Heartbeat

The Good News About Size

It's true: it really doesn't matter

By Dr. Pepper Schwartz August 4, 2023

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This article originally appeared in the July/August 2023 issue of Seattle magazine.

Well, let’s suppose, just for a moment, that bigger is better. I say “just for a moment” because I don’t actually think there are any data to support the idea that bigger penises are more talented, satisfying or even more handsome. They are, however, culturally admired and many men, and some women, fetishize size and search for partners who can display their large wares with flare.

For that population with this obsession, there is good news. Weird news, actually, but good news if you are a fan of larger penises. As reported by Martha Kempner in her terrific column, “Sex on Wednesday,” penis size has had a significant enlargement worldwide.

Based on a serious “hands-on” study of a global sample of more than 55,000 penises, she reports that the study finds that the average penis has grown 24%. Even accounting for measurement error, that’s no small deal. Reportedly, using a number of other studies for comparison, the length of the average penis went from about 4.8 inches to 6 inches in only 29 years.

All jesting aside (although it’s hard not to poke fun at this study on penile progress), it’s not at all clear if these added inches are a good thing. Fast body changes are worrisome until we know for sure what is causing them. And here’s another fact: While a 6-inch penis still seems manageable, what if the chemical or other changes that created this change keeps happening? A really big penis is fine if a person knows how to use it, but used with too much enthusiasm, it could truly hurt whatever orifice it is entering.

So, instead of just celebrating bigger shafts (the study did not say that scrotum size increased), I would rather urge us all to get away from size idolatry. I believe that the research and personal reports show that size matters only when there is no talent, care, or emotional connection involved. Penises then are no fun no matter what size they are. But I assure you, in almost all cases, if a partner is an attentive, knowledgeable, and creative lover, size matters not at all.

So, here’s what I think: We can measure genitals to see if hormones or something else is rapidly changing our bodies, but let’s do our science in the service of health and not confuse size with potency or pleasure.

 

Q: I don’t want you to think this is a minor issue because it is a big problem for me.  I have asked my girlfriend to move in with me and she has said yes on one condition — that I don’t let my dog sleep in the house.  She is kind of OCD, and doesn’t want hair all over everything. My dog has not only slept in the house, but she also sleeps on my bed. I really am not sure what to do.

OK, full disclosure. I am a dog lover. I have three dogs. And sometimes one of them sleeps on the bed. So, I can’t be totally objective here. That said, I will try. Obviously, you love your dog. And I am assuming you love your girlfriend, or you wouldn’t be inviting her into your home. So, while (reluctantly) I am going to give more weight to the need to accommodate your human relationship, I am mindful of how important a commitment a dog can be.

So, here’s what I’d suggest. Ask your girlfriend what a good compromise would be. Tell her you are willing to keep the dog out of the bedroom (I know, a sacrifice) but that it isn’t fair of her to ask you to totally ban your dog from a place the dog has become accustomed to as her home, and of course, a place that you have become attached to having her with you. If this woman loves you, she should be able to recognize that you both would be giving up some strong preferences for each other.

For example, one solution could be “yes” to the living room and “no” to the couch. Or you would vacuum every day in order to keep the house more hygienic. I truly realize that no compromise here is painless, but remember you are trying to figure this out so that you, your dog, and your girlfriend can live happily ever after.

 

Q: I am a “second wife.” I am not a “trophy wife,” even though I am significantly younger than my husband. I had an early marriage while I was working for him as his secretary, and I left the job to finish college. He was married at the time, and it was purely professional between us. My husband’s marriage lasted for 25 years before his wife passed away. We didn’t see each other again for another 20 years, but met again at a business conference. We had dinner, fell in love, and married within a year. The problem is that his friends are loyal to his ex-wife and have not really been friendly to me. I think it’s because they think there was something going on long ago, but there wasn’t. What can I do to make this easier?

It’s a tough one because of all the reasons you’ve mentioned. What I think you should do is cultivate his friends one by one, and see them alone, not with him. They need to know your real story and also have a chance to know who you are (which is obviously not what they think you are). You can be honest about this — invite each of the women that you think you would like to know better out to lunch (not the men; that could cause the very suspicions you want to get rid of) and let them know the history of your relationship with him when you were his secretary (which was purely professional).

Then try to find out about who they are, and see if you can find common values that will help you bond with them. They might be wary. They may resist being “cultivated,” but if you are warm, authentic, and looking for friendship, the best of them will come over and be more supportive and interested in the real you.

 

Q: My daughter seems to think I owe her babysitting. I do not enjoy babysitting and so I do it rarely. She accuses me of being selfish, and, honestly, a lot worse. She is pretty nasty to me and compares me to her friends’ mothers who seem to live for their grandchildren. I was an attentive mom and I had good adult relations with both my son and daughter but now she wants something from me that I really don’t feel I should have to do. What is your opinion on this?

Boy, this is not the first, second or even fifth time I have heard this story. There seems to be an expectation among a very large group of young women that their mom is supposed to be a built-in babysitter, especially when there is someplace they want to go or some emergency that requires a “drop everything you are doing” and babysit. 

As you can pick up from my tone, I think it’s an entitlement that you don’t have to submit to. Your daughter probably didn’t ask your permission to become pregnant, or ask you to decide when she should try to time conception so that you would be available to babysit. This is your daughter’s and her partner’s responsibility, not yours.

That said, her attitude is her attitude, so what can you do about it? Well, first create some boundaries. Be clear about what you want to do, what you can do, and why. If you find babysitting stressful, say so. If you can’t deal with too much crying or chasing a toddler around, let her know that it’s hard on you. If you can babysit occasionally, be clear about what that means. If you can afford it, and don’t want to do it yourself, offer some economic support for hiring someone. If you do not want to be the first emergency call, make that clear. 

This can cause a backlash of resentment, but you can absorb that emotional cost if you keep telling your daughter you love her and your grandchild but that you want to be loving and supportive in other ways. Ask what else she needs that you feel better suited for. Maybe it’s helping take her dog to the vet, or shopping for groceries with or for her, or helping clean her house or whatever else you can do to help her with her life in a way that makes you feel good and that she really needs.

If she refuses every gesture and is furious about your refusal to babysit, or to babysit at a moment’s notice, it might be worthwhile getting a little mother-daughter therapy with a professional. 

About the Heartbeat: Ask Dr. Pepper Schwartz Column

Welcome to my world!

I spend a lot of time thinking about intimate relationships.

If you’ve read any of my previous work as a professor at the University of Washington, or watched me on television, you know that I care about what keeps people together, what drives them apart and what gives them pleasure. I am curious about trends, but also unique behaviors. I look at people above the clavicle and below the waist. It’s all interesting and important to me.

I know it is to you, too. I want to hear what you’re thinking. Please ask me questions or give your point of view at Pepper@seattlemag.com and I will respond, if appropriate, online and perhaps in print.

Let’s have some meaningful conversations – and some fun while we’re at it!

So, what’s on my mind today?

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