Penis Panic

What is Normal?

By Cindy Pierce

Penis Panic has existed for far too long, fueling needless social and sexual doubt in boys and men. Small Penis Humiliation (SPH – yes it has an official acronym!) or feeling inadequate about one’s penis for another specific reason has become much more of an issue for boys and men since the arrival of internet porn. Even without shaming from others, guys spend an inordinate amount of energy consumed by the fear that their penis doesn’t live up to a perceived standard. Penis Panic is usually panic about the possibility of penis shaming by a sexual partner or public shaming by a male friend. Almost every conversation I have with teen boys and young men leads to a question or two or three about what is a “normal” size and appearance of a penis.

Mainstream media and culture contribute to general body image issues, but the widespread viewing of internet porn has created skewed genital standards for all genders and orientations. The term “genital image issues” only became part of the lexicon recently, as internet porn became the primary source for masturbation fuel, as well as for answers (usually inaccurate) to common questions for teens and young people.

Young male viewers in their teens and twenties of all orientations remain the largest group of internet porn consumers, leaving them vulnerable to buy into the body and sexual expectations reinforced by the images and videos they view in porn. Internet porn sets body standards that contribute to “genital image issues” for people of all ages, and teens are particularly vulnerable to feelings of sexual inadequacy. People argue that teen exposure to and interest in porn has been the same for generations. The difference is the dramatic uptick in the volume and variety of pornographic content, as well as the speed and ease with which pornography reaches consumers.

Unfortunately, the most easily accessible porn also unleashes an onslaught of sexual misinformation for porn consumers. Private access to porn increased dramatically as higher-speed Internet became accessible in even the most remote areas. As cell phone ownership normalized for preteens and teens, porn consumption by all kids of all genders and ages skyrocketed, with the highest number of consumers being biological males. Boys and men often report that their first exposure to porn happened before middle school, imprinting images that continue to fuel penis size comparison into adulthood (among other issues). Regular exposure to pornographic imagery reinforces extreme standards that are impossible to meet: large penises, surgically altered bodies and genitalia, men with superhuman sexual stamina and women who easily achieve multiple orgasms. Young people of all genders and orientations wonder why their sexual experiences don’t match what they view in porn. It is common for college, high school and adult audiences to ask for clarification about the portrayal of sexual pleasure in porn and whether they are lacking certain skills or knowledge that would enable them to experience or provide the kind of pleasure that they view in porn, which is actually falsely portrayed.

Long before internet porn arrived on the scene, plenty of guys suffered through at least a short phase of Penis Panic, usually around puberty, a time when comparison to boys who developed early was common. Penis Panic lingered thanks to boy banter and porn films (as in actual 20th-century films or VCR videos) that reinforced the idea that large penises give more satisfaction to partners of all genders. Once boys and men became sexually active, it didn’t usually take long for them to learn that there is limited space wherever their penis may penetrate during a sexual experience with a partner.

Accurate information would alleviate a lot of Penis Panic, and that information is definitely not found in porn. Here are the FACTS:

The average size penis of internet porn performers is 8 inches. The average size of an adult male’s fully erect penis is 5.14 inches. The average vagina depth ranges between 3-5 inches, although it increases a wee bit with arousal. Throat and anus depths are less than 5 inches. Another tidbit that should be considered is that there are “growers” and “showers.” In other words, a guy’s flaccid penis may appear small but extends significantly when erect, and a large flaccid penis may grow only a bit as it becomes erect. Penises vary in length, shape, girth, color and appearance. About 80% of males ages 14-59 in the US are circumcised. The highest circumcision rates occur in the Midwest and Northeast and lower rates in southern and western states.

When I share the previous listed facts in my presentations at schools, for sports teams or fraternities, the boys and men in the audiences openly express gratitude, often cheering, clapping and hooting. The visible relief on many of their faces makes it clear that more boys and men would benefit from this message. Too many guys spend years, even decades, burdened by feelings of physical and sexual inadequacy. If more boys and young men could learn the facts about normal penis size and appearance earlier in life, it would eliminate a lot of unnecessary angst.

Special thanks to Nicola Smith for her keen eye in editing.