Does Size Matter In Bed?

How vibrators and men measure up

It is often men who ask whether ‘size’ matters to partners of either sex. And it’s often women who have the conversation about size with other women.

Throughout history, both men and women have obsessed about their bodies – fat, skinny, penis shape and size as well as the size and shape of the vulva and vagina.

There are even photographers (1) and displays at museums (2) dedicated to displaying images and sculptures of both male and female anatomy.

There are sex toys, such as dildos, specifically designed to mimic the size, shape and feel of a penis, as well as masturbatory tools designed to mimic the size, shape and feel of a vagina.

So, let’s get back to the question: does size really matter and if so, to whom?

Does size really matter and if so, to whom?

The common belief (or should we call it a myth) is that a bigger penis size is better. It turns out, however, that the more you dig into the research surrounding this topic as well as having candid conversations with family and friends, the outcome is that typically that bigger penis size is not better.

Donut next to banana
Somehow the question of whether size matters always comes up.

If he’s tall does that mean…

Penis length is not associated with your height. Early researchers believed that penis size would be proportionate to your height – similar to the length of your arms. This is not the case.

It is also not an indication of how good you are in bed. Regardless of the size of the penis, one could argue it’s how you use it that makes all the difference.

One could argue it’s how you use it that makes all the difference

Finally, the size of the penis has no bearing on its ability to function as it is intended to – it is able to give and receive pleasure regardless of the size.

Bigger is not always better

When we start to consider the concept of bigger there are two areas that we’re looking at: length and girth.

Length is typically measured from the base of the penis (closest to the pelvis) all the way to the tip of the penis (known as the glans).

Girth, on the other hand, is the circumference at the widest area of the penis.

Contrary to conversations that may have been had or overheard in the locker room or at an afternoon coffee with girlfriends, a bigger penis isn’t always better.

A bigger-than-average penis has actually been associated with a higher risk of infection and injury – to both partners.

Cob of corn next to orange sliced open
Size isn’t just about length – girth is relevant too.

If the penis is longer than average, it can cause pain to the person that it is entering. For example, if the penis is entering a vagina and it is longer than average, it can hit up against the cervix causing pain, discomfort and bruising which can last for days.

If that longer-than-average penis is entering an anus, it also can create internal tearing and trauma.

If the penis has more girth than average, it can cause tearing in both vaginal and anal sex.

Then, when it comes to oral sex, both length and girth make it difficult to perform due to the ‘gag reflex’. This is an automatic reflex contraction of the back of your throat when something touches the roof of your mouth or the back of your tongue around your tonsils.

So, what is the average size? 

Did you know that the average size differs depending on which ethnic background you are from? The good news is that differences in size across ethnicities aren’t at all significant.

As I keep mentioning the word ‘average’, I should probably let you know what it actually is.

According to a study published in the British Journal of Urology International, the average length of a flaccid penis is 3.61 inches (9.17 cm), while the average length of an erect penis is 5.16 inches (13.1 cm). The average girth is 3.66 inches (9.29 cm) for a flaccid penis and 4.59 inches (11.65 cm) for an erect penis. (3)

It’s also important to keep in mind that when a penis is flaccid, it is not a predictor of the length of the penis when it is erect. Basically, what this means is that men can have an erection of similar or different size to their flaccid penis.

Fruit and vegetables resembling penis
Average penis size is actually smaller than most people assume.

Unhappy with size?

A man’s perception of his own penis size can impact confidence and positive body image. Men who are self-conscious about the size of their penis, either in its flaccid or erect state, may experience anxiety-induced erectile dysfunction and other emotional problems.

Therapists working with men who have this kind of self-consciousness often find that a person’s perception of ‘too small’ doesn’t align with what research, which I’ve mentioned above, shows.

If you are, however, truly unhappy with the size of your penis, there are penile lengthening toys, such as sleeves and extensions, as well as penis pumps that can temporarily increase the size.

Tape measure wrapped around cucumber
Various toys are available to help men unhappy with their size.

If you feel unhappy with your partner’s size – too small, too big, a little bent, whatever it might be – it would be worthwhile starting a conversation around alternative approaches to sexual interaction to potentially increase your satisfaction. These conversations might revolve around the use of toys, dildos or a wider imagination in the bedroom.

It’s important to remember the concept of ‘different strokes for different folks’. Yes, it’s true, different people prefer different sizes, lengths, girths, etcetera and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Different people prefer different sizes, lengths, girths, etcetera and there’s nothing wrong with that

However, open, honest and genuine conversations with your partner to increase pleasure for both of you is important. Again, this presents another opportunity to talk about pleasure, what you like in the bedroom and trying different positions, strap-ons or penis extensions to name a few toys.

Can vibrators and dildos replace men?

I am positive in stating that as a Sexologist, it doesn’t matter how amazing your vibrator or dildo is, how expensive or realistically designed, it will never replace the real thing.

These toys are, however, a great interim substitute or add-on in the bedroom, but never a replacement.

So, if you were to ask me whether or not vibrators or dildos can feel like the ‘real thing’, the Sexologist in me would say that it depends what type you have purchased.

Banana and sliced peach mimicking penetration
Bigger isn’t always better for the receiver.

Now don’t get me wrong, there’s a huge variety of vibrators and dildos on the market from the small, pocket-sized to the larger-than-life and even ones that can be controlled by someone else.

I would recommend that everyone has a range of different sized vibrators or dildos at their sexual disposal. This allows for diversity in the bedroom and an opportunity to play and experiment with pleasurable toys depending on the mood you are in.

I would recommend that everyone has a range of different sized vibrators or dildos at their sexual disposal

If you have a range of toys available and you and your partner are feeling more kinky than usual, you could reach for a strap-on dildo or a flogger with a dildo handle.

On days that you are alone and self-pleasuring, you might reach for a more traditional vibrator with numerous settings and functions.

It’s better to be prepared and ready for when the moments present themselves than wishing you had stocked up earlier on and potentially missing out on a pleasurable and exciting experience.

Finding your perfect fit

I hope that by now you have an understanding that there’s a wide range of penis lengths and girths across the globe and an equally wide preference from the ‘receiver’ in the sexual interaction. To match these preferences, there is also a wide range of vibrators, dildos, dongs and other toys.

Be mindful that if you’re having an intimate encounter with or without a toy, a suitable lubricant will always enhance the experience, especially if there’s too much girth.

Fruit and vegetables resembling penis
Lubricant can help reduce discomfort when length or girth are an issue.

If you feel there’s not enough length, you might want to use a penis pump.

Whatever your choice, it’s wise to stock up on products before you need them so that they are available when you have the opportunity to use them.

So, does size matter? It is really up to you. If it matters to you, then it matters and if it doesn’t, then it doesn’t.

If you haven’t yet found your ‘glass slipper’ (a.k.a. perfect fit) don’t give up. I’m confident that it’s out there waiting to find you!


(1) Dodsworth, L 2019, ‘Me and my vulva: 100 women reveal all’, The Guardian, 9 February, viewed 30 September 2020,

(2) Museum of Sex, 233 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY,

(3) Veale, D, Miles, S, Bramley, S, Muir, G & Hodsoll, J 2015, ‘Am I normal? A systematic review and construction of nomograms for flaccid and erect penis length and circumference in up to 15 521 men’, BJUI, vol. 115, pp. 978-986, DOI: 10.1111/bju.13010