Myth vs Fact

Fact Check: Are There Really Racial Differences In Penis Size?

May 2, 2018 by Justin Lehmiller

The question of whether there are racial differences in penis size is one that has been notoriously difficult to answer with any degree of scientific certainty. The problem has been that studies of penis size are usually fraught with problems. For one thing, there’s the question of who’s doing the measuring—the participant himself or a trained researcher? The concern, of course, is that guys will be generous when measuring themselves and/or will perform the measurements inconsistently. Then there’s the issue of participant selection effects—are men of a larger size more inclined to participate in such studies? In short (no pun intended), there’s reason to be cautious about drawing sweeping conclusions from the research in this area.

That said, recent studies support the idea that race-based differences in penis size may exist. For instance, in a 2013 paper published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, researchers reviewed penis size reports from 113 countries [1]. What they found was that men of African decent tended to report the longest penises (an average of 16.07 cm, or 6.33 inches), while those of East Asian decent tended to report the shortest penises (an average of 10.95 cm, or 4.31 inches). Men of European decent tended to fall somewhere in the middle (an average of 14.51 cm, or 5.71 inches).

Much of the data utilized in this paper were based on self-reports of penis size, though, which is a concern. However, these findings were corroborated to a degree in a new study published in the International Journal of Impotence Research in which the measurements were performed by trained researchers [2]. This study took place in Brazil and involved 627 men aged 18-86.

The analysis only focused on those who self-declared as being either Black or White. What they found was that Black participants had an average penis length of 16.5 cm (6.50 inches), while White participants had an average penis length of 15.6 cm (6.22 inches).

Of course, this is a single study from one country and it only compared Black and White men, so we must be mindful of the limitations here. However, the results do appear to support the idea that there are racial differences in penis size. The differences are notably smaller than those found in previous self-reported data, though—and, further, while statistically significant, the actual differences were not huge (we’re only talking about one-third of an inch between the two groups compared here).

So how much does this size difference matter? At least in terms of men’s genital self-image, it didn’t seem to matter at all—in this study, there were no race-based differences in how men felt about their penises. Also, when it comes to women’s feelings about penis size, most women say that penis length has no impact on their feelings of sexual pleasure. Put simply, the evidence doesn’t support the widespread belief that bigger is inherently better.

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[1] Lynn, R. (2013). Rushton’s r–K life history theory of race differences in penis length and circumference examined in 113 populations. Personality and Individual Differences, 55, 261-266. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2012.02.016

[2] Barboza, R. A., Silva, E. A., Ruellas, T., & Damião, R. (2017). Anthropometric study of penile length in self-declared Brazilians regarding the color of the skin as white or black: The study of a Myth. International Journal of Impotence Research.

Image Source: 123RF/marctran

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Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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