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Does size actually matter when it comes to sexual satisfaction?

Men are socialised to believe that bigger is better but it doesn't matter nearly as much as society makes out.

Written by
Team Pilot
Medically reviewed by
Last updated
April 23, 2024
min read
Does size actually matter when it comes to sexual satisfaction?
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When you order a pint and the bartender brings out a middy. When your friend challenges you to a schnitzel-eating competition. When you're moving in with a partner and it's time to choose a mattress.

There are a few occasions in life where size matters... But, is in the bedroom one of them? That's the age-old question.

From a young age, men are socialised to believe that bigger is better when it comes to their 'equipment.' These narratives are unhelpful at best and damaging at worst. If your member is on the smaller side — or even just average — you may find yourself wondering if you measure up.

Read on as we delve into the question of 'does size really matter?' and how you can make the most of what you've got for a killer sex life.

So, does size really actually matter?

Despite the cultural perception, it's not a hard and fast rule (pun intended) that people prefer a big penis. In fact, asking "what is the best penis size?' is like asking "how long is a piece of string?"

The truth is, all people are different. Sure, some prefer large penises. But, for many others, an average size penis is perfectly fine, and it matters more what you can do with it.

Ironically, much of the stigma and social conditioning around penis size comes from other blokes. But, when it comes to lovemaking, penis size isn't nearly as important as locker room banter makes it out to be.

What is the average male penis size?

You might be wondering what is actually considered 'normal' when it comes to penis size.

Well, the average penis length is probably smaller than you think. Research shows that the average penis size is 8.8 cm (3.5 inches) when flaccid and 12.9 cm (5.1 inches) when erect [1].

In terms of width, the average girth measurements are 9.31 cm (3.66 inches) for a flaccid penis and 11.66 cm (4.59 inches) for an erect one [2].

Of course, it's easy to feel like you can't compete when every second bloke boasts that he's packing 7 inches. But as it turns out, this might be an honest mistake.

Research shows that on average, men overestimate their penis size by 1 inch [3]. So, take that size bragging with a grain of salt.

What size does the average woman prefer?

So, what do women really want in the bedroom? Again, it's important to note that it's highly subjective, and varies from person to person. There's no global committee that meets once a month to discuss ideal penis size.

However, if we look to science for clues, the short answer is 'it's complicated.'

In a 2015 study, researchers used a 3D model to determine female preferences for penis size [4]. They found that the preferred erect member size was 6.4 inches in length and 5 inches in circumference. However, this was for one-time partners.

For a long-term relationship, the ideal was slightly smaller, at 6.3 inches in length and 4.8 inches in width. So, as with most things, context is important. The expectations may be different for a one-night stand vs. a long-term, committed relationship.

You may have noticed that there's a gap between the ideal penis size and the actual average size. Unrealistic expectations, anyone?

The good news is, science shows that having a big penis is far from the most important factor in what people want in the bedroom. Other important considerations for sexual satisfaction include connection, novelty, and feeling desired [5].

What factors can interfere with sexual performance?

If you're looking to increase your sexual prowess, it's best to focus on things that are inside your control (ie. not the size of your manhood). Here are some other important factors that can affect sexual performance.

Sexual stamina

You can have the most impressive-looking sports car in the world. But, if the engine lacks power, it's unlikely to live up to its potential. The same applies to your sex life!

For many women, sexual stamina matters more than penis size. This is about more than just how long you can last in bed — it's also a matter of how vigorously you can perform. But essentially, it comes down to how long you can last in bed before you need to take a break.

Research shows that the average length of a sex session is 5.4 minutes [6], while the average desired duration is 7-13 minutes [7]. If you find that you finish in less than 1-1.5 minutes, this is typically classified as premature ejaculation— a treatable condition that can impact your performance and confidence in the bedroom.


Nothing kills the libido quite like stress. There are a couple of reasons why this is the case. Firstly, if you're stuck in a mental loop around your crappy day at work, it makes it harder to stay 'in the moment' with your partner. This can mean you're less present and attentive to their needs.

Then, there are the biological factors. When you're anxious, it can trigger an increased production of the stress hormone, cortisol.

This, in turn, can lower the production of the sex hormone, testosterone, which plays an important role in your sex drive [8]. It can also restrict blood flow to your nether regions, making it harder to get it up and keep it up.

If you've been experiencing chronic stress and it's starting to affect your sex life, it may be time to take action. Consider how you can regain some balance in your life, and take more time out to rest and recharge. If the issue has been going on for a while, it's worth a conversation with your doctor.

Performance anxiety

It's a frustrating scenario that has plagued many men:

You bring a lovely person home after a night out and you're excited and ready to get intimate. And yet, when the time arrives, the 'little guy' just doesn't want to cooperate. You can't get it up, and your companion is left wondering if you're just not into her.

Meanwhile, you're trying to figure out if your erection loss is a case of 'whiskey dick', or whether you've just got a little too overexcited and psyched yourself out?

If you've been in this situation, you're not alone. Research shows that performance anxiety is one of the most common causes of sexual dysfunction. It affects around 9-25% of men and has been found to contribute to erectile dysfunction (ED) and premature ejaculation [9].

Often, the more pressure you put on yourself to perform in these situations, the more challenging it becomes. It can be helpful to take the focus off yourself and instead, pay attention to your partner's pleasure.

However, if the issue persists, it may be a sign of an underlying anxiety issue. Visit your GP, who will be able to refer you to a psychologist, sex therapist or another support provider.

Health issues

How you perform in the bedroom is strongly linked to your overall health. There are many underlying health issues that can cause sexual dysfunction.

Physical health issues that can impact sexual performance include low testosterone levels, high blood pressure, stroke or nerve damage from diabetes. Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can also cause issues.

Some men also experience erectile dysfunction as a side effect of certain prescription medications, such as antidepressants and blood pressure medication [10].

Psychological health issues linked to sexual dysfunction include depression, anxiety, marital or relationship problems, porn addiction, and past sexual trauma. Again, it's important to go and see someone if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, so you can get the support you need.

Adequate foreplay

One major misconception in the 'does size matter' debate is that if you're not packing 6 inches (at least), your partner won't be able to orgasm from penetrative sex. But, here's the thing: when talking about penis in vagina sex, roughly only 18% of women can climax from vaginal intercourse, anyway [11]! And that has very little to do with penis size.

The reality is, for most people, clitoral stimulation is the only way to achieve the big 'O.' Even if you are able to reach the g-spot, there's no guarantee it will do the trick. This is one of the reasons foreplay is so important for women. Take the time to explore other ways to pleasure your partner, such as oral sex, touch (both inside and outside the body), and mutual self-pleasure.

Foreplay isn't just for the ladies, either! For strong sexual performance, it's just as important for men to be 'warmed up' as their partners. This becomes especially true as you become older and are no longer bursting at the seams at the sheer sight of an attractive person.

How do I increase sexual performance?

At the end of the day, size doesn't matter nearly as much as society makes out. Big penis, small penis, average penis — it's different strokes for different folks.

However, what does matter is that you feel confident in bed. If you feel that you're not performing to your full potential, the best place to start is to rule out any underlying physical or psychological health issues.

As a general rule, prioritising mindfulness in your everyday life is another great way to improve your sexual performance. It can help get you out of your head and make you more present in all areas of your life — including in the bedroom.

If you've been experiencing ongoing performance issues, it's important to know that help is available.

Everyone deserves a fun and fulfilling sex life, and there is no shame in seeking support. If your car was having issues, you'd take it to the mechanic, right? So, why should your sex life be any different?

Pilot has highly effective and discreet clinical treatment programs available for both erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation. Backed by real medical professionals, we've helped over 100,000 Aussie men experience lasting erections and more satisfying sex.

Image credit: Getty Images

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