No one really knows how long the average penis is, according to new data from British prescription website DrEd. Researchers asked more than 2,100 people in nine countries about their “ideal” erect penis length and how they thought the average penis measured up, and both men and women overestimated the average length.
According to a data synthesis of 17 studies encompassing penis measurements of 15,521 men, the average erect penis is 13.12 centimeters (5.17 inches) long. DrEd’s female survey participants guessed that the average was 13.8 centimeters (5.4 inches); the men estimated an average 14.1-centimeter-long (5.6-inch) penis—pretty close, but still a full centimeter longer than the real thing.
One of the most interesting bits of the new report is a breakdown of penis estimation by country. Polish people guessed that the average penis was 15.7 centimeters (6.2 inches) long; Brits thought it measured just 12.4 centimeters (4.9 inches). Even among U.S. states, estimations varied: People in Maine thought penises were largest (16.5 centimeters, or 6.5 inches), while West Virginia’s prediction, the smallest, aligned closest with reality (12.8 centimeters, or 5.0 inches).
But the common belief that bigger is better affects penis estimates all over the place. In every one of the 10 countries DrEd surveyed—the U.S. and nine countries in Europe—people thought the “ideal” penis was longer than their perceived “average” penis. The U.S., the world’s porn-production hub, had the largest gap between the perceived average penis and the ideal penis, a difference of 2.7 centimeters (1.1 inches). The people of the Netherlands were most satisfied with the status quo—they thought the ideal penis was 1.1 centimeters (0.4 inches) larger than their perceived average penis.
The only real takeaway here is that while there is no such thing as an average penis (every penis is a special snowflake!) or an ideal penis (every penis has a unique set of strengths and weaknesses!), there are plenty of common misconceptions and unrealistic expectations about men’s bodies, just as there are for women’s bodies. When accessible resources that offer diverse depictions of genitalia are outnumbered by narratives promoting one specific genital quality (for penises, that’s size), it’s easy to see why young people in particular are prone to worrying whether their bodies are normal and desirable. For young women, whose ideas of “average” labia often come from the waxed, bleached, surgically-altered bodies in mainstream pornography, this dearth of genital knowledge has led to a steep rise in the number of teenage girls getting cosmetic labia surgery. Meanwhile, young men with size anxiety might try any of those useless pills and pumps promoted in spam emails.
However, these penis estimation data points may not say so much about global genital insecurity as they do about the fact that, for most people who aren’t carpenters, guessing the exact length of something between 4 and 8 inches is an infrequent and difficult task. A person’s body size and shape, penis girth, and distribution of pubic hair also play significant roles in how large his penis appears to be, and while many men have certainly measured their own penises, few people would pause during sexual activity to place a partner’s penis on a flat surface and study it end-to-end. Still, it might behoove interested American parties to take a cue from our Dutch friends and lower our ambitions an inch or so closer to reality.