Call it sexist or sensationalist, but now science suggests it’s so: women find men with bigger penises more attractive.
(UPDATED) Reporting in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, researchers led by Brian Mautz, now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Ottawa in Canada, studied how 105 young Australian women rated attractiveness in males.
The researchers, including those from Monash University and Australian National University, asked the women to view life-size video clips of computer-generated images of naked men who varied in height, body shape and flaccid penis size, but not in other qualities like facial attractiveness and hair. The women gave each image a rating from 1 to 7 on total sexual attractiveness, rather than assessing individual characteristics.
“We show that penis size actually is important on some level and, importantly, it interacts with other traits,” says Mautz.
The size of a model’s member, for example, had a greater influence on attractiveness if the model were tall, since proportion may have been an important factor in how appealing the men appeared to the women. “A change in penis size has a larger effect for taller men than it does for other heights,” Mautz says. “This result could be because penis size was smaller when assessed relative to the height of a taller man,” the authors note.
But height was equally important. Shorter men with larger penises were ranked as more attractive than shorter men who were not as well endowed, but they still remained on the low end of the scale for overall appeal, says Mautz. “You’d think that if penis size is super attractive, it might help shorter guys more. It does increase attractiveness for short men, but they still are under average in attractiveness scores.”
It turns out there may also be a threshold for the ideal size, which may also work against the vertically challenged; the study found that above about 3 in., additional enlargement in genitalia doesn’t make that much of a difference in attractiveness, regardless of a man’s height.
That’s not to say that there’s an upper limit on penis size, however; Mautz and his team did not find a maximum on desired size, but noted that “the most attractive penis size” appeared to fall outside the range used in the study, which was designed to capture 95% of the variability women would encounter. So although attractiveness beyond the 3 in. continued to increase in a linear fashion, it did so at a slower rate.
The results may not be as superficial as they seem. Based on evolutionary principles, it could be possible that women look to penis size to judge a man’s appropriateness as a mate; the size of a man’s member may indicate an ability to sire and produce healthy and robust children (something that obviously tended to play a greater role before developed societies began wearing clothes). And that, say the researchers, might help to explain why men have evolved relatively large penises in relation to those of other primates.
While size may matter, the findings don’t suggest that only size matters. In fact, body shape seemed to trump both height and genital endowment in determining attractiveness. Based on the women’s answers, the researcher calculated that height was as important as endowment in a male’s attractiveness, while wider shoulders and narrow hips was more important than both combined.
So if appealing to women is the goal, then it’s the gym membership that may make more sense than investing in genital enhancement devices.
(Note: A previous version of this story was incorrectly edited and did not accurately reflect the data on the relative importance of the three factors studied in the research.)