Question: Why do you think boys associate penis size with confidence? There are boys at my school and on my wrestling team that are less shy about being naked all the time in the locker room. The ones that developed early and had bigger penises are always the ones that like to strut around with nothing on and make fun of the other ones in the showers and locker room. Reading your posts on nudity made me think about this….
Warning: some explicit images
Frank answers: As boys’ bodies are growing during adolescence, there’s always an insecurity about how one’s body compares with other male bodies. Awareness of one’s sexuality is also a part of adolescent concern. The male sex organs are developing along with other hormone-driven features. The penis becomes a bothersome appendage. Boys want to see how big it can become in erection. Adolescent boys also get erections at socially inconvenient times. All of this physical growth occurs in spurts and at different times in different boys.
It’s too bad that this situation of some boys who are more developed making fun of those who are less developed isn’t called out by your coaches or P.E. teachers. Making fun of another boy’s body is more than demeaning; it can be damaging because adolescents (both boys and girls) are very self-conscious about their bodies. Body shame, whether caused by the comments of others or self-inflicted by comparing one’s body to other bodies, contributes greatly to a person’s lack of confidence.
When I was a high school freshman, swimming was a physical education requirement. In the 1950s this meant swimming naked. On the first day of class our swimming teacher told us we would be taking showers, doing warm-up exercises, and swimming — all nude. “You’re all different sizes in your growth,” he told us. (As freshmen we were between 13 and 15 years old.) “Some of you had your growth early, for others it will come. But you all have the same equipment, so I don’t want to see any disrespect.” Perhaps fearing that being caught disrespecting another boy might result in additional push ups or laps, I don’t recall any bullying. In any event we were all naked with one another several times a week for the whole second term and simply got used to being with one another in that state. It was no big deal. I’ve written about this in my blog article “Frank Answers About Swimming Naked.”
All men are focused on their penis. We have to be because, unlike women, our sex organs are external to the body and that makes us vulnerable. We are sometimes assertive in our sexual practices to protect our vulnerability, both physically and psychologically. Adolescent boys are concerned about their penis size and often compare their penises with their friends’ penises. They’re always concerned if it’s big enough.
One reason boys and men are interested in other guys’ penises is because they have also been insecure about their own penis size. They think it’s not big enough, even though there’s no justification for that worry. Clinical psychologist Dr. Annabel Chan Feng Yi of Victoria University of Melbourne, Australia, carried out an online study in 2013 of 738 men about their body image. Most were concerned about their penis size—not for performance in the bedroom but in comparison with other men in the locker room. Dr. Chan concluded, “Men’s pre-occupation with size was rarely to do with pleasing sexual partners or even appearing as a better sexual partner. It was often more about competition with other men. Many felt most insecure about their size in environments where other men might see them, such as gym change rooms.”
So the real issue here is male competition. Men want to have as much power over others as possible with the least negative effect on themselves, like others fighting back. This is the nature of the bully. They reinforce the perception others might have of their power by showing off their strength or wealth or sometimes even their intellect. Many men and growing boys brag about their penis size. It’s an animal instinct. The male of the species shows off his sexuality to attract mates. Immature boys might be quick to point out the deficiencies in the penis size of other boys in order to make themselves look superior.
Men have always strutted their masculinity by emphasizing their penis size. Perhaps we are wired by evolution to think that large sex organs are beneficial in attracting a mate. Back in the 16th century Renaissance men wore a piece of clothing over their penis called a codpiece that emphasized their cock size. Some may have accentuated their size by stuffing cloth into it.
We have had modern versions of emphasizing cock size in media advertising by using well-endowed models to model clothes, especially underwear. Few of us can measure up to the bodies of the models who fit into the clothing they wear, whether males or females.
On the other hand, the ancient Greeks, who prized well-shaped muscular bodies and drew pictures or carved sculptures that glorified the nude body, drew or sculpted very small penises. There was a reason for this. Showing an erect penis was showing a man not in control of his passions. Men should be like gods, not like beasts. They should be in control of themselves, not giving into their needs and desires. Athletes are disciplined. So they’re not shown with erect penises.
Satyrs, on the other hand, were half beasts, and their lesser-than-human character was portrayed by giving them an oversize erection. They couldn’t control their passions.
Renaissance artists like Michelangelo, who were recovering the ancient Greek ideal of humanity and art, also portrayed muscular men with small penises. Nevertheless, the full scrotum on Michelangelo’s “David” suggests sexual potential. The penis did not have to be loaded and cocked because the ammunition was at hand.
Let’s consider biology. A boy’s penis grows steadily between the ages of 12 and 18. Some growth occurs earlier and some growth extends later. According to one study published in the British Journal of Urology International (BJUI), the average length of a flaccid penis is 3.6 inches, while the average length of an erect penis is 5.6 inches. The average girth is 3.66 inches for a flaccid penis and 4.59 inches for an erect penis. Girth is the circumference of the penis at its widest section, usually at the base of the shaft. While all kind of remedies are advertised for enlarging penis size, the reality is that none of them work (although since more than half of the penis is actually inside the body, there are some things that can be done surgically — in really serious cases).
One of the reasons men worry about their penis size is that they want to satisfy their sexual partner. Interestingly, reports indicate that penis size is down the list for many women in what they look for in a man. If the penis can get into a vagina it does its job no matter how big or small or average it is. It’s main job in the sex act is delivering semen for procreation. But there’s a lot more to the sex act than just penetrating the partner. The quantity of the male organ, it’s size, is irrelevant to the quality of the lovemaking. Women love a man who romances them, who shows affection, and is attuned their needs as well as his own. This means that men need to be soft as well as hard. Our male sex organs remind us of that because the penis is both soft and hard, flaccid as well as erect. So men are both soft and hard in their relationships.
Sexual activity always requires self-confidence. It doesn’t work if one or both of the partners lacks confidence. The man especially might not get that needed erection. The woman might have difficulty achieving an organism. It’s not uncommon to “perform” poorly the first time. But since our male sex organ is both soft and hard, the man needs the self-confidence to be vulnerable as well as strong, to be able to admit his weakness as well as display his prowess. This doesn’t come easy for men because we’re so competitive with other men. We want other men to be impressed by our sexual power.
The fact that some of the boys in the locker room strut around naked to let everyone see the size of their tool could also suggest some insecurity. They’re trying to convince themselves that they are sexually powerful by projecting that to others. They build up their confidence by putting down the other boys whom they (wrongfully) assume to be sexually weaker.
The other boys need to fight the bullies. They can do so by overcoming whatever modesty and insecurity they may have about being naked with other boys and simply join the ones who are displaying themselves. There is nothing about our bodies — any of our bodies — to be ashamed of. The showers and locker room is one place in our society where we can all be equal in the dignity of our naked bodies. As my swimming teacher said, “You all have the same equipment.” So let all the boys be naked and unashamed.
Pastor Frank Senn