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The Association Between Penis Size and Sexual Health Among Men Who Have Sex with Men

Abstract

Larger penis size has been equated with a symbol of power, stamina, masculinity, and social status. Yet, there has been little research among men who have sex with men assessing the association between penis size and social-sexual health. Survey data from a diverse sample of 1,065 men who have sex with men were used to explore the association between perceived penis size and a variety of psychosocial outcomes. Seven percent of men felt their penis was “below average,” 53.9% “average,” and 35.5% “above average.” Penis size was positively related to satisfaction with size and inversely related to lying about penis size (all ps < .01). Size was unrelated to condom use, frequency of sex partners, HIV status, or recent diagnoses of HBV, HCV, gonorrhea/Chlamydia/urinary tract infections, and syphilis. Men with above average penises were more likely to report HPV and HSV-2 (Fisher’s exact p ≤ .05). Men with below average penises were significantly more likely to identify as “bottoms” (anal receptive) and men with above average penises were significantly more likely to identify as “tops” (anal insertive). Finally, men with below average penises fared significantly worse than other men on three measures of psychosocial adjustment. Though most men felt their penis size was average, many fell outside this “norm.” The disproportionate number of viral skin-to-skin STIs (HSV-2 and HPV) suggest size may play a role in condom slippage/breakage. Further, size played a significant role in sexual positioning and psychosocial adjustment. These data highlight the need to better understand the real individual-level consequences of living in a penis-centered society.

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Acknowledgements

Christian Grov was supported in part as a postdoctoral fellow in the Behavioral Sciences training in Drug Abuse Research program sponsored by Public Health Solutions and the National Development and Research Institutes, Inc. (NDRI) with funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (T32 DA07233). The Sex and Love v5.0 Project was supported by the Hunter College Center for HIV/AIDS Educational Studies and Training (CHEST), under the direction of Jeffrey T. Parsons. The authors acknowledge the contributions of other members of the Sex and Love v5.0 Research Team: Michael R. Adams, Virginia Andersen, Anthony Bamonte, Jessica Colon, Armando Fuentes, Catherine Holder, James P. Kelleher, Brian C. Kelly, Juline Koken, Jose E. Nanin, Brooke E. Wells, Jaye Walker, and the DIVAS (Drag Initiative to Vanquish AIDS). An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 2008 meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality Mid-Continent and Eastern Region Joint Conference.

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Correspondence to Jeffrey T. Parsons.

Appendices

Appendix 1

The Gay Life Satisfaction Scale (α = .75)

Coded:

  • 1 = Strongly disagree

  • 2 = Disagree

  • 3 = Agree

  • 4 = Strongly agree

About being gay/bisexual …

In most ways, my life as a gay/bi person is fulfilling

I think as a gay/bi person I worry about being alone in the future (Reverse coded)

The conditions of my life as a gay/bi person are just as good as anyone else’s

Being gay/bi is a difficult life experience (Reverse coded)

I will be able to get all the important things I want in my life as a gay/bi person

My life as a gay/bi person could be happier (Reverse coded)

I am satisfied with my life as a gay/bi person

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Grov, C., Parsons, J.T. & Bimbi, D.S. The Association Between Penis Size and Sexual Health Among Men Who Have Sex with Men. Arch Sex Behav 39, 788–797 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-008-9439-5

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Keywords

  • Penis size
  • Penis satisfaction
  • Condom use
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Men who have sex with men
  • Gay and bisexual men