Here we go again: Does size matter? Was Freud wrong when he said, “Women have penis envy”? In my experience, women have penis curiosity, and men—wondering if their penis is long enough or wide enough—have penis envy. Freud asked, “What does a woman want?” A new study from Australia suggests that she wants a guy who is tall and well endowed.

Since Darwin, evolutionary biologists have studied the role of female mate choice. Generally, women seem to prefer taller guys with broader shoulders. If we believe the biologists, the relatively larger size of the human genitalia compared with our ape cousins suggests a link by preference. A unique study by biologist Brian Mautz, of the University of Ottawa, Canada, published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, delivers the message that “penis size does matter for attractiveness.”

In the study, more than 100 heterosexual Australian women, ages 18-53, were shown a series of digitally projected life-size images depicting about 350 varied male outlines in a nonaroused state and were asked to rate the images. The women were told only that the study was measuring male attractiveness. Not surprisingly, the women rated “taller and more broad-shouldered men as more attractive.” This result has been reported in many past studies. Surprisingly, however, being well endowed mattered almost as much as height in this new study.

What makes this study important, says evolutionary biologist Wyatt Anderson of the University of Georgia in Athens, is that “sex and behavior are important parts of evolution for any species, so the results are worth noting.” The study was well controlled and appears to be valid.

One of the most interesting parts of the study was that the attractiveness results stopped increasing when the flaccid penis length exceeded about three inches. This observation supports the idea that the results may have been more a matter of pleasing proportional size in the most attractive male shapes. It is also important to note, from a urologic perspective, that penis size, like almost any other measurable biologic phenomenon, follows the bell-shaped curve. The overwhelming majority of men (particularly in the flaccid state) will fall in the middle of the bell-shaped curve, while the rare exceptions at the low end and the high end can be viewed as outliers.

The study perhaps suggests that, at least in terms of penis size, evolution does have an effect on humans. The authors of the study acknowledge that modern culture may have played a role in what the women rated as attractive. But the study also suggests that “a preference for the well-endowed may have played a role in the evolution of the human male in prehistory” and notes that “people have been wearing clothing for about 170,000 years.”

I can only turn to my experience practicing urology for nearly 40 years. I have seen more penises than can fill the Rose Bowl and have spoken with thousands of women “attached” to many of those penises. Never once has a woman asked me to make her man’s penis longer or wider. However, many women have asked me if I could make it a little bit firmer and attach it to a sweeter guy.

And the debate goes on!

Dudley S. Danoff, MD, FACS is the attending urologic surgeon and founder/president of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Tower Urology Group in Los Angeles, California. He is the author of Penis Power: The Ultimate Guide To Male Sexual Health (Del Monaco Press, 2011) and Superpotency (Warner Books).

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