How to Do It

Have I Been Totally Duped About Penis Size My Entire Life?

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Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by AaronAmat/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

How to Do It is Slate’s sex advice column. Send your questions for Stoya and Rich to howtodoit@slate.com.

Every Thursday night, the crew will answer one bonus question in chat form. This week, life size.

Dear How to Do It,

Recently I had sex with a man who said he had a 10-inch penis. It was, indeed, huge. But when I told my (gay) friend about this guy’s endowment, he told me that specific measurement was statistically very, very unlikely, and that the guy was probably just getting away with it because people have a skewed perspective (mostly because guys lie constantly, making people think smaller sizes are bigger). He said my guy was probably more like 8 or 9 inches, and that is already “huge” by most people’s standards. He said anything over 7 inches is “big,” given that the average penis is more like 5 inches or a little more. Is this … right? How rare is a 10-inch penis? Do all guys lie? Is everyone terrible at spotting actual size when they see it?

—Lengthy

Stoya: Just yesterday I was repeating that joke about how women have been being told that 4 inches is 6 inches our whole adult lives. It’s a tired joke. But it almost always gets a laugh.

Rich: It’s so true. Low-key gaslighting by way of genitalia.

Stoya: A bit, yes. Why do men lie about penis length? And why are they so focused on length over girth?

Rich: I think the answer to your first question is: Because they can. Enough people will believe them or not call them on their shit when it’s clear that they’re lying. I mean, you can imagine how often this happens via hookup apps. So few say their real size, and then they show up and what are you going to do? Look their penis in the eye and yell, “LIAR!”? You’d be the asshole then.

Stoya: Eugh. Just eugh.

Rich: It ends up putting the burden on you because then you have to ask yourself, “Am I really that superficial that dick size would make or break the hookup?”

Stoya: If the guy can’t make up for it with oral and digital sex? For me, total deal-breaker. Sexual relationships should be sexually satisfying.

Rich: And also, when someone lies to you that early on in your association with them, it doesn’t bode well for the future—even if it’s a petty lie.

Stoya: Exactly. Very red-flag move.

Rich: I guess the problem is that so many people lie that others feel the need to do so to correct for that, essentially revising the truth. If enough people say they have 8 inches on Grindr but are in truth 6 or so, 6 inches eventually becomes 8 in terms of how your brain processes those numbers. These fraudulent boners are tearing at the very fabric of the numeral system.

Stoya: What happens if you show up, and someone is actually too big to handle?

Rich: As if there’s such a thing!

Stoya: Because if someone told me they were 10 inches I’d be like “haha sure,” and then if they actually were I’d have to use my vagina and at least one hand.

Rich: Something might be prohibitively big for my butt, but I always manage to find a way to play. On apps guys will note that they a “true 9 inches,” which is like, “Hm, well now that’s convincing.” But again, it’s just more words that could obscure more lies.

Stoya: Kind of makes you want to bring a ruler.

Rich: It’s just so funny how easy it is to just say something in those forums and have people accept it as truth because they want to. The one thing I find wild about this is that the writer actually saw it, and yet their friend is convinced that he’s more of an authority on dick that is a total stranger to him. Gay men are not immune to mansplaining.

Stoya: Just because you have one doesn’t mean you know everything about all of them. And wow is it nice to hear that acknowledged. Statistic outliers happen. I do agree with the friend that anything over 7 inches is big, and that 9 is huge. I wish there was more discussion of girth. Always.

Rich: Yeah, to circle back around to a question to asked earlier, men probably pay less attention to girth because men in general pay less attention to matters of women’s pleasure. So they think “big is long” because length is more obvious display of size. And yes, I think that the dick of dubious length at hand in this question very well could have been 10 inches. It’s possible.
It happens.

But isn’t it funny to think of what we’re examining here? Inches? The difference between something that is one half-thumb longer than something else? I believe in my heart that a 7-inch dick and a 9-inch dick are two very different things, but the actual unit of measurement is so infinitesimal that it kind of exposes the absurdity of the debate.

Stoya: And really, I’m going to kick the width horse until it dies. Thin is easier for anal. Thick is nicer for vaginal penetration. Medium (or multipurpose) is preferable for variation in penetrative hetero-monogamy.

Rich: Would you say that consensus among women is width > length?

Stoya: I have no idea. I’m curious. I know length can be a thing for women who like having their cervixes stimulated. Or who just generally prefer super deep penetration.

Rich: I think I prefer thinner in general because of what you said about anal and also they’re easier to suck.

Stoya: Agreed. Thick dicks and molars …

Rich: Yeah, and I have a big mouth, so if I’m having trouble you gotta wonder if this guy ever gets good head. The poor, wretched donkey-dicked man …

Stoya: I actually do feel bad for really big guys out there getting fetishized and having their cocks grated.

Rich: There’s a parallel phenomenon that is actually the inverse of what we’re talking about that I’d like to discuss, though it involves some TMI on my part. So please forgive me. I have noticed that people often really want to believe that my dick is bigger than it is. I mean, when it’s in front of them.

Stoya: Oooh. Strange. I think I might understand? There’s something erotic about taking a giant dick. Even for me—and it isn’t really my thing—there’s something satisfying about handling it.

Rich: I have a gay friend and a straight friend who have experienced this as well. People will tell us, “Your dick is so big.” And it’s like, you know, I’m not complaining. I’m happy with my dick. But let’s be real: It’s not so big. I know big dicks, and I know them well. It’s good, I’m happy, but neither of us are blind here.

Stoya: But they are! By their rose-colored glasses!

Rich: I guess so. I guess it’s also sex brain, which just skews everything.

Stoya: Yeah. Everything is so hot, so hard, so tight.

Rich: So maybe those inflated numbers guys give are ultimately just correcting for that?

Stoya: Like, “This is how big you’ll think I was”?

Rich: Haha, yes—“I’m gonna get you so hot that you’ll BELIEVE it’s 8 inches.” And not for nothing, I think 7.5 is the ideal size. But in light of all that we’ve discussed, I guess that’s more theoretical or at least fuzzy given that this scale is built on lies. Do I even really know what 7.5 is?

Stoya: You should be able to compare with your own, no?

Rich: Kind of? Actually, that’s another thing! Sometimes a guy with a legitimately massive dick will be like, “Oh, we’re the same size.”

Stoya: ?

Rich: Do I have dick dysmorphia?

Stoya: It sounds like you might?

Rich: I don’t know. I just feel like everyone’s lying all the time, even to me, about my own dick.

Stoya: I feel like you ought to get a measuring tape and get to the bottom of this. I’ve got the national averages one web search away.