Penis

Every guy is different
Image by Nicki Varkevisser CC BY 2.0 Cropped

Worried about yours?

It helps to understand your member

....the penis seems to be one of the most variable elements of the human body in terms of shape and size. If yours is giving you pleasure, and working well, you don't really have much to worry about.

Definitions

Penis
The part of a boy's body that he pees out of.
Genitals
The combined name for the penis and testicles
Foreskin
A covering of skin over the head of the penis (only in about 50% of males) Every male is born uncircumcised (with the additional skin covering over the head of the penis).
Erection
When your penis goes hard and stiff.
Flaccid
When your penis is soft and limp (in its normal state)
Street names
dick, little buddy, dork, pocket snake, cock, wiener, pocket rocket, tool...and lots of others....

Some concerns

  • My penis is too small
  • My penis looks different to others.
  • When will my penis grow?
  • My penis bends right/left/up/down when it is erect.
  • Will others laugh if they see my penis?

Many boys worry that there is something wrong with them because they saw another boy's penis and it was a bit different to their own.

Penis characteristics

Penis hanging

Q: When you stand up, does your non-erect penis hang to the left or right at all? [1]

Option Percentage
it hangs straight down 58%
hangs to the left slightly 27%
hangs to the right slightly 15%

You will find lots of information that quotes different ratios on the direction the penis hangs. Don't worry about the numbers - the take home message is that a lot of guy's penises do not hang straight down. This occurs mainly because of slight differences in the root connections which attaches the penis to the pubic bone.

Penis curve

Hi, I'm 17 years old, and I would like to know what is wrong with my penis. I started to masturbate when I was about 12 going to 13, .... then I saw that my dick wasn't straight anymore, it curved to the right. I tried to bend it back as hard as I can, but it won't go back it only hurts. I think I have some disorder. I was chatting and some one said they could put a cast on it. So I don't know. I'm afraid of what girls will think when they see it. please, if it's a disorder, please help me. thank you. email me back.

My friend's penis curves upward when it is erect, and mine doesn't. Why is that? Our penises are about the same size.

age 16, Pennsylvania [1]

I have masturbated for over a year, and it seems my penis is bending to the left side. Do all guys penises do that?

age 14, Iowa [1]

Penis curvature normally develops simply from the organ's internal structures growing to unequal size, a condition that's quite common. In fact, it's rare for a man's penis to be perfectly straight. [1]

Some men have a penis that curves to the side, upward or downward when erect. This is common, and a bent penis in most men isn't a problem. Generally, a bent penis is only a cause for concern if your erections are painful or if the curvature of your penis interferes with sex.

Penis length

The fear that your penis looks too small or is too small to satisfy your partner during sex is common. But studies have shown that most men who think their penises are too small actually have normal-sized penises.

Your ancestry can play a part in the length of your penis - Mode Penile Length 2011 World Health Organization (WHO) Statistics (world map)

Chart of penis lengths
Image from Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Wikipedia image showing distribution of penis lengths. Note the average length (just under 6" or 15cm) accounts for less than 50% of the male population. Several other studies show similar results. Also see Human penis size (Wikipedia) for more studies.

Measuring your penis (if you really have to!)

Get your penis really hard and measure along the top of it. Measure from the very end of your penis all the way back to the bone just above where your penis attaches to your body - that's it. Make sure the end of the measuring device actually represents zero - some have zero a small distance from the end which will give you a smaller reading. Also measuring tapes used for clothing sizes are inaccurate because they stretch - so you need a solid measuring device.

I was wondering what the average size was of a flaccid [soft] penis. Mine is about four inches long. Is that small?

Age 15 Maine [1]

The size of flaccid (soft) penises actually varies much more than that of erect penises. If you've seen other guys your age in the showers at school, you probably noticed there's a wide variety of penises. Yet, if you were to see these boys with erections, you'd see their penises would be much closer in size. Small ones tend to get much bigger when they're erect, and the longer ones just tend to straighten out and get hard. I don't have an average figure for you — it's really impossible to measure anyway, because even on the same person the flaccid penis can change in size dramatically depending on a bunch of factors, such as temperature — but four inches is well within the "normal" range. (3)

Small penis

The most common problem boys have about their penis is they think it is too small. Guys who have seen male porn will definitely have a distorted view of what normal size is. Porn actors represent a very small section of 'well endowed' males. Also anything can be done with an image to enhance it.

The vast majority of these men are in for a surprise. Worry about small penis size is common. Abnormally small penis size is not.

Be aware that another guy's penis can look bigger than yours because you generally view your penis from above (foreshortening). The glimpse of the other guy's penis is from the side and they tend to look bigger from that angle.

foreshortening example
Foreshortening example Perspective - Foreshortening Mysid [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Accepting yourself 'warts and all' requires a deliberate decision from the owner of the penis. Everybody has something about themselves they don't like. The choice is: feel bad about yourself because of your perceived inadequacy or accept yourself the way you are built and enjoy your improved self image.

Penis enlargement

...there's little scientific support for nonsurgical methods to enlarge the penis. And no reputable medical organization endorses penis surgery for purely cosmetic reasons.

Most of the techniques you see advertised are ineffective, and some can damage your penis. Think twice before trying any of them.

Sex using a smaller penis

The walls of the vagina are composed of soft elastic folds of mucous membrane skin which stretch or contract (with support from pelvic muscles) to the size of the penis. This means (with proper arousal) the vagina stretches/contracts to accommodate virtually any size penis, from small to large.

Comments about smaller penises

My penis is smaller than average (4.5 inches), and I must admit that its size has caused me a lot of anxiety. I often worry that people will laugh at me if they see it. But I would like to agree with what I read in ........... about size. "Anything bigger than 2 inches and smaller than 10 inches is normal." I guess I should be thankful for what I have, although I would love to be just a little bigger.

age 28, Canada [1]

As a female, my humble opinion is, "it depends." I knew a guy with a penis that was larger than average, and that was great. But then, I knew a guy who was quite a bit smaller than most people, and that was even better. I believe it is true that size doesn't matter; it is what you do with it that counts. (And, yes, there *is* a "too big!")

age 19, Tennessee (female) [1]

I don't think size matters so much as how you use it. I have had smaller penises that were WONDERFUL. I have also had larger ones that didn't do a thing for me.

age 36, Indiana (female) [1]

Circumcision

Some males have the 'foreskin' removed from their penis with a surgical operation, usually when only a few days old. This is called circumcision and it was performed a lot during Bible times. There was an increase in the rate of circumcision in the 1800's supposedly to try to stop masturbation. Circumcision is done on about 50% of boys worldwide today and is now performed mainly because of family tradition.

Circumcised
'cut' penis, foreskin removed
Uncircumcised
'uncut' or 'intact' penis, foreskin remains - same as when born

There is a huge debate about whether to circumcise or leave the penis intact. Go to http://www.circinfo.net/ for some balanced information on the debate (copy and paste address). The evidence appears to be that the benefits of circumcision far outweigh the risks by 100:1.

I have heard some guys saying they are 'cut'. I am not going to ask anyone questions about that part of my body. How can I tell if I am 'cut'?

age 11, California [1]

If you can see the 'head' of your penis without having to pull skin (foreskin) back then you have been circumcised (cut). If the 'head' of your penis is covered by another layer of skin (foreskin) that mostly can be pulled back to reveal the 'head' then you are uncircumcised. All males are born this way (uncircumcised, uncut, intact).

Foreskin (for the uncircumcised)

This section is written by a specialist who deals with penises and penis problems every day of his working life. It gives an overall picture for the owner of an intact (uncut/uncircumcised) penis.

Specialist advice about a foreskin

At birth the foreskin (scientific name: prepuce) is naturally tight. It's opening is narrow and often cannot be pulled back so one can even see the urinary outlet in the head of the penis (scientific name: glans penis). In addition, the inner side of the foreskin sticks to the head of the penis as if a layer of glue is holding the two surfaces together (actually they share a common layer of skin cells). With each wash, it is a good idea to retract the foreskin as far as it will go - without causing any pain. If pain is experienced, one can create new problems.

After many such retractions over time, the two surfaces separate. As the two surfaces separate, the foreskin opening gradually can be stretched so that it can pass over the head of the penis. Approximately 92% of foreskins can be retracted fully by age 5. Sometimes a foreskin that was previously retractable now starts having difficulties. The reason may be due to a condition known as phimosis, where the foreskin opening becomes narrower again, or it can be due to the inner skin of the foreskin becoming reattached to the head of the penis. As the boy gets older he usually attempts many times to retract it so that by the time he becomes a young man (age 13), the foreskin should certainly be fully retractable with ease in all cases.

If any boy who reads this cannot retract his foreskin with ease for any reason, then it is advisable to see a pediatrician or a urologist to correct the condition. The correction can be as simple as application of a steroid ointment for many weeks, to plastic surgery, to circumcision. If retraction problems persist, consideration should be given to circumcision, which will not only cure the problem, but prevent many potential future problems.

Two other conditions are worth mentioning: paraphimosis and balanitis. if the foreskin ever is retracted but fails to return to the extended position, an emergency condition known as paraphimosis exists. In this condition, the head becomes very swollen and blood circulation ceases. This necessitates a visit to the emergency medical service immediately. Balanitis or balanoposthitis exists when an infection (typically painful) occurs beneath the foreskin. Early medical treatment will minimize pain and new problems.

Finally, there are many potential problems - too many to list here - that can occur in the uncircumcised male. Basically they include STDs, skin conditions, and penile cancer. All males should be aware of any unusual skin condition when the foreskin is retracted. If any are detected, he should consult his physician.

THE ABOVE INFORMATION SHOULD NOT BE TAKEN AS BEING MEDICAL ADVICE. CONSULTATION WITH YOUR REGULAR DOCTOR IS RECOMMENDED.

Contributed by a specialist doctor [2]
Smegma (cock cheese)

A natural secretion of skin cells and oils that collects under the foreskin in both males and females. It may have a pungent aroma (commonly compared to cheese [males] or fish [females]), and has lubricant, pheromonal (sexual attractant) and perhaps bacteriostatic (bacteria-killing) functions.

I'm uncircumcised. What's the white stuff that builds up on the inside of my foreskin? How can I stop it from building up?

age 18, Massachusetts [1]

The substance is called smegma, and it's a secretion of the glans (head) of the penis. There's no way to reduce the amount of secretion, but the buildup can be easily prevented. In circumcised males, the smegma washes off easily and does not accumulate, but if you're uncircumcised you need to include a simple procedure in your bathing habits. Whenever you bathe, simply retract your foreskin as much as is comfortable, and wash the glans as well as the area of skin behind it. It takes only a few seconds and should reduce or eliminate the buildup you described. [1]

Foreskin stuck to penis head

I am 16 I can not pull my foreskin back I was wondering if anyone can help me. I have tried before but as I get half way back it begins to hurt so I dunno what to do. I had also read somewhere that the little piece of skin that connects the penis to the foreskin will not detach sometimes until 18 years of age, and I am unaware if mine is still present. Any help would be appreciated

age 16, England [3]

Answer 1: I had the same problem as you until I was about 14. What you need to do is keep pulling it back every day, a little further each day. It will gradually peel back off the head of your penis. You'll find that what can sometimes make it difficult and painful is that you have got absolutely tons of smegma (cock cheese, white/yellowy sticky stuff) stuck under your foreskin, and that causes your foreskin to stick to the head of your penis. By gradually pulling back over time, it will peel off. [3]

Answer 2: The day after I emailed you, I jumped in the hot shower (seems this helps to loosen the skin up) and i tried a different approach rather than pulling all the skin back evenly. I tried focusing on the top (the bottom follows) but the only piece that really needs to stretch is the top because the bottom never retracts just kinda stretches. A mistake i guess would be very common is that people would try to stretch the whole thing and mistake the pain of the bottom (of the foreskin) for their limitation. A word of advice, its easier to do while your sitting down... standing i guess stretches the skin more because your penis is further from your body hence more tension. [3]

It is often recommended that if you cannot pull back your foreskin completely by the age of 16, you should see a doctor. [3]

Really sensitive penis head

it is recommended that u clean ur penis but whenever i touch my bare penis head it makes a sort of aching pain. is there anything i can do to make this pain go away?

age 16, Washington [1]

Specialist advice: Some degree of hypersensitivity is not uncommon but this lad seems to be at the sensitive end of the range, particularly by age 16.

In terms of cleaning the penis, the best approach is to let water do the work - just retract the foreskin fully in the shower or bath and hold it right back to expose the coronal sulcus fully while letting the water clean it. Cotton wool (I think in the US you call that surgical cotton) can also be used - in water that will give a very gentle touch.

For reducing the hypersensitivity, the key thing is just to keep the foreskin retracted as often and as long as possible. The glans will become dryer, which makes it easier to touch, and will become more accustomed to touch. At first that may not be so easy in clothes, but it will probably be OK in bed, and of course in the shower or bath. Before long it should be OK for a while at least in clothes so long as soft underwear is worn.

My own case was a little different in that I first got my foreskin back (with great difficulty) before puberty, at age 11. I retracted it regularly and often from then on. This meant that it didn't grow with my penis at puberty (about a year later) so then every erection uncovered the glans and there was soon no trace of hypersensitivity. [2]

Tight foreskin (phimosis)

If you have a tight foreskin, meaning that you have difficulty pulling the foreskin over the head of your penis and back again, you should see a doctor. The following advice is from a circumcision specialist: [2]

There are creams, mostly steroid based, which with daily applications - several times - over many weeks will reduce 80-90% of cases of pathological phimosis. Some phimoses are not good candidates as the condition may be associated with "lichen sclerosus et atrophicus". Not only would such creams be ineffective for this condition, but the condition itself is often oncogenic (may lead to eventual penile cancer). Therefore it is strongly advised to see a dermatologist to examine the phimosis and the appearance of the skin prior to recommending a course of treatment. The creams do require a prescription plus follow up visits. Circumcision is an option for phimosis that will permanently cure phimosis and prevent its recurrence - plus accrue other benefits - however for cases of "lichen sclerosus et atrophicus", circumcision is usually considered mandatory. There are potential system reaction side effects to steroid products, but potential complications to circumcision too. In either case, the percentage of side effects or complications are small and treatable.

Contributed by a specialist doctor [2]
Foreskin hygiene

Boys should be taught how to wash daily underneath the penis foreskin. If your parents 'forgot' about it, you may be sexually challenged by an awkwardly foul-smelling penis. Worry no more! Get in the shower and follow these instructions:

  • Gently pull the foreskin back away from the head of the penis.
  • Rinse the head of the penis and inside fold of the foreskin with soap and warm water.
  • Use your finger to remove any deposits from the fold.
  • Pull the foreskin back over the head of the penis [2]

Broken penis

Even though your penis does not have a bone inside it to break, it is still possible to break the parts of your penis that make it hard. The break usually occurs through rough sexual activity. The break is extremely painful.

When you forcibly bend an erection, the tunica albuginea has no more room to stretch. So it tears. Or breaks. This is what is called a broken penis.

More information

Penis Health, Conditions and Diseases (Difficult site to navigate but worth the effort)

References

The following addresses cannot be hyperlinked (page will lose secure status) - copy and paste addresses.
  1. Adult website (used with permission) Address available on request.
  2. Contributed by Stefan A. Bailis, MA Psychotherapist. Director, Research & Educational Association on Circumcision Health Effects, Bloomington, MN. USA
  3. Site no longer exists.