Does size matter?

by Scott Stiffler

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday July 6, 2009

The new HBO series Hung concerns the life-altering coping strategy of a divorced, down on his luck former high school jock turned gym coach. In desperate need of income, he decides to turn his unusually large male member into his own private economic stimulus package. By renting it out to lonely local women, he soon learns that size not only matters, it can help pull your loser ass (and winning cock) out of the fire.
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Of course, that's the stuff of fiction. But in real life, does size really matter? And how do the dynamics change when it concerns gay men instead of those sad, silly HBO heterosexuals? Do men make passes at men whose crotches are massive? In the words of looney soon to be ex-governor Sarah Palin, "You betcha!"

Mysteries debunked

Edge recently lifted the veil of mystery surrounding penis size and gay male psychology when we were granted an exclusive interview which previews a new study dedicated to the matter at hand (the one free hand, that is). Like the penis itself, what we found is hardly surprising. . . but it’s endlessly fascinating!
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Christian Grov, PhD, MPH is an assistant professor in the Department of Health and Nutrition Sciences at Brooklyn College as well as a faculty affiliate at the Center for HIV/AIDS Educational Studies and Training of Hunter College, CUNY (a.k.a CHEST).
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Grov spoke with Edge regarding a recently study (conducted by CHEST) whose conclusions are soon to be published in the medical journal "Archives of Sexual Behavior." For those who just can’t wait to get their fill of facts and figures regarding all things penile, the study is currently available online to anyone who subscribes to the journal (and considering the journal’s title, shouldn’t it be in your bathroom reading rack alongside those back issues of Genre?) .
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Entitled "The Association Between Penis Size and Sexual Health Among Men Who Have Sex with Men," Grov notes the paper "came about as a result of reading the work of another researcher, Dr. Janet Lever - who did a paper about the topic, as it relates to heterosexual men and women."

Although inspired by Lever’s work, Grov noted one of Lever’s shortcomings, so to speak, was the absence of data specific to how the dynamics of gay men impact all the surrounding issues of penis size. Inspired, he and his colleagues were soon hard - at work - on their own study.

Self-esteem link?

But before we explore Grov’s work, it’s worth harking back to 2006 - when a study done at Utrecht University (Amsterdam) gave conclusive scientific proof to something you already knew: there’s an undeniable link to penis size and self-esteem among gay men. For the short skinny on the importance of length, follow this link.

Need more proof, or just want more facts, figures and insights? Check out the 2002 book by California psychologist Donald Templer: "Is Size Important?." Want to provide potential partners (or inspire jealously among old lovers) with an accurate reading of your own size? Visit this link and get the scoop on Dr. Vernan Coleman’s method for measuring your own penis!
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Now newly armed with some facts and fun cock assessing techniques, back to Grov and his groundbreaking study - which begins with this premise: "Abstract Larger penis size has been equated with a symbol of power, stamina, masculinity, and social status. Yet, there has been little research among men who have sex with men assessing the association between penis size and social-sexual health."
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Grov says that our own self-perception of size, and how that impacts their top/bottom preference and general feeling of worth, is "one of the main conclusions we do in our paper. When participants were asked to rate their size, "Gay and bisexual men tended to rate themselves higher on the below average/average/above average scale."
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As for the raw numbers, "Survey data from a diverse sample of 1,065 men who have sex with men were used to explore the association between perceived penis size and a variety of psychosocial outcomes. Seven percent of men felt their penis was ’’below average,’’ 53.9% ’’average,’’ and 35.5% ’’above average."
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But when it came down to reporting the actual size (versus sizing up how you compare to others), "There were a wide range of sizes reported, and we want to make sure people get that message. More than half of the men, 53.9 percent, said they were average. A huge majority felt they were right in the center. One thing I don’t think gay men realize is they’re probably in line with most of the people around them."
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Regarding the "35.5 percent of men" who "felt their penis was above average"; are they really walking around with bigger than normal sized snakes in their trousers? That statistic leads Grov to note that (at least when responding to a survey) "Very few people think they are below average."

Size vrs. performance

Grov also qualifies this comment by emphasizing that everything in the study is specific to gay and bisexual men - explaining that unlike the average heterosexual, at least the conclusions drawn by gays and bisexuals are based on lots and lots of comparison shopping. Grov: "We think the reason," men who have sex with men can more accurately assess their own size as it relates to others, is the fact that they "have more people to compare it to - through their sex partners; whereas heterosexual men have less opportunity. They may see it at the gym, but it’s in a flaccid state. They may see it in adult videos, but those don’t represent most people."
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But is coming into contact with so many other penises a good or a bad thing - when it comes to the murky issue of self-image? Grov describes the straight man’s lack of erect penis sightings as "a double edged sword. Heterosexual men may live with one kind of insecurity, not having a comparison condition. I don’t’ imagine straight men get together, whip it out, get hard and compare."

As for the other edge of said sword, "A gay man may have to show his penis to his partner, who could compare and contrast. Gay men come into contact with other men’s penises is very erotic situations." That may lead to some insecurity (and power/role assignments) based on who has the bigger schvantz, but at least the gay boys are putting it out there and basing their behavior on an honest assessment of who has what.
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No matter how big or small you are, what’s the actual impact - in terms of sexual status, sexual position, and overall satisfaction. That’s the real meat, so to speak, of Grov’s study.
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Grov: "We live in a very penis centered society. So yes, size does matter. Every day, we’re bombarded with images placing value behind penis size. It’s equated with masculinity and stamina. Our society has places a lot of value on that. So, If someone feels they don’t have a very large cock, what is the impact on sexual behavior and psychology?"
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Unexpected revelations

Surprisingly, men report the same number of sex partners, and are using condoms as much-but there are some distinct differences brought to the table depending on your size. Again, the results are hardly surprising - but at least what we all thought to be true is now backed up by empirical, scientific data.
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Grov: "Those with below average penises fared significantly worse than other men on measures of psychosocial adjustment." (i.e., matters of self-image and self-worth). "Our data did not find they were using condoms with less frequency than other individuals." What they did find, though, is those who were smaller were more likely to misrepresent themselves to others: "We also asked men if they ever lied to a partner. The larger one’s size was, the less likely they were to lie."
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As for unexpected revelations, "We were surprised to find that penis size was related to sexual positioning. Men with below average penises were more likely to say they are a bottom than men who are average or above average. Those who were above average were more likely to say they were a top. Those who were average gravitated towards saying they were versatile." This led Grov and his colleagues to "question to what extent men with small penises were being socially and sexually scripted" to assume the role of a bottom (further proof of the study’s opening paragraph trumpeting the dominant role given to those with larger endowments).
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But while big-dicked tops may seem to have more fun, that’s not necessarily the case. For Grov, "I’d not say that bigger is necessarily better. Bigger can also be more problematic. For anal sex, a smaller penis is easier to accommodate." So the statistical conclusion that those with smaller endowments are destined to become bottoms "runs counterintuitive. What would make the most sense is the reverse, because it’s easier for men who are below average to be the top."
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As for the impact on health, "We didn’t find that penis size is related to condom use, but it does make a difference around the topic of sexually transmitted infections. HIV can be spread through fluids, where as other STIs (genital warts, herpes) can be spread through skin to skin contact. We were surprised to find that men with above average penises were more likely to report genital warts and genital herpes. We think that might be because the condoms are not rolling all the way down or due to irritation (if you are wearing a condom that’s too tight on you or not properly lubricated).
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But no matter how big, small or average you are, one universal truth shines out like an erect, gleaming tower among the gays: "We did ask men whether they wanted their penis to be bigger, and found those who said they were below average were the most likely to say yes."

Consider that firm, and final, scientific proof that size does indeed matter.

Scott Stiffler is a New York City based writer and comedian who has performed stand-up, improv, and sketch comedy. His show, "Sammy's at The Palace. . .at Don't Tell Mama"---a spoof of Liza Minnelli's 2008 NYC performance at The Palace Theatre, recently had a NYC run. He must eat twice his weight in fish every day, or he becomes radioactive.

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