Penis size and shape are a worry for many people, particularly when it comes to sexual compatibility. However, no single size is right for everyone, and there are important factors for compatibility other than just penis size.
For many sexual partners, sexual compatibility is a crucial factor. However, studies suggest that penis size is not the most important factor for sexual satisfaction.
In a heterosexual couple, a person with a narrow vagina may not prefer a partner with a larger penis. In couples who have anal sex, large size may also be an impediment. People should discuss their sexual needs, communicating openly about how to meet those needs regardless of either partner’s size or shape.
In this article, we discuss penis size and genital compatibility. We also provide tips on how to improve compatibility.
Many studies have attempted to quantify the average penis size.
A 1996 study involving 80 males found that the average flaccid penis was 8.8 centimeters (cm), or 3.46 inches (in), unstretched, and the average erect penis was 12.9 cm (5.08 in). On this basis, the study’s authors concluded that surgery to expand the penis should only be an option for males with an erect penis length of less than 7.5 cm (2.95 in).
A 2014 review used data from 20 previous studies that included 15,521 males. That analysis found an average flaccid penis length of 9.16 cm (3.61 in) and an average erect length of 13.12 cm (5.17 in).
In a 2014 study of 1,661 males, the researchers concluded that the average penis length is 14.15 cm (5.57 in), and the average penis girth is 12.23 cm (4.81 in). Although this study relied on the participants’ own measurements, the researchers deemed the results to be fairly consistent with prior research findings.
However, a 2019 study found that self-reported measurements may be inconsistent with these averages. In this study, males reported an average penis length of 6.62 in (16.81 cm), which is significantly higher than measured averages.
In the study, almost one-third of the participants reported having a penis size of 7 in (17.78 cm) or more, with 10% reporting a figure of 8 in (20.32 cm) or more. Only 26.9% of the males reported a size less than 6 in (15.24 cm).
Many males report experiencing anxiety in relation to their penis size. In a 2006 analysis, 45% said that they wanted a larger penis. The same analysis found an association between satisfaction with penis size and overall satisfaction with appearance.
Size is in the eye of the beholder. People’s preferences for genital size vary depending on their own sexual needs, the type of sex they are having, cultural norms, and numerous other factors.
Research suggests that size is not the most important sexual factor for most people. A 2006 survey of 52,031 heterosexual males and females found that 84% of females were satisfied with their partner’s penis size. Just 14% wanted their partner to have a larger penis, and 2% wanted their partner’s penis to be smaller.
Penis size may sometimes affect certain factors, including:
- Sexual comfort: If a penis is too large for the partner, penetration may be painful, particularly without adequate lubrication. If there are significant size disparities, anal intercourse may be extremely painful or even impossible.
- Sexual pleasure: The length and girth of a person’s penis may affect their ability to stimulate their partner. For example, a person with a short but wide penis may be able to provide significant stimulation of areas just inside of a partner’s anus or vagina but be unable to reach deeper regions.
- Sexual anxiety and perceptions: Actual size is not the only factor that matters. Each partner’s perception of how large or small a penis should be may affect their enjoyment of the experience. For example, a person may feel anxious about a perceived small penis, even if their penis is average in size.
Vaginas, as with penises, vary in size and shape. Due to this, people with a vagina may also worry about what others consider to be normal.
However, variations among vaginas are harder to measure, as the vagina is an internal muscle that changes shape according to where a person is in their menstrual cycle, whether they are pregnant, and other factors.
Some people have a narrower vagina than others. A person’s vagina may also be shallow, with a cervix that is closer to the entrance, allowing for less deep penetration. While this may work well for someone with a short penis, with a longer penis, it can make full penetration difficult or painful.
It is a myth that vaginas get looser with age or frequent sex. The elastic muscles of the vagina are capable of stretching and returning to their usual shape. However, damage to the pelvic muscles may change how intercourse feels.
Damage to the pelvic floor muscles from childbirth or surgery may weaken them, making sex painful and causing the vagina to feel either looser or tighter.
Pelvic floor physical therapy and exercises, such as Kegel exercises, may help a person retrain their pelvic floor and overcome pelvic support problems. These exercises will not overcome significant anatomical incompatibilities, however.
Differences in anatomy can also affect anal sex. The anus, like the vagina, is a muscle. And while it does not typically stretch significantly, prior experience with anal sex may make it easier for a person to relax their muscles for penetration. Smaller people may have slightly smaller anuses, making penetration more difficult if their partner has a large penis.
While incompatibilities do happen, penis size is rarely the most significant factor in sexual pleasure. When partners communicate openly and listen to each another’s sexual needs, they can usually overcome any incompatibilities.
Various strategies can help partners better manage genital size and shape incompatibilities.
Open, honest communication is very important. A person who feels anxious about their penis size may find that their partner is actually very satisfied. Alternatively, they may learn that their partner cares more about other types of stimulation, such as oral sex or clitoral orgasms.
Some other tips to try include:
- using more lubrication if sex feels uncomfortable
- spending more time on foreplay
- using pillows to elevate the partner’s pelvis slightly, which may help if the penis is small or narrow because it allows deeper penetration and more stimulation
- experimenting with different sexual positions
- offering additional stimulation — for example, males with male partners may use their hands to stimulate their partner’s penis, while those who have sex with females can offer clitoral stimulation
- incorporating oral sex into the session, which may provide more pleasurable stimulation
For most people, size does not preclude pleasurable sex, even when there is a serious incompatibility. People can stimulate one another in many different ways to provide sexual satisfaction.
Anyone who is concerned that their genitals may be too small or too large should consult a doctor.
A doctor can discuss strategies for managing sexual health issues and may even offer treatment when genital size or shape seriously undermines sexual satisfaction.