If you’re worried your penis is too small, too big, or not “normal” in some way, you’re not alone. It’s common to feel insecure about body parts, but struggles with low self-esteem, especially related to your penis, can make intimacy feel difficult or awkward. Clinical psychologist Daniel Sher tells O.school that common body image difficulties are no surprise given the hyper-digital and image driven world that we live in. Our exposure to media, including pornagraphy, can give us skewed impressions of what is normal. “In order to take back control of your body image, it’s important to realize the shame you feel is not yours. It has been implanted by the society in which you live. The idea that certain body types are ‘normal’ is a myth. You are not abnormal — you are unique. We all are.”
We talked to some experts to address some common concerns people may have about their penis.
My penis is too small
Penises exist in all shapes and sizes, and most men who believe they’re small actually fall within the statistical average: 3.5 inches flaccid, and 5.1 inches erect. If you’re worried your little guy is too little, keep in mind that there is not one ideal penis size, and that vaginas come in all shapes and sizes, too.
Dr. Linda Baggett, a psychologist who specializes in sex and body image, tells O.school that it’s important to remember, in regards to penis size, size is truly how you use it. “If you have a small penis, there are still plenty of ways to give and receive pleasure,” she comments, “with or without it.” Non-penetrative sex and other non-penis-focused activities are options to help you overcome insecurities, bringing play, joy, and pleasure back to the bedroom. Try playing a sex game, giving an erotic massage, or something more creative like rope play or role play.
My penis is too big
If your penis size is above average, it’s normal to be insecure about how this will impact intimacy. Dr. Baggett is no stranger to this problem with her own clients. “If you have a very large penis, you might need to make modifications for the comfort of your partner,” she tells O.school. “There are different penetration positions that allow different depths of penetration and degrees of control. Learn about them and use what works best for you and your partner.”
If having a large package makes you self-conscious, do your research about sexual activities that may best suit your size. Dana McNeil, founder of San Diego’s The Relationship Place, further asserts that talking and listening to your partner can help in making adjustments for both parties.
“Notice the things you do well and the positive ways in which your partner responds when you are intimate. Focus on how your partner appreciates the unique things about you that you bring to the intimacy and the ways in which you give and receive with your partner,” she suggests to O.school. “This will help you to start noticing the value you have in this relationship.”
My penis is uncircumsized
It’s not only size that matters to men. It’s common to be insecure about how your penis looks as well. When it comes to circumcision, there is no one right answer. Dana says it’s just as common to see circumcised men face self-doubt about their penis as it is to see uncircumcised men.
My insecurities are making intimacy difficult
Dr. Sher is the first to acknowledge that body image issues can have a negative influence on your sex life. “Body insecurities often lead to sexual performance anxiety, which can manifest in premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction, and reduced vaginal lubrication,” he tells O.school. “All of this provides a strong impetus to address this issue, so that you can live your life to the fullest.”
If intimacy has become harder due to self-doubt, Dana suggests opening the line of communication with your partner. “It’s okay once in a while to share with your partner that you are feeling insecure about a part of your body and ask them to remind you of the aspects of your body that others find attractive about you. It’s also okay to check in with your partner about what they enjoy or appreciate about your intimate connection as a reinforcement that you are doing many things well in the intimacy department.”
However, according to Dana, this request cannot be made as a way to have your partner take the place of your own inner healing, or the emotional work that needs to be done in order to feel more confident and accepting of your body. This is why Dr. Baggett similarly recommends practicing positive self-reinforcement outside of the bedroom.
“The bedroom is the most vulnerable place to work on your body image, so start by working on it in your day to day life,” she suggests to O.school. “Catch those negative thoughts and rephrase them using neutral accepting language, practice mindfulness to focus on the task at hand and redirect your mind away from negative thinking, be brave, stop avoiding things because of body image issues.”