Half of All Penises

are smaller than average. Not yours, of course. If you are a guy reading this, then yours is no doubt comfortably larger than the mean. Not freak-show huge. Just languid, python-in-the-pants, I’ve-never-had-any-complaints big.

But out there in the world, at the mall, with your lunch crowd, at the water cooler. Half of those guys are concealing weapons that are less than deadly. You would never know it to look at them. They make eye contact, give a firm handshake. But stripped past their skivvies, with their one-eyed johnsons blinking in the light, the awful truth is revealed.

This is not rocket science, but basic math. Take any bunch of numbers, add them up, and divide by the number of numbers: that’s the average, the mean. The numbers spread high and low: that’s the bell curve. To be exactly average is to be special. You are far more likely to either above average or below average. The mean is the line drawn in the sand between the amply and the wimpily endowed.

The numbers are staggering. Of the eighty million adult males in this country, fully forty million have below-average-size penises. Think of the marketing possibilities. Counselors and shrinks could fill their schedules until the next millenium. (On the other hand, a shrink might be the last person you would go to.) Even if no more than a small fraction goes the mechanical route, there’s a vast market for implants and extension devices. Worldwide, we are talking about two billion disadvantaged males. It doesn’t matter that guys have been told, patiently, by women throughout history and by gurus with degrees in both sexual function and dysfunction, that size is not the issue. It’s how you use it. It’s the emotions that go with it. What use is a big penis and a lousy personality. Blahblahblah. In the calculus of the playground or the locker room, the undersized is the second ape, condemned to forever kiss the pink ass of the alpha ape while picking lice from his matted fur.

What can be done? We could redefine average. It already happens in the schools. All our children are comfortingly better than average — the Lake Wobegon effect. Even at university, nearly everyone gets A’s and B’s. Professors are numbed into grade inflation by diminished expectations and laziness, while the universities are too firmly locked to the teat of their tuition money to tell parents that their kid is a lousy student.

All around us, the mediocre has been redefined. Drinks at the movies are Large, Extra Large, and Jumbo, even though the Large would not slake a sparrow’s thirst. Software comes in Standard, Special and Deluxe versions, when in fact it should be labeled No Useful Features, Crashes All The Time, and Only Works On A Computer That You Can’t Afford. Nobody wants to drive or buy a small car, so they are “compact,” or “economy” instead.

This is the worst kind of sophistry. Over two hundred years ago, the brainy (and bearded) German mathematician Karl Friedrich Gauss worked out the theory of random variations. The average is always well defined. There are always equal numbers above and below the average. A bell curve is a bell curve is a bell curve.

Or we could obfuscate. A length in millimeters is twenty-five times larger than the same length in inches. That would bring the average well into the hundreds. Any particular number in the metric system would mean very little to most people. Who hasn’t stared blankly at their weight quoted in kilos or their height quoted in meters?

Maybe it’s more useful to question the data. Stripped down to the issue of scientific measurement, we could ask: How many penises were measured to deduce the average? Would any random set of people really agree to this? At what temperature were the measurements made? Was it inside a cozy lab, or outside on a brisk winter morning when all men are created equal? Was the ruler laid along the top or along the bottom of the gristly shaft? How was curvature accounted for? Was the penis erect or non-erect? If erect, was the erection rightfully or non-rightfully gained? (Surely there are bonus points to becoming large while thinking of your spouse, and demerits for needing a lower form of men’s literature.) Isn’t it better to measure volume? We could use the displacement method of Archimedes, who jumped from his bath and ran down the street naked, having made a pleasing discovery.

And who are these people who make such measurements? (This is a field where self-measurement would be notoriously untrustworthy — what man doesn’t have an inflated opinion of himself inflated?) Do they go home to their wives and kids and read the paper and watch TV just like someone who fixes cars or sells stocks? Do they wash their hands before dinner? We imagine they are professionals, with a professional’s light touch. Like the doctor who gives the annual rectal exam and keeps up a light patter about baseball and the weather. The least embarrassing solution would be to accumulate data from morgues. Unfortunately, you don’t know which stiffs may have shrunk from fright as they faced their Maker. Perhaps the equipment settles into a more compact configuration knowing it will not be called on again.

The variation of body parts is mostly random. Nature rolls the dice as the genes roll on through the generations. It’s not clear what larger earlobes or red hair have to do with survival, but natural selection takes the scattershot approach and tries everything. So size “down there” is just a variable drawn from the same genetic grab bag that causes some people to have eyebrows that grow together.

Prediction is risky. Big people generally have big body parts. But statistics and stereotypes may not apply to individuals. Ladies, you can be misled. There are black men out there with little button mushrooms and Asian men with baby’s arms holding apples in their fists. Pity the poor guy with big hands who gets lots of dates but no call backs. And sometimes big boots mean big feet and that’s all.

Mister Rogers was right. Everyone is special in some way, even if it is an obscure talent like curling your tongue or popping your elbows. You may come up short in one area and hit the long ball in another. This sounds like cold comfort for the smaller-than-average; a tag that says “smallish penis, but a great dancer” or “poorly endowed, but cooks a mean Spanish omelet.”

A furtive obsession with size obscures the fact that most penises are actually quite similar. The bell curve peaks near the average and falls steeply to tails on either side. So the great majority of measurements are close to the average and there are few at very high or low values. Does the difference between a batting average of .270 and .280 matter? Is someone who earns $1000 more than you do better than you? Are you better than someone who earns $1000 less?

Maybe the outlook at one of the ends of the distribution is not as bad (or as good) as you think. Suppose you were puny enough that penetration was an abstract concept. You might be able to parlay it into sympathy, like Howard Stern. At the very least, you would discover the extraordinary capabilities of the human tongue. If you were truly gigantic, certainly there would be a career waiting for you in films whose long suit is thrusting and moaning. But what if you were an actuary or dry goods salesman. Isn’t as obnoxious for a man to be defined by his shaft as it is for a woman to be defined by the flesh lobes that precede her into a room. There are also the practical problems: finding a good tailor, protection during exercise, dealing with the sudden demands on blood flow.

And guys? Women are right. Size doesn’t matter. (Up (or down) to a point.) Technique matters. Listening matters. Making an emotional connection matters. But hey, that’s another story.

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