While a precise number is open to scientific debate, it’s commonly accepted that the average size of an adult male penis is five and a quarter inches, erect. Generally speaking, measure in under about three inches erect, and you have what’s called a micropenis — the least common of the conditions falling under the banner of an “inconspicuous penis,” which includes a webbed penis, where it is difficult to decipher exactly where the scrotum ends and the penis begins; or a buried penis, where the shaft of the penis is hidden by skin and fat.
Thought to be caused by inadequate testosterone in the later stages of fetal development, or maybe insensitivity to androgen, it’s a rare and often self-misdiagnosed condition. Only 0.6 percent of the population has a true micropenis — but peruse online forums and you’ll find many men with average-size or larger penises lamenting concerns about their seemingly inadequate genitals.
The series of recent conversations I’ve had with heterosexual men who have true micropenises share common strands of despair: a scarring first sexual encounter; paralyzing fears of relationships and intimacy; confusing ideas of normality gained from the men they see in porn (even at the annual “Smallest Penis in Brooklyn" competition, the male bits are concealed using decorative toilet paper); resentment toward women; desperate attempts to enlarge using painful pumps, expensive pills, or alternative medicine (none of which work), and experiments with non-penetrative forms of sexual release such as receiving anal sex from men or masturbation assisted by sex toys.
One man I spoke with, a 51-year-old English teacher from the U.K., gave an in-depth account of his life with a micropenis.
How big is your penis?
It varies a lot, but I will give you my latest findings from the tape measure department: Max length is 2 inches soft, and 3 inches hard. The circumference — 3.3 inches soft, 4.0 inches hard
When did you realize you were smaller than average?
It built up over time. When I was 9 years old, my parents split up and my dad would send me to stay with friends and relatives during the summer. And I was quite a screwed-up kid and I was a compulsive bed wetter, so I would wake up in the morning and my bed was soaking, all the sheets and everything. On one occasion, my friend’s mother got really angry and told me I must not do this anymore and I had to take off my wet pajamas in the kitchen in front of everyone and that’s something I remember vividly. It was quite a horrible time and it happened once again when we went to stay in a hotel in the west of England.
At this point, I was about 12 and I was quite fat because I lived with my dad and he didn’t cook, so I was just eating loads of junk food. I was pre-puberty and I was embarrassed all the time. When I wet the bed, the manager, a woman, said if you do that once more I’m going to cut off your silly little willy. That really stuck with me. Very soon after that, at secondary school, we were all made to do gym, and when we were in the changing room, that’s when I really became aware of how different I was because most of the other boys were entering puberty and I was already very embarrassed about my body, but it just got worse. I got really badly bullied and teased by the kids and the teachers. The teachers were worse than the kids. It was really quite nasty. They didn’t refer to my penis, but the kids did. I just wanted to hide. I was so plump I couldn’t even see it.
Is that when you discovered they come in different sizes?
Yes. There were two or three boys who were obviously very well developed and they would swagger around showing off. I was desperate not to show anything, so I’d really try and hide. As the months went on, it got worse because everyone changed, but I didn’t, and by the time I was 14, I was still a very plump boy with a very small penis.
What was puberty like?
I became anorexic when I was about 14, I think because I was bullied about my weight I stopped eating. But I did suddenly start to grow very tall quite quickly and I got very thin and I got pubic hair. Unfortunately, the bits that didn’t grow very much were my genitals. In some ways, it was better, because I wasn’t fat, but I was now a much bigger body with the same package. My peer group all had girlfriends and I was friends with a lot of girls and boys, but I remained a virgin until I was 23.
When did your penis stop growing?
When I was 14. Quite honestly, my entire life has been shaped and damaged by my penis size. I’m still not really over it, even though I’m way into middle age. I’ve had relationships, but they’ve never been terribly good, particularly not from my partner’s point of view. I always feel like I can’t do what I should be able to do as well as most people. That’s what I worry about. And doctors have never been any help.
When did you realize you have what’s medical classified as a micropenis?
I can’t remember when I first heard that word, but I think it was on the internet in the mid-'90s. I didn’t seek diagnosis.
When you were a teenager or an adolescent, did you avoid girls, or intimate situations, because you were worried about your penis?
It was bad. A couple of my friends really wanted to help me out, so sometimes we would get together: Two or three girls and two or three boys. As the evening went on, we would pair off, and I remember one time I was paired off with a girl and I was so worried about revealing this that I never did anything. It took a few more years for me to even get to the point of getting undressed in front of any woman, any girl. I think I was about 21.
What was your first sexual experience like?
It was traumatic. I was 21 and it was at a party. I’m very sociable and I love parties. This was a big house party and a lovely girl really took to me; she really enjoyed my conversation and she was the one who suggested to me that we go upstairs and find a bedroom. This had never happened before. At this point, I had very long hair, we were all into smoking weed, and I thought, Yeah, why not? I’d almost forgotten why not! I was so relaxed with her and she was so sweet that I forgot for a moment. We got to a certain point and she couldn’t hide how disappointed she was. She was quite annoyed and I don’t blame her at all; to this day, I don’t blame her. Because it was before the internet, I hadn’t had any education into what the alternatives were. I could have done other sexual things, but in those days I think we were all a bit naïve. Even the kids who claimed to be very sexual didn’t really know that much.
Did you tell her or did you wait for her to see?
I didn’t tell her — she really wanted to have sex. She undressed and then she helped me undress, because I wasn’t very keen to take my clothes off. She started trying to get me hard because she couldn’t really see what was there. I guess she was hoping it would change, or get bigger. I did get semi-hard but it wasn’t enough and I couldn’t penetrate her. We rolled around on the bed a lot and it went on for quite a while. I pretended I was too stoned to do anything and suggested we go back and dance again. It was about two years before I was in bed with a woman again.
Was that because you were scarred from that first experience?
Yes, and I still am. The trouble with this particular condition is that it doesn’t change.
Did you count that as losing your virginity?
When did you lose your virginity?
Not until much later. At college, I was surrounded by lots of beautiful young women and I really started to hate myself. I hated myself too much to do anything about sex. I became a recluse — I ran away from it for quite a while and it wasn’t until three years after I left college when I got a job and met a girl who seemed to really go for me. That’s when I did lose my virginity. I was 23.
What was that experience like?
It was great, even though it was also embarrassing. It was much better than the first time because the girl I was with was very experienced and knew how to deal with me; she just knew how to get what little I had to offer. She knew how to get that little thing inside her! She made the most of what I have. And she was sweet and lovely and laughed about it all and she was fascinated by how small it was. I had a relationship with her for almost a year. But she lost interest in having sex with me, she had other boyfriends, and eventually she became a lesbian.
We stayed friends for a long time, though. She had great affection for my tiny little penis. She told me about all the other men she’d slept with. Some of them were so big they could lift the duvet off the bed with their erection and make a tent that you could all snuggle under. All I could do is lift it up enough for a little snail to get in. We just had a good laugh about it. And she made me feel a lot better. If I hadn’t met her, I’d probably still be a virgin.
Did you go on to have other relationships? Did that experience embolden you at all?
For a while I thought, It’s no good. I thought maybe I should just be gay — maybe I could just be a bitch to a gay man, I could take it up the ass. But I didn’t enjoy it very much and I realized I wasn’t gay. You’re either gay or you’re not; you can’t make yourself be gay. But I really liked the whole world of gay men and women — the scene, but not the sex. I did sleep with a few guys, though.
Did you feel more comfortable showing your penis to other men?
Men made me feel stranger than women did. They objectified me as the “little dick guy” and were more likely to humiliate me. But humiliation can be quite enjoyable in itself if you get twisted enough. That’s when I thought maybe I should reveal and flaunt my small penis.
What role did you take when you had sex with men? Did you enjoy it?
I was usually "the bottom" although I did have a night with a guy who just wanted to suck me. I was a bit shocked at the time and did not enjoy it as much as I should have. I am still unsure about all this — like I said. I was simultaneously attracted to the gay scene and yet averse to the idea of having sex with a man. Maybe I was just too cowardly? If I had let go and made myself become a real gay, that might have been my salvation.
These days, do you identify as gay or straight? Who are you attracted to?
My predictable physical ideal is a skinny, small-breasted, narrow-hipped, boyish, probably dark-haired, intellectually dominant woman who will not be bothered with makeup and such and will tell me exactly what she wants me to do and will get quite annoyed if I fail. I have never actually had a relationship with such a woman.
Are you in a relationship now?
I’m not currently in a relationship. I was with a very beautiful woman but we didn’t live together. I don’t know if it has really ended because it’s ended many times. When I’m in a relationship, I want to give them as much as anyone would — I’m always encouraging them to go find something more if they need something more; it’s always around if you need to find it. My last partner couldn’t cope with that. But I can’t blame it all on my penis. It’s more than that. She couldn’t cope with my self-loathing, which I suppose is an extension of my physical condition. I could have had cancer; I could have had worse things happen! Maybe I shouldn’t have made such a big deal of it.
Do you blame your penis for the demise of all your relationships?
There’s always other things you can blame it on. What I’m really trying to say is that underneath all this, I don’t really believe in myself. I’m not someone I would want to have a relationship with if I were a woman. I’m a pathetic little nothing, really; that’s what it’s made me feel like. I was raised around all these macho uncles and teachers who expected men to be men and we all know what that really means. I’m overdramatizing it, really, but this is what it’s done to me. Maybe I’m using it as an excuse because I’ve just got a very feeble personality.
When did you last have sex?
Twenty-one months ago. February 2013
Can you have penetrative sex?
It’s really very difficult. All the other things are fine: oral, manual and I have never got into all the additional things, the toys, the strap-ons and the vibrators. I don’t like it. I love bodies, touch and all those things are great, but full sex is something I just can’t do properly. My penis is just not big enough. When I’m having sex I’m always aware that she’s probably pretending to enjoy things more than she really is and the last woman I was with admitted that was true and that just stopped me dead. I knew it was true and of course it’s not her fault, it’s my fault.
Is there any sexual activity for which you think having a small penis works in your favor?
Yes, oral sex, giving it rather than receiving it. I’m often worried that women feel they have to return the favor, but I would need to be very thoroughly persuaded that any woman would really want to put my horrible little penis in her mouth, and then taste the result. I would like to think I might be good at other things — maybe as a gentle, miniature introduction to anal sex, but I have never had the nerve to ask if it might be wanted.
Do you focus on your physical appearance much? Is dress, grooming important to you?
Yes, how did you know? But in my case, it’s a joke. When I earned better money, I would spend a lot on stylish clothes and especially shoes, but when I put them on, I immediately realized how ridiculous I was, how ridiculous I appeared. I adore and admire those of all sexes who can wear clothes well, who understand and exploit their own beauty.
Do public restrooms cause you anxiety?
It is quite difficult sometimes and there’s nothing worse than being desperate to go and getting to the urinal and you’ve got to get it out and over your clothing before you release and it can sometimes happen at the wrong point and then your pants are covered. I have to shave any hair away from there because it gets trapped very quickly, especially because I’m not circumcised. In London, we have these "Gentlemen's" public toilets where you all stand in a row, trying to pee, trying not to notice the next guy's penis. Imagine how much worse it was for me, try to stretch what I had out so as not to drench my trousers? To avoid these obvious disasters, I always try to find a cubicle: Sitting down is the only safe way I can pee.
What’s it like when you visit the doctor? Are checkups uncomfortable?
That was an issue for a long time. Now I find it more of an entertainment because they don’t laugh at me they just look at it and make strange expressions. One doctor did actually say to me, “Has it always been that small?” This was a male doctor. Poor guy.
Do you masturbate?
I love masturbation. It’s great. I’m sure it must be nicer if you have six or seven or ten inches of stuff to play with, but it’s still very sensitive. For men like me, it’s much more a matter of finding something like a towel or lying on a bed and rubbing against it, rather than using my hands. The stereotype of the guy jerking off with his hand, I can do that but it’s not very comfortable. So I do what some people call humping the bed. To be honest it’s my one great release.
Is masturbation your primary form of sexual activity?
Yes. These days I attempt it about three or four times a week, but I only reach a "climax" once every ten to twelve days or so, usually thinking of my favorite sexual scenario.
What’s that scenario?
There is a fantasy that has invaded my inner life, and it goes back to a German soft-porn video I watched in 1993 or so. The scenario is a young man in a room with a slender girl, both are naked. She gets him to kneel on the floor, in front of a huge mirror. She ensures he has the best possible erection before kneeling herself, turning her back on him. She is up on her knees, she shuffles backwards, her open legs above his closed thighs, she pushes her backside against his chest, she lowers herself gently, locates his erection, directs it into her: all the while they are both watching themselves in the mirror. So it is basically very simple rear-entry sex in a kneeling position, but it always seems to me the most wonderful thing, and yet I could never get anywhere close to doing this in reality. I tried once to achieve the simplest, flat on the bed rear-entry penetration but my penis never got near the important area, and it never could.
Is pornography an important part of your masturbation regime?
Apart from that bit of German porn, not really. I find most porn very dull and disappointing. I prefer my own imagination. But ever since my teenage years, when I became aware of how small my penis is, I became fascinated with men who have a big penis. That’s from porn, really.
Do you think about your penis size every day?
I can tell just by the way people walk and the way they look and the way they relate to other people that they have a big penis. You go into a meeting and the guys are swaggering around with their legs akimbo as if they’ve been riding a horse because they’ve got such an enormous package they can’t really walk straight and it’s just crazy. I have got to a point where I am quite amused by it and I’m fascinated by all this sex stereotyping and gender stereotyping. I’ve got strong heterosexual instincts and if I see a woman I feel strongly towards, even if I just glimpse somebody, the next thing I think is, No, don’t! You know what will happen … Well, nothing will happen, but if something did happen, you know how it will end up. It will be that terrible scene again; it will be that thing with the regrets and the apologies. And there’s nothing worse than that. After a while, you just accept that you can’t ever do it properly. You can try all the textbook stuff and advice column stuff about positions, but thinking about that kills things. You want it to be more natural and you just start thrusting away and it’s popping out all the time. It just doesn’t stay in because it’s just too small. That’s what it comes down to, I’m afraid. I’m laughing, not crying, by the way. But I might cry as well.
Do you warn women first, or do you do a "reveal"?
I warn them. I usually say, “I don’t think you’re going to be terribly impressed, but this is what I’ve got.”
So you do feel a need to disclaim before you’re naked, or do you do it when you’re in the moment?
I’ve fallen in love so many times in the last decade, and, oh God, this is what really kills me: There are some people who must wonder why the fuck I acted so weird with them. Because we get to a certain point and then I try to take my foot off the accelerator and have to reverse because we get to a point where the next step is to get into bed and I didn’t really want to do that. I’m happier masturbating. I’m sorry. It’s crude and horrible, but I think it’s a fairer because I’m protecting them from that horrible disappointment. It’s like selling a car that doesn’t have an engine you have this beautiful car but there’s no engine. It doesn’t do anything. But I still have the same desire and the same yearning. I must be lucky because I haven’t done anything wrong but I can understand why some men go mad and do horrible things. Sex is such a powerful force. I keep reading about these cases where guys feel they’ve been embarrassed or humiliated and take their revenge on women or children and do terrible things, I think there’s something in society that doesn’t help this whole setting up of what’s a proper man. It’s just human nature — I think it’s biology, really; it’s the survival of the fittest and the biggest and the strongest.
How many sexual partners have you had?
I’ve only slept with six women. That’s not many, is it?
Do you use condoms?
That’s a terrible story. When I was desperate to get into bed, to get into women, I was trying to find condoms that worked but I still haven’t found one. You can get ones that are really small, but there’s so many sad stories of that. Oh no. There are small ones these days, but back then you couldn’t. It was one size fits all, and it didn’t. It didn’t fit at all by any means, and of course the few girls that I’ve known had practiced with their boyfriend the best way of putting on condoms, but when they met me and had to deal with me, it was just totally different. It’s not like a banana at all; it’s a little battery. All I can ever do is say I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.
What’s your relationship like, with you penis?
I don’t hate my poor little penis. It’s fine as far as I am concerned, but it’s not terribly good at getting on with the rest of the world.
This interview was condensed and edited.