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Men believe the average is 6.2 inches. Actually, it’s an inch shorter.

Many popular song lyrics contain double entendres. Among the best known is Bull “Moose” Jackson’s 1952 rhythm and blues hit, “Big 10 Inch.” The narrator is eager for sex. His gal is hesitant. Then he offers something that changes her mind:

“… I really get her goin’
When I pull out my big ten inch
Record of a band that plays the blues….”

Yes, back then, vinyl LPs measured around 10 inches. But that’s not what the narrator is talking about. 

Do erections measure 10 inches? Stories on sexually explicit sites, for example,, often gush over men with eight-, nine-, 10-inch, or even longer erections. Of course, most people know that erotic fiction indulges in vast exaggerations. But still…. 

Surveys asking men how large they’d like their erections to be generally come in around 7.3 inches. Meanwhile, several studies have established an average that’s considerably shorter—6.2 inches. 

Is the 6.2-inch figure accurate? Not according to a researcher at Clemson University in South Carolina, who recently analyzed “all known studies” of erection length—22 published reports. He found that the average erection measures 5.1 to 5.5 inches—and “probably toward the lower end of this range.”

Who Measures?

The official way to measure erection length is on the topside of the shaft, from the pubic bone to the tip. In some studies, men have measured themselves. In others, researchers have wielded the rulers. Not surprisingly, when men measure, erections come out larger than when researchers do. Men jam the ruler into their abdomens and pull on their erections to stretch them.

Self-measurement studies began in 1948 when pioneering sex researcher Alfred Kinsey asked thousands of men to measure their erections. Their reported average was 6.2 inches. This finding played a big role in establishing what passes for the supposedly normal length. 

Other self-report studies involving heterosexual men have produced similar average lengths: 6.1, 6.2, and 6.3 inches. Meanwhile, self-measurement studies by gay men have averaged 6.5 inches—but significantly shorter when their partners measured.

It seems certain that self-measurement studies have produced exaggerated findings. The Clemson researcher argues that the errors have resulted from two predictable, very human errors:

• Volunteer bias. Men who believe they have small erections don’t rush to measure them and send the results to researchers. In Kinsey’s study, only half the men who could have replied actually did, presumably those who considered themselves the best-endowed. This undoubtedly raised the average.

• Social desirability bias. This error involves the tendency to answer questions with replies the respondents believe are culturally expected. For example, many studies show that people tend to overestimate how much they exercise. Culturally, exercise is considered beneficial, so people tend to exaggerate how much time they spend in physical activity. Similarly, people underestimate how much alcohol they drink. Culturally, heavy drinking is problematic, so people tend to underestimate their consumption. What’s culturally expected for penis size? Somewhere between enormous and gargantuan. As a result, men tend to overestimate the length of their erections.

When researchers have measured erection length, they’ve found them to be consistently smaller—5.0, 5.1, 5.4, and 5.9 inches, with an average of 5.4. In other words, compared with self-measurement, researchers find erections to be around an inch shorter. Hence, the Clemson investigator’s finding— the most rigorous studies show an average erection length of 5.1 to 5.5 inches.

What Women Really Think of Erection Size

Several studies have asked women how long they believe their men’s erections are. Their average estimate—5.3 inches, within the range the Clemson researcher found.

Are women happy with that? Researchers at UCLA and Cal State Los Angeles posted a survey on that asked women what they thought of their men’s erections. A huge number replied—26,437 women age 18 to 65. Seven out of eight (84 percent) said they felt “very satisfied” with their man’s size. One in eight (14 percent) wished for larger and one in 50 (2 percent) wanted smaller. Most women value warmth, caring, kindness, consideration, solvency, supportiveness, shared values, and a good sense of humor over phone poles in men’s pants. 

The Orgasm Gap

Why do men want gargantuan erections? Largely because they believe huge ones are more likely to please women. This follows from men’s widely held belief that intercourse is what brings women to orgasm. If that’s true, then the larger the erection, the more it fills the vagina, the more likely women are to climax. Actually, this belief is seriously false and leads to a great deal of sexual disappointment and misery.

Intercourse brings men to orgasm around 95 percent of the time. Most men assume the same is true for women. But the best research shows that only a small fraction of women are able to work up to orgasm from intercourse alone. The studies disagree, but it’s safe to say that fewer than 20 percent of women—probably much fewer—are reliably orgasmic solely from intercourse.

Why is there such a pronounced male-female orgasm gap? Largely because only a minority of men understand that most women need direct clitoral caresses to work up to orgasm—and many women don’t get enough clitoral caressing and cunnilingus to do so. In other words, gentlemen, as far as women’s pleasure and orgasms are concerned, your erections are much less important than your fingers, lips, and tongue. Any size erection can bring great pleasure to the man it’s attached to. But the key to women’s pleasure and orgasms is direct, gentle, extended clitoral caresses. Ask the woman you’re involved with to coach you on how she enjoys having her clitoris caressed and licked.

Now, a small proportion of men—maybe 2 to 5 percent, one in 20 to 50—have huge erections, for example, many actors in commercial pornography. They’re hired based almost entirely on their size. Consequently, the porn audience sees erections that are much larger than average and gets consistently misled into thinking that huge ones are the norm. On the contrary, the average erection measures around 5.1 to 5.5 inches. The vast majority of men have erections in that range. And that length is fine with the vast majority of women.

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