Does Size Matter? The Impact of Penis Size on Sex and Health

Published: January 23, 2013

“Everybody knows [the saying] ‘size doesn’t matter’; and everybody knows [it] really means that size does matter.”  — Alan McKee (2004) Does size matter? Dominant discourses about penises in Western culture.

 Recently there has been a lot of attention in the media on research on penis size and various aspects of health. As I have done before, I wanted to go right to the source and let some of the scientists who have been conducting this research share with you what they have found and how well it matches what the media has been saying. What follows is a guest blog entry by Joshua Guthals, a blogger at Hunter College’s Center for HIV Educational Studies and Training (aka CHEST), which has a mission is to identify and promote strategies that prevent the spread of HIV and improve the lives of people living with HIV.

Because in the United States men who have sex with men are disproportionately impacted by HIV, many of CHEST’s studies focus on the lives of gay and bisexual men—this includes their penises and what they do with them—which can be a political hotbed. As CHEST’s director Jeffrey T. Parsons describes it: “This type of public health research is very important, no matter how politically volatile. Studies like ours allow us to better understand sexual health and risk so that we can address effectively the health needs of gay and bisexual men.”

 And there’s simply no way to avoid talking about penises and sex and condoms when researching HIV-prevention. One of the primary mechanisms through which HIV transmission occurs is via unprotected anal intercourse between men, and after decades of global scientific research, consistent condom use remains the primary strategy to slow spread of HIV. Although promising research continues into microbicides and pre-exposure prophylaxis, the male condom maintains its position as the workhorse of STI- and HIV-prevention.

 But that doesn’t mean that men (gay or straight) use condoms consistently. Studies find that many people are inconsistent with their condom use. Why would this be the case, especially when decades of public health campaigns have hammered home the importance of using a condom every time? A better understanding of men’s feelings about condom use has the potential to bolster HIV-prevention.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *