For some men, love has long been a battle of inches. But a new report revealing the "definitive" length of typical manhood may let many guys breathe easier — even as they, undoubtedly, grab a ruler.
And for dudes who come up short against the average dimensions of other fellas, sex experts are quick to nix the tired notion that bigger is better.
So how does the regular man size up? The mean length of a flaccid penis is 3.6 inches, and the mean length of an erection is 5.16 inches, according to a paper titled "Am I Normal?" published Tuesday in the British Journal of Urology.
To ascertain such delicately precise numbers, British researchers assessed the merits of 96 previous papers dealing with male private parts, excluding most because they focused on health issues like erectile dysfunction. For this meta analysis, that left 20 valid studies, each conducted to gauge a dude's height and circumference down there. The total members in this unique scientific gathering: 15,521.
The project's goal, said lead author Dr. David Veale, was to construct "nomograms" — graphical representations — of penis measurements spanning all ages and races.
"The nomogram provides reassurance about what a normal size of a penis is," said Veale, a consultant psychiatrist at the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust.
For many women, the only size that matters "is usually the girth," Veale wrote in an email. "This is because the most sensitive part of the vagina is in the outer regions."
In the paper, Veale and colleague add: "Men may present to urologists or sexual medicine clinics with a concern with their penis size, despite their size falling within a normal range. This type of concern is commonly known as 'small penis anxiety' or 'small penis syndrome.' "
The "definitive" nomograms may help clinicians counsel these men, the authors wrote. The measurements also may help "investigate the relationship between condom failure and penile dimensions."
The authors concludes that past research has shown 85 percent of women were satisfied with their partner's penis size, but only 55 percent of the men were satisfied with their own size.
In reality, raw numbers don't mean much when it comes to pleasing a partner, said an expert who read the paper.
"Some men that have a smaller penis size are much more confident in their love making, find different positions or motions that actually give a lot more stimulation than can some men who have large penises," said Dr. Madeleine Castellanos, a New York City psychiatrist who focuses on sex therapy.
"It takes much more than just the anatomy," she added.
Veale's contention that "girth" is the dimension that matters most to women is the general consensus when you listen to women discuss sex, agreed Castellanos, author of "Wanting to Want: What Kills Your Sex Life and How to Keep It Alive."
If you're keeping score at home, an average guy's erect circumference is 4.5 inches, the researchers found.
"But I don't want guys to take these numbers and say: "That's it, that's the only thing that matters. I'm not very wide. What am I going to do?" Castellanos said. "No, it goes along with the whole process of her arousal, as well."
In short, she hopes the paper finally helps bury urban myths and old jokes about male length equating to maximum pleasure.
"There's a lot of social programming about if a guy is really big. There are a lot of ideas spread throughout our society that have no basis, at lease none scientifically," she added. "That social programming piece, yeah, it's huge. No pun intended."