an excellent, thoughtful article!
Interview: Stanley Siegel « The Honest Courtesan says:
Mar 16, 2012
[…] Well, what happened first was I wrote a column called “Penis Envy”, which was about men’s anxiety about their penises, and in it I talk about my own penis with a […]
Mar 21, 2012
I don`t get why PT was so upset by this?? Fine artical ,human interest, something you don`t talk in public so Haray fo the internet.
Kelly G says:
Sep 2, 2012
I can’t believe there are people who say that penis size does not matter! The first time I experienced sex with a large penis, it felt MUCH better than the average sized men I had slept with. I reached orgasm quickly and it was more intense. I definitely prefer a long, thick, uncircumcized penis. I don’t understand how some women complain about painful sex with a well endowed man since the vagina expands with arousal. Perhaps they are not sufficiently lubricated or relaxed. I have had 9 inches and loved every inch of it! To my surprise (and delight), I have found that anal sex also feels better with a well hung man. It is really quite simple: a bigger penis provides greater physical stimulation. A large erection is also incredibly visually exciting. Have you ever heard a woman lust after a small 5 inch pencil thin penis that would likely experience condom slippage? Of course not…what a turn off!
Is this true ??????? - Page 2 says:
Sep 21, 2012
[…] I said it before and I'll sy it again, wazza suffers from penis envy Penis Envy | Stanley Siegel KTM 950 SM KTM 125 EXC KTM 640 Enduro – Should never have sold it. Reply With […]
Mari Stachenfeld says:
Nov 12, 2012
” when getting naked with a new partner’s previous lovers?? YIPES!
Mar 12, 2013
As a women I would say generally men with a smaller to average size penis make better lovers..men with big ones are truly selfish in bed.
Improbable Research » Blog Archive says:
Sep 27, 2013
[…] “‘Penis Envy’ was published February 14 on PsychologyToday.com and removed two weeks late…,” claims Dr. Stanley Siegel, who then inserted his article into his own site. […]