“For whatever reason, there’s something hardwired in the brains of males where they place tremendous stock on the size of their penis,” says Brian Christine, M.D., a urologist with EDcure.org and the Urology Centers of Alabama.
While Christine’s practice is pretty much limited to men with sexual disorders, it’s common for healthy, young guys to step in his office and ask (regardless of why they made an appointment): What can I do to make my penis bigger?
Sound familiar? Whether you’ve voiced the concern or kept the thought to yourself, you're probably curious.
"The short answer is there really isn’t anything you can do to make it bigger," Christine says. "A more nuanced answer is 'I need to see exactly what’s going on,'" he adds. Men with certain diseases or traumas can experience a loss in length—or the appearance of shrinkage. But it’s really important to dig deeper. If you treat the underlying issue, then there’s potential to get some size back, Christine explains. (Even if the underlying issue is all in your head.)
The average penis measures somewhere between 3 and 5 inches when not erect, and between 5 and 7 inches when erect, according to the Mayo Clinic. Further research from the journal BJU International, which included over 20,000 men, shows it may actually be on the shorter side of those parameters. Scientists measured the length and circumference of each man's flaccid penis, as well as the length and circumference of his erect penis. Their findings:
Avg. Flaccid penis length = 3.58 inches
Avg. Flaccid penis circumference = 3.66 inches
Avg. Erect penis length = 5.16 inches
Avg. Erect penis circumference = 4.59 inches
So, while you're panicking thinking your member is smaller than average, you're probably packing as much as the next guy. (A man is only considered to have a "micropenis" if it measures less than 3 inches when erect, per the Mayo Clinic.) But there are some scenarios where your penis can appear to shrink.
Reasons your penis seems smaller
1. You have erectile dysfunction
If you've experienced difficulties obtaining a rigid erection for a period of time, there can be atrophy of your penile tissue and a loss of length and size over time, Christine explains. This is probably due to the fact that your penis isn't getting engorged. "It’s normal for men to get erections several times a night during REM sleep, even if they’re not engaged in sexual intimacy," Christine says. "Even when you're not sleeping, the stretching and oxygenation of the tissue keeps it healthy and supple." Treatment for ED can improve the overall health of your penis and hopefully regain some of what you lost.
2. You have Peyronie’s disease
"Named for a French surgeon back in the 1600s, who first described it, peyronie's disease is scar tissue that can form in the inner lining of the penis resulting from injury during intercourse," Christine says. Thrusting causes a lot of torque and strain on the penis. (Be careful; this is the most dangerous sex position.) When scar tissue forms, because it's not very stretchy or elastic like the rest of the penis, it can cause a curve to form when your penis becomes erect, he adds=. That’s the hallmark of the disease. "What's more, men almost always say their penis seems to have gotten shorter; and it has, because the scar doesn’t let your penis assume its normal dimension," Christine explains.
3. You’ve had a prostatectomy
Another example of where men see a loss in length is when they’ve had surgical removal of the prostate gland to treat prostate cancer. The penis can appear shorter, which is a physical effect of the surgery itself. "I’m not critical of the surgery, though, because it’s very effective in combating cancer," Christine clarifies.
Penis-enlarging products: the bad, the worst, and the ugly
Pills & lotions
"There’s nothing topical you can put on your penis that will make it grow longer," Christine says. "Same goes for pills—it’s a complete waste of money." You'll see these products marketed with penis-boosting vitamins, minerals, herbs, or hormones, but no controlled studies have shows they’ll provide any benefit. Guys drop significant amounts of money—hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars—but it's just voodoo, he says.
Exercises & stretches
Have you heard of jelqing? "This is a stretching exercise where men will take their thumb and first finger and, almost like milking a cow, will 'strip' their penis from the base out to the head," Christine says. The theory is, by manipulating, pulling, and stretching the tissue, you’ll be elongating it over time. There’s no evidence this actually happens, though. "I’ve actually seen patients who have been so aggressive with jelqing they've caused Peyronie’s disease," Christine says. "They’ve caused scar tissue and curvature to form, causing a problem when there wasn’t one to start." The typical guy who turns to jelqing tends to be young and healthy without any medical issues. Don't do it. There's very little benefit that can come from this, but a huge potential for damage.
*However, Christine adds, men with peyronie’s disease will sometimes be put on stretching routines. But this is a very different scenario. "There’s defined scar tissue we’re trying to influence with stretching or medication; Xiaflex is FDA-approved to be injected into the scar tissue to help break it down," he adds.
Probably the most popular in the bunch, vacuum devices are plastic cylinders that go over the penis and pull blood in. "Some guys swear they gain length; but for the otherwise healthy, it’s very devious," Christine says. Even if your penis appears to be larger, it's only a temporary boost.
Surgical methods & procedures
1. Suspensory ligament surgery
The suspensory ligament of the penis is a fibrous cord that connects the pubic bone down to the shaft of the penis, Christine explains. "When you cut that, surgically, it will make the penis dangle a bit more and hang a bit lower," he says. "But that's not because we lengthen the penis; it’s just a procedure to give the appearance of more length, he says." The surgeon makes a small incision at the base of the penis at the top. There are risks. Nerves that go to the head of the penis that provide sensation can be affected or damaged. "I do the surgery infrequently," Christine admits. "When I tell a patient it’s not really going to make your penis any longer, they usually don’t go through with it."
2. Liposuction & cosmetic surgery
"If you have a tummy tuck or liposuction in that area, you'll have the appearance of more length—without actually making the penis any longer," Christine says. There are obvious risks, like bleeding. But the surgery isn’t unreasonable, he says, especially for men who have lost (and kept off) a good amount of weight and want to get rid of the extra fat since the pubic region is a really difficult area for men to lose weight.
3. Penile implant
For men with erectile dysfunction (or other trauma/specific cases) surgeons can surgically place a number of different implants in a man. The simplest consists of bendable silicone cylinders placed in the "erection chambers" of the penis, according to edcure.org. There's also 2- or 3-piece inflatable prosthesis options. In the case for the 3-piece implant, there are two cylinders, a reservoir, and a pump; the cylinders are inserted in the penis, the pump sits under the scrotum (between the testicles), and the tubing that connects the cylinders to the separate fluid reservoir is inserted under the lower abdominal muscles. To inflate (and deflate) the prosthesis, you press the pump. It transfers fluid to inflate the penis.
Natural ways to make your penis appear larger
1. Lose weight
"Men who are obese or have a lot of bodyweight, particularly in the super-pubic area—that fat pad above the penis—are covering their penis up," Christine says. It’s not that your penis is shrinking; but because that fat pad has gotten so much larger, it can cover your shaft. "If I tell a man he should lose weight because it’ll help his heart disease or diabetes, he may or may not lose weight; but if I tell a guy their penis will appear longer, I guarantee they’ll lose weight like you wouldn’t believe," Christine says. So, just how much? "If an obese man loses 30-35 pounds, he can make about an inch more of his penis visible," Christine says.
Women care more about your manscaping than the girth, skin quality, and length of your penis, according to research published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. Seriously. Women ranked cosmetic appearance greater than size. What's more, a little maintenance goes a long way (literally). Your penis can appear larger if you trim up your pubic hair; it may even increase sensitivity around the base of your penis, according to the Mayo Clinic.
How to stop fixating on your size
1. Change your mindset
Most men are curious about the average size of a man's member. "But we have patients who are so fixated on the appearance and perceived size of their penis, that it's their entire focus," Christine says. Stop judging yourself and valuing your worth based on something that's out of your control.
2. Realize she doesn't care how big you are
"I query wives or girlfriends of patients, and most aren’t concerned with how long your penis is," Christine says. "A lot of times women say girth is most important, because the outer third of the vagina has most of the sensory nerves," he explains. The penis will stimulate the vagina better when it has some girth. You also need to recognize your partner, who loves you, cares a whole lot less about the size of your penis than you do, he adds. It’s mostly in your head.
"When a partner says 'You look and feel great to me,' that’s tremendous," Christine says. That can remedy most of a guy's fears and worries. Use this guide on how to navigate awkward, but necessary, sex talks.