Penises might be more practical than pretty, but that doesn’t mean that women aren’t more attracted to some than others. Research shows that some penises are, regardless of size, considered better-looking than other penises. But to men who aren’t attracted to other men, it can be confounding to figure out what makes a member memorably appealing. The long and the short of it is that dimensions matter and that, while there’s no clear “Golden Penis Ratio,” girth may be more important than people realize.
Fortunately, women seem more forgiving when it comes to penis appearance than men are. One study by Dr. Norma Ruppen-Greeff found that women didn’t draw a distinction between men with surgically corrected hypospadias (a condition where the urethra opening is on the underside of the head) and “normal looking” circumcised penises. However, they rated overall genital appearance and manicured pubic hair as the most important factors. “The information may help prevent the development of shame or impaired genital perceptions about penile appearance,” Ruppen-Greeff said in a statement.
Broadly speaking, this seems to indicate that women are interested in proportionality and upkeep. This is encouraging for men, who can do some trimming and try not to worry so much about length, which research shows is a concern — exacerbated by internet pornography — for many men. A ruler measurement is simply not enough to determine whether a penis is exceptional. In fact, a girth measurement might be a better bet.
“There is a slightly larger difference in girth preference among women, which could be interpreted to mean that girth is a slightly better predictor of penis preference,” Nicole Prause, a neuroscientist who has studied women’s penis size preferences, told Fatherly. “There is some preference for proportionality in length and girth rather than extremes of either in isolation. We did not do any analyses specific to the diminutively-named ‘pencil dick’ but preferences tended to fall along linear length and girth.”
Most experiments on women’s penile preferences have historically been limited to two-dimensional pictures and self-reports of past experiences, which is why Prause had her 75 female subjects compare 33 3D-printed erect penis models. Overall, women opted for greatest length and circumference when it came to one-time partners, but only desired slightly above average length and girth for long-term partners — about 6.3 inches long and a circumference of 4.8 inches. Interestingly, women generally remembered penises being smaller than they were when asked about them later. So no matter how big a man is, there are no guarantees as to what his partner is telling her friends.
To Prause, the preference towards girth makes the most physiological sense because vaginas are not very sensitive to heat or vibration, but they have many mechanoreceptors that detect stretching and distinguish different penis sizes (without just looking at them). Other areas like the cervix, which could be stimulated by longer penises, don’t have these “stretch detectors” and are less sensitive as a result. Still, most women prefer girth to be alongside length. Like an estranged couple, when they show up to the party separately it’s weird for everyone involved.
“It’s worth remembering any time someone tells us about their partner’s size, bragging or denigrating, that such memories may be inaccurate or easily influenced,” Prause adds.
It’s important to note that women ranked other characteristics like trustworthiness and overall attractiveness as more important than penis size and that most preferences had to do more with functionality more than aesthetics. And the preference towards size in one-off partners also makes sense. Though a large penis might be exciting for an evening, the post-sex pain associated with hung partners makes a long-term commitment to a bigger member slightly less appealing.