Three important takeaways from the "ladies like big penises" study

First: When shown images like the one above and asked to choose which men they found more attractive, women cared significantly more about body shape than penis size. (Also, it's worth noting that the image above is meant to show you an average, actual human guy in the middle and the extremes of body shape and penis size that were shown to the women on either side of him. In reality, the women were shown a full spectrum of images mixing different body types and penis sizes).

Second: The hypothesis (that human women sexually selected human males to have the larger-than-other-primates junk they are blessed with today) comes with some big questions, including the obvious — flaccid penis size does not correlate well to erect penis size.

Third: As Faye Flam points out at The Knight Science Journalism Tracker, the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences might need a new acronym (or, at least, different subject matter).

Here's a link to the actual study


  1. The most significant problem with this study is that even if this conclusion is true, it may be utterly meaningless because it’s not a choice the vast majority of women get to make: I would argue that seeing a guy’s junk is something that for most women happens after they’ve decided to have sex with them, and it’s probably not going to be flaccid on first viewing.

    1. Theoretically, this may have happened in The Distant Past, when we were hunter-gatherers running around half-naked, and penii were on display to potential mates.

        1. I believe your last sentence is wrong: plural would be penae (corretly, as I understand), but is penes (because of origins in medieval latin used in science) .

          1. Roose_Bolton

            I remember when there was a computer called a “Wang” (and maybe there still is). A friend of mine told a girl this, and she asked, “What kind of games do you play with your Wang?” He had one of those moments he probably still regrets to this day. He said, “Oh, I don’t have one.”

          2.  @boingboing-8ff3d2721aac09f2f0a9f41964db46b4:disqus Wang computer company has been defunct since 1997.  They were competing with IBM and lost.  They made bog-standard 8086 machines.

          3. I thought Wang re-branded themselves as Packard Bell after someone pointed out that their name was a double entendre in English?

          4. I worked on a Wang based wide area network back in 1993. The systems at that time were pretty obsolete but the important components were still being manufactured. Excellent communications. As far as I know, they never rebranded themselves. I understand that they refocused on optics for a time.

      1. my classmate’s aunt makes $86 an hour on the internet. She has been fired for nine months but last month her payment was $19382 just working on the internet for a few hours. Read more on  Jive8.c­om

          1.  Almost no human behaviors are autonomic.  Genes do not encode for tying your shoes or wiping snot out of your nose.  Unless you sort of stretch the term “behavior” to include reflex actions then no, we really don’t have many behaviors evolved by our ancestors.

            Note that very few of us hunt and very few of our ancestors checked their email using their iPhones.

          2.  no, we really don’t have many behaviors evolved by our ancestors.

            What does this even mean? Where do you think we get our mating behavior, our eating behavior, our walking behavior?

            We evolved to be bipedal. Our bipedal behaviors are evolutionary. Similarly, we look for food and feed ourselves when hungry. No, we didn’t evolve the specific motor actions of “opening the fridge” or “using a can opener,” but the behavior of “feeding” is obviously evolved. Same with mating — you exist because your ancestors had an evolved behavior to put their penises into your other ancestors.

            No one thinks that a specific motor action like tying your shoes is evolved, but the internal causes that create the majority of your behaviors certainly are.

          3. What does this even mean?

            Exactly what it says.  Behaviors are not primarily determined by genes.  They are primarily determined by the brain, which is in turn shapes as much by life experience/culture as by genetics.  Genes provide the substrate but particular behaviors are motivated by culture.

            Where do you think we get our mating behavior, our eating behavior, our walking behavior?

            Culture, culture, culture.  Mating behavior differs from culture to culture.  In case you haven’t noticed many cultures have been polygamous; ours is not.  Did we “evolve” to be polygamous or monogamous?  Neither.  We evolved to have the capacity to both.  What decides which we are is culture.  What do we eat?  We seem to have evolved to develop food taboos but the specifics of those taboos greatly differ from culture to culture.  The US/UK taboo on eating horse or dog is a pretty good example.  We didn’t evolve not to eat dog; that’s culture.

            As far as locomotion goes, yes, that’s cultural as well.  It’s pretty well-documented that people living in bigger cities actually walk faster than people living in smaller cities.  Do you think this difference in behavior is encoded in genes?  Seems implausible to me.  Again, genes provide the substrate for bipedal locomotion but the specifics are provided by culture.

          4. What I was rather pithily alluding to was that although clothes would usually be considered a very recent phenomenon in evolutionary terms, the heterogeneity and rate of change of what people find to be sexually attractive physical characteristics are such that what people liked before clothing came about is not likely to have a huge bearing on present day tastes.

          5.  Sez you. I haz biological urges. Pants are immaterial (well, actually, they’re material, but…).

          6. Only if you assume that tastes are largely determined by genetics rather than culture.  Unfortunately there’s an absurd amount of evidence that tastes are largely determined by culture rather than genetics.

            The mere existence of the term “acquired taste” suggests that genetics don’t determine tastes.

            Need more evidence? Let me know whether you find this beautiful.

          7. @wysinwyg: That makes absolutely no sense at all.

            I deliberately avoided specifying an evolutionary modality because it makes no difference to my argument whether the mechanism is cultural or genetic.

      1.  Homo Erectus? That’s an extinct line.

        And Homo Flaccidus is a VERY extinct line.  Didn’t have much luck with the ladies for some reason.

      2.  The human species can die of exposure in like 50, degree weather if naked.  So unless we lost our fur and body fat real suddenly lots of our ancestors did indeed wear clothes.

        1. One theory for the development of huge honking johnsons in humans is that Africa is hot, and penises, being highly vascular, are an excellent tool for dumping excess heat.

          1. Really?  Penis as radiator.  I grew up hearing that was a possible explanation for the sail on the back of Dimetrodon.

            Now someone will claim that’s why, as Mlle. von Schtupp claims, “it’s TWUE” what they say.

            I say we line up opposing teams of, say, Norwegian and Ugandan men on a hot sunny day, aim pyrometers at their junk, and take a reading!

          2. Yes! In either case, I think, “Man, it would be fun to go for a ride on that!”

          3.  Haven’t you heard that song that goes, “Do your ears hang low, do the wobble to and fro?”   its not realy about ears…   Its about balls.  which are more like elephant ears.

          4.  Well, that certainly explains why absorbent underpants are such a big seller.  But I am not sure how a gender specific trait with a unisex use would really have a strong evolutionary push unless women had some sort of equivalent system or behavior kept the women out of the noon day sun.

          5. I am not sure how a gender specific trait with a unisex use would really have a strong evolutionary push

            You’re going to have a hard time explaining sexual dimorphism in about a billion species, then.

    2. There isn’t really actionable information here for anyone (not that pragmatic application is the only basis for the worthwhileness of a study, of course). Women typically don’t get to window shop and pick the prick that suits their fancy, and men can’t really do anything to change what they have on offer anyway.

  2. Studies are studies.   Maybe you can discover something about the real world by showing women pictures of computer generated Grey alien/shop-front manikins….maybe not.  I’d like to see some studies.

  3. When I look at that picture, I’m choosing the least of three evils rather than the one I find most attractive.  A hairless white dummy with a giant forehead is not exactly attractive to me.

  4. “Surprisingly, larger penis size and greater height had almost equivalent positive effects on male attractiveness.”

    Once the spammers get to hear of this, we’ll start being bombarded with “one weird trick to grow taller” spams (which I have actually seen, but which are a rarity compared to the ubiquitous penis-enlargement spams).

    1. I hate those spams, they always make me feel inadequate.

      I’m still haunted by the one years ago promising to increase the volume of my semen.

      How loud do women want it to be?

  5. Not interested in ladies (plural).  The lady (singular) I share my life with seems quite content with our escapades and whatever equipment we employ in the process, including my own.

    My own personal conclusion: if you’re a dick, you need a big one.  Otherwise, any reasonable size will do.  

  6. A study of nose sizes might be more useful. At least women get to see that part before the action starts.

    1.  Ya burnt, goldiggers! Ha Ha, Men’s Rights!! *brandishes sword, grabs curtain and swings out the window”

      1. Evolutionary psychology has demonstrated that sexual selection in early hominids was influenced by financial liquidity.

    2. I’m sure that someone people are more attracted to people who are rich, but I’d rather go out with one of the people who aren’t.

      Mind you, I’m skint so I would say that.

    3. Daddy always said, “Never marry for money — always marry for love.” And then he said, “But you can love where’s there’s money.

      As usual, I paid attention only after it was too late.

  7. Just had a glimpse. A simple multiple regression, with, if I get it correctly, R² around 0.8 for shoulder-to-hip-ratio ~ “relative attractiveness”, and we would be able to predict additional 0.061 with height, or 0.051 with penis length? (Which is, in fact, not advised to do, due to collinearity, not addressing the issue of multiple testing, etc.) I am slightly underwhelmed. Five percent, however the p-value, will be 5% at the end of the day.

    Also, “Female participants were recruited at Monash University and the Australian National University (students, staff, and nonuniversity).”

    Most importantly, the measure of “relative attractiveness”: “Please rate each figure based on how sexually attractive they are to you (Likert scale: 1–7).”
    PNAS, seriously? Is this state of the art in evolutionary biology? I am a little confused. Gotta recheck with some friends who did psychoacoustics and related stuff if you would get through peer review with a study design and analyses like this. My impression is, you wont.

    1.  Wait…did I miss that nobody noticed the *penis* study in PNAS?

      /the penis mightier than the s word.

  8. The sexiest ‘equipment’ I know of on a male are slow hands and a wicked sense of humor.  Height has nothing to do with it.  One of sexiest men I’ve ever met was 4′ 7″.

      1. It’s the idea that all women like slowwww burning passion or something.
        Slow hands are boring, but maybe that’s just me.

        I’d rather have deft hands that know when to move slow, and know when not to.

        1. hold on. are you asserting that welcomeabored is only pretending to be interested in men in order to promulgate a stereotype? or are you saying that their aesthetic preferences are not legitimate?

      1. Peter Dinklage is 4′ 5″.  Maybe with heels.

        And yes, Tyrion is easily (to me) the sexiest character in GOT.

  9. Will I ever be able to forget John C. Reilly saying in an interview “I’m a grower, not a shower” ? A handy term, either way.

  10. I suspect that larger than necessary penis size evolved not through female sexual selection, but through male social selection. Large penis size may have been a way males judge their social standing. Larger penis. Higher social standing. Higher social status, better access to the babes.

    Jarad Diamond covers this theory in his book The Third Chimpanzee.

    1. Except in classical antiquity, for example, big dicks were considered animalistic and undesirable.

      1. Except that doesn’t mean shit in the context of humanity’s evolution. Big penises fluctuate in and out of favor in a complex modern society full of very strange and sapient humans, but that doesn’t dictate that they did so in humanity’s ancestors with much simpler culture.

      2. I actually agree with your point about the role culture plays in these subjective judgments, but just to play devil’s advocate: How many of those assessments from antiquity were written by women?

  11. Meanwhile the mandrills are wondering how those hairless freaks manage to get laid at all with such dull-colored naughty bits.

  12. When a man drops his pants for a lady the first time, either her face lights up like a little kid getting the perfect Christmas gift or…… well, that, or I guess it doesn’t, I suppose. 

  13. I realize this is a question a lot of people want answered, but, seriously, who was naive enough to propose / fund / carry out this ridiculous attempt at a study? Not to mention, Maggie’s conclusions don’t match the actual abstract’s- they’re basically saying women do prefer a guy not just with a larger penis but one that’s taller and larger overall. So a midget with a huge dick does very little for women- which everyone already knew. 

    As much as I’d like to believe that women are above such primitive ways of judging a good mate, my own “non-scientific” surveys of women I’ve known in both intimate and non-intimate settings over my many years of existence has made it very clear that size does matter. Lots of other things matter, too, so obviously penis size is not going to make or break the deal for most women, but to pretend like it’s not a factor is just wishful revisionist liberal thinking. Let’s just accept that fact right now, fellers.

    1. Sometimes scientific studies of things “people already know” confirm what was already expected, and sometimes they don’t. The former expand our knowledge by making a measurement. The latter expand our knowledge by making a discovery.

    2. So a midget with a huge dick does very little for women- which everyone already knew.

      Oh I don’t know, Ron Jeremy seems to do all right with the ladies. 

      Or is that all just some kind of . . . fantasy?

    3. In my experience, size only seems to matter at the extremes.  Or maybe that’s just where it seems to elicit comment.  A friend of my wife’s once had sex with a handsome, well-built fella whose fully-erect unit she later compared to the size of her pinkie.  So that was noticeable, and provoked a certain degree of surprise.  And, later on, out of the poor chap’s presence, mirth.  And I have known women who spoke fondly of entertainingly large members, and some who spoke less-fondly of uncomfortably large members.  I had a friend who demanded a certain limit on curvature, due to a vaginal shape that made sex with a marked upwardly-curved penis quite uncomfortable.

      So it always seemed to me that within the parameters of what will comfortably fit, women have entirely subjective opinions on whatever range of penis sizes and shapes they prefer, which is entirely reasonable, and it’s not really useful to waste much time thinking about What Generic Woman Wants In Penis Size.  Generally, the topic is just a minor one within the spectrum of the various traits that might serve to attract or repel a potential mate.  I’ve always tried to focus on repeat business, as it were, and so I’m more interested in learning how I might “show her a good time” enough that she’s keen to come back for more.  Relying on my looks won’t get me too terribly far, but a reputation as a skilled and sensitive lover would probably serve me better than a reputation as a well-hung dude who can’t be bothered putting in any extra effort to please.

  14. The man on the right bears a slight resemblance to Eric from True Blood and his hipbones. Thanks for the visualization!
    Also there is no correlation between hand size and penis size. Trust me on this. If anything, there might be a negative correlation.

  15. Sometimes scientific studies of things “people already know” confirm what was already expected, and sometimes they don’t.

    In this case, however, the researchers have ruled out disconfirming possibilities in advance. They apply A simple multiple regression.
    Having assumed a linear size/attractiveness relationship, they’re not going to find that there was an optimal size (which would need a quadratic relationship).

    This is one of those studies where the press release was already written before collecting the data.

    1.  My apologies, I should have looked at the paper — they *did* check for quadratic relationship, and there was indeed an optimal size. Bigger was not better.

  16. Mine never seems to hang long like these guys it has a way of shrinking back into itself. oh well 

    1. You do realize that gay dating sites have included that since the invention of linear measure? Also, important things like degree of fur coverage.

  17. Here are some useful guidelines about penis size:
    – No dick is big enough to make up for not having a personality.
    – A big dick on a guy who doesn’t know what to do with it is like a Maserati that’s stuck in first gear.  It only leads to frustration.
    – It only needs to be long enough to not keep falling out and to hit the right spots.  Over eight or nine inches and it’s just going to hurt.
    – There’s no such thing as too thick. Get a can of Crisco, a bottle of poppers and a shoehorn and start practicing.  You’ll thank me in a month.

    1. “Get a can of Crisco, a bottle of poppers and a shoehorn…” I can’t wait to use this advice without regard for the context.

      Girlfriend: Can you help me hang out the laundry?
      Me: ….

  18. People, the point of the study was to determine what female preferences might have driven the evolution of the penis, not what modern women use to make modern day mating choices.

  19. And for another surprise…Men like big boobs. Still it never stopped any of us from having a great time with a lovely lady with b cups.

  20. “…image above is meant to show you an average, actual human guy in the middle…”

    i’m speculating that’s a representation of an average NBA player on the right, and an average WNBA player on the left.

  21. The Ku Klux Klan  were the first to discover this, cowering behind the cross with their little dongs terrified, humiliated  and frighten. 

  22. Doesn’t the average penis length roughly correlate to the depth of the average vagina? Seems like the there may be something significant there. 

    Length certainly isn’t terribly desirable as far as sexual performance goes – who the hell wants someone slamming into their cervix during sex? 

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