When it comes to penises, length matters more to men than to women, according to a new study that reviews more than 60 years of research and debunks numerous sex myths.
About 90 percent of women actually prefer a wide penis to a long one, according to two studies included in the review.
Eighty-five percent of women reported being satisfied with their partner's penis size, compared to only 55 percent for men.
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The review, conducted by Drs. Kevan Wylie and Ian Eardley of the Porterback Clinic and Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield and St. James' Hospital in Leeds, England, respectively, combines results from more than 50 international research projects into penis size and small penis syndrome (SPS) conducted since 1942.
"The issue of attractiveness to women is complex, but most data suggest that penile size is much lower down the list of priorities for women than such issues as a man's personality and external grooming," the researchers write.
Drawing upon the results of 12 relevant studies, the review, detailed in the British Journal of Urology (BJU) International, finds that the average erect penis is about 5.5 to 6.2 inches long and about 4.7 to 5.1 inches in circumference.
The findings also deflate a few other myths about male genitalia. The notion that penis size varies according to race, for example, is false.
Another oft-repeated myth is that older men tend to have smaller penises, but Wylie and Eardley found no differences when they combined the results of all the studies together.
One surprising finding was that small penis syndrome (SPS), also known as the "locker room syndrome," is much more common in men with normal sized penises than those who have so-called micropensises (penises with a flaccid length of less than 2.7 inches).
An Internet survey of more than 52,000 heterosexual men found that 12 percent thought their penises were too small, even though micropenis is estimated to affect only about 0.6 percent of men.
One study suggests SPS often begin at an early age. Sixty-three percent of men with the disorder said their anxieties started with childhood comparisons, often to an elder sibling or their fathers, while 37 percent blamed erotic images viewed during their teenage years.
The review also supports recent studies that find penis-enlarging vacuum devices, penis extenders and traction devices rarely live up to their promises, but can, in some cases, provide a "psychological uplifting effect."
The authors take a wait-and-see approach to penis-enlargement surgery, which can include everything from partially separating ligaments in the penis so it hangs further from the body to injecting fat into the penis to increase its girth.
One of the most extreme procedures involves completely splaying the penis and inserting a piece of cartilage into it before suturing it up again.
"While information is starting to emerge on the success of some surgical techniques, this is not backed up by data on patients' satisfaction with such procedures," Wylie said.
The doctors point out some ancient tried-and-true methods for penis enlargement, but these aren't any more comfortable.
Indian Sadhus, for example, use weights to increase their penis length, while the Topamina of Brazil encourage poisonous snakes to bite their penises to get a size boost that lasts six months.
The researchers say their review is intended to "provide clinicians with an overarching summary of the many research projects that have been carried out into penile size and small penis syndrome" so that they can better treat the disorder.
When faced with a patient with SDS, "the initial approach should be a thorough urological, psychosexual, psychological and psychiatric assessment, possibly with more than one clinician involved," they write.
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