GMFA Goldicocks: the penis issue WARNING: This article is part of GMFA - the sexual wellbeing project for gay, bi and trans men who have sex with men - brought to you by LGBT HERO. This article is intended for a mature audience and may contain language and references that are not suitable for younger readers of LGBT HERO. Please do not continue if you are easily offended or shocked. LGBT HERO tries to provide advice and support for all LGBTQ+ people of all ages. For more info about GMFA and what we provide through this service visit www.lgbthero.org.uk/gmfa. Words by Stuart Haggas | @GetStuart | Photos © Alessandro Calza |www.alessandrocalza.com | www.flickr.com/alessandrocalza Are we obsessed with the penis? My penis. Your penis. His penis. Any penis! The fact that this article opens with multiple penises means it’ll probably rank highly on penis-obsessed Google keyword searches, because penises attract attention. As the popular adage goes, a man usually thinks with his dick instead of his brain. Whether or not this is justified, our cocks are often blamed for our bad behaviour: from the constant need to check Grindr, to covert visits to the loo at home, work, the gym, etc, for a quick bit of solo hand relief. Then there are those times when you did things you wouldn’t ordinarily do, with guys you wouldn’t ordinarily entertain, which you blamed on having the horn. When it comes to sex, a penis with a mind of its own can be held accountable for our poor choices, in the exact same way we might blame the influence of alcohol or drugs. Trouble can definitely arise whenever dick rears his head and starts straining the waistband of our underwear. But sometimes an aroused cock does more than lead us towards temptation and sexual gratification. Sometimes a cock (or more accurately, where we feel a cock registers on the cock-o-meter scale) can influence our choices when it comes to what kind of sex we have, and what role we take. Because it appears that, in some instances, who is active and who is passive isn’t a choice left to sexual instinct or even the chance roll of a dice – cock size can play a role in that decision. In fact, just over half (51%) of more than 550 men we surveyed say that penis size has affected the kind of sex they’ve had. Some guys who are predominantly bottom told us they would rather top if they discover a sexual partner or casual hook-up has a cock they consider to be too small. Large cocks can equally alter our view of who’s active and who’s passive. It’s not only about roles, because cock size can also influence our decisions on safer sex and condom use. Should we really let our dicks, and our dick size, make these decisions? Isn’t it time we started to make our own choices based on what we want, not what our dicks determine for us? DOES SIZE MATTER? Of the 550-plus gay and bi men FS surveyed on the subject of the penis, 37% reinforce the stereotype by saying that size matters, and 14% were torn. However, 49% of the men surveyed believe that size doesn’t matter. “Sexuality is more than just penis size,” says Matt, 29 from Worcester. “I prefer the guy it’s attached to,” agrees Joe, 37 from Edinburgh. “You’re not having sex with just a phallus or a dildo,” says Harry, 25 from London. “You’re having sex with a whole person; their demeanour, their desire and their overall energy.” “It’s more about whether the penis matches the person,” adds Sam, 28 from Cardiff, “like if they’re a big rugby player, a micro dick won’t cut it.” “It depends,” says Eric, 25 from London. “For shags I want a big dick for the thrill of it but for relationships it doesn’t matter; however I will say a smaller dick is just so much easier to work with and you can have a lot of fun without a lot of strain in your ass or mouth.” “Sometimes I love a big one but only if they know how to use it,” adds Steve, 29 from Milton Keynes. “There’s nothing worse than a big guy who’s terrible in bed.” “If a penis is too small or too large, it can make sex uncomfortable,” says Wesley, 25 from London. “Not to the point that an encounter or relationship would end, but sex would suffer.” “If it was either extremely large or extremely small, that might be problematic,” says Gavin, 39 from East Anglia. “At extreme ends of the spectrum of course it matters,” agrees Dan, 28 from Cardiff. “Average is OK but a girthy or lengthy partner generally means better sex.” WHY DOES SIZE MATTER? Why does the size of a penis matter to some gay men? “Too small and it requires more work and thought to please us both,” explains Dan, “which detracts from the experience.” “I find looking at large cocks more exciting,” says Daniel, 45 from London. “For getting fucked, if someone’s cock is too small, I find it more uncomfortable, because they’re jabbing away at your inner ring. But if it’s too big that hurts too, especially at first, and although you get used to it, you probably don’t want to get fucked too often that way.” Daniel admits he often rejects guys if their cock is too small – and sometimes if it’s too big. “I’m not really interested in getting fucked by someone with a really small cock. And a really large cock becomes a ‘special event’ rather than the kind of thing you want to do all the time.” In fact, large cocks were often cited as challenging. “A guy with an enormous cock once tried to skull fuck me,” says Tram, 35 from Edinburgh. “I properly retched and proceeded to violently throw up. It ruined a very promising evening!” “Occasionally someone has been so big that it is uncomfortable to bottom, or I’ve had to bottom slower and less intensely than usual,” says Alan, 42 from London. SIZING UP THE FACTS “Porn and general folklore condition us to believe that when it comes to penises, the bigger the better,” says Matthew Hodson, Executive Director of NAM. “The truth is that different people will enjoy different things and for some people a smaller penis is going to be more fun than a huge one. “Pleasurable physical sensation in anal sex is partly due to stimulation of the prostate, which is about 1.5” inside your arse, so you don’t need a big cock to hit it,” Matthew explains. “People can also get pleasure from the sensation of pressure in the rectum, which may be greater if the penis is bigger. However, anything that goes up your arse has to go through the pelvic opening, which stretches to about four to five inches in diameter. Anything bigger than that could cause serious damage if you do manage to get it in. So, although you can get pleasure from getting fucked by any size of penis, there is some correlation between the size of penis and the kind of pleasure, or pain, you may experience. Similarly, with oral sex, even if you prefer a large penis aesthetically (and not everyone does), you might find it makes your jaw ache.” SIZE SWITCH Some men admit that the size of a partner’s cock can influence whether they top or bottom. Aaron is 24 from London, and is mostly bottom. “If it’s too big it hurts,” he says. “If it’s too small, I can’t feel much. If they’re strictly top I’d take it, otherwise I’d top them.” “I think when I’m being fucked I only like guys in the ‘average’ bracket. Too big and I think I’m going to die, and too small and it’s basically pointless,” says Drew, 38 from London. “I hooked up with a guy and I was really in the mood to get fucked, but when we got naked it turned out he had a pretty small dick and so I ended up fucking him.” “If they are too big, I’d want to top! But also if it’s too small,” says Ian, 26 from Ireland, “as I’d need a good six inches to make bottoming worthwhile!” “I’m very into oral sex and a small penis doesn’t satisfy. In anal sex, small penises are harder erect and they are more painful than a big one,” says Carlos, 38 from London. “If it’s too big, I can’t be fucked. So, I will be top or oral only. If it’s too small, it isn’t worth the effort of the preparation if you know you will not get the pleasure. So I will be top.” Carlos adds that it’s not only about cock size: “More than the size of your penis, it is the sex partner who dictates your role depending on your size. I recognise that when I’m with a younger guy, I prefer being top. And if I’m with an older/taller guy, I prefer being bottom.” “I’ve fucked guys with bigger dicks than me,” says Liam, 28 from Barnsley. “It doesn’t really matter about size. For me, it depends on the type of guy and how he comes across. If he comes across more dominant then I’ll bottom and vice versa.” DICKTATOR 71% of those surveyed agree that cock size doesn’t define what role we take in sex. “In my opinion size has nothing to do with role,” says Ali, 27 from London. “There are tops with an averaged sized penis and bottoms with a big sized penis. It totally comes down to the individual.” Alex, 35 from Bath, agrees, adding: “In my experience there is no correlation to penis size. Plenty of bottoms are hung, and some aggressive tops have tiny penises.” Nevertheless, some men who possess what they consider to be a small penis feel obliged to always be passive. “It’s small,” admits Benjamin, 28 from London. “I think I’d be a bad top. Whenever I do it I get a complex that the guy is faking it.” He now always bottoms. “I’ve been with guys who were so embarrassed about their penis size that they thought they always had to bottom,” says Keith, 35 from Liverpool. Equally, well-endowed men may feel pressurised into always being top, and some hung guys feel they’re seen as nothing more than a sex toy by other gay men. “Sometimes I’ve been with people who made me feel that they loved the size of my cock more than anything else about me,” says Daniel. “It wasn’t the greatest of feelings but it could be worse.” “The size of your dick shouldn’t really matter when it comes to anal sex”, says Ian Howley, CEO of GMFA. “The male ‘G-spot’ is located about 2.5 inches inside the anal canal and the most of the stimilation happens around the entry of the anus. Considering the average size of a penis in the UK is 5.5 inches that means the vast majority of men should be able to stimilate it during anal sex.” Ian adds, “I think a lot of gay men let porn influence thier thinking when it comes to sex. And this is not only unrealistic but unhealthy for gay men as it leads to lots not having the sex they want but rather size deciding what they should be doing”. SIZE STEREOTYPES There can also be presumptions that certain types of guys have certain sizes of cock. “I think it’s small,” says Tram. “I’m 6’1” and sadly I didn’t get the rumoured dong.” “Gay guys always want to see the BBC (big black cock) and it’s exhausting the stereotype,” says C, 23 from London. “There’s an expectation for BME guys to always have a big cock,” agrees Harry. “The pressure is on to fulfil that stereotype, even though it’s unrealistic.” “Perhaps unsurprisingly, there have been a lot of studies on penis size, including looking at whether it varies by ethnicity. Some studies did find variation, others didn’t back this finding up. What is certain is that ethnicity alone doesn’t predict penis size,” explains Matthew Hodson. “Despite stereotypes, there are large, small and medium size penises among every ethnic group. “As FS has highlighted, our community inflicts harm upon itself by the high levels of sexual racism that black and other minority ethnic men experience,” Matthew adds. “Being desired solely because of the colour of your skin is hardly any better than being rejected for the same reason. Having to deal with someone’s stereotyped assumption about your penis, whether or not you conform to that particular stereotype, is going to be degrading. I suspect that most of us would rather be desired for who we really are, rather than for some reductive presumption.” HARD FACTS We asked how big your penis is: 35% of you said it’s 6-7 inches 24% said 5-6 inches 23% said 7-8 inches 9% said 8-9 inches 7% said 4-5 inches 1% said 9-10 inches Over 10 inches and under 4 inches both had 0.5% each 30% of people admitted they had never measured their penis properly. PENIS ENVY 74% of the men we surveyed say they’re happy with their penis. Of the men who would change it if they could, common wishes were bigger, longer, thicker, extra inches, more girth – although some wished they weren’t circumcised, some disliked their foreskin, and some wished their penis was a bit more straight. “I’m not gonna lie, a bit bigger or thicker would be nice to play with,” admits Luke, 25, “but for the people I fuck, it’s just about the right size, so in that sense I’d rather not be too much bigger.” “I have often wished it was bigger, for my own wanking pleasure but also as a lot of guys like a big one and showing it on cam or in pics.” says Kyle, 30 from London. “But it’s a nice shape and I’ve accepted it and find that most people really don’t mind, which is good.” PENIS ANXIETY For some men, the size of their penis has caused them anxiety and impacted their self-esteem. “Being small has always affected my confidence. I feel less manly,” admits Chris, 29 from London. “I have a preference for men to have something substantial, so I feel bad for others who might expect the same with me. I don’t feel body proud. I get very concerned wearing speedos.” “I think my dick is small or average,” says Aiden, 36 from Glasgow, “but when people see a dick pic and say it’s big, I get concerned that they’ll be disappointed in real life.” “Like many gay men I have crippling body dysmorphia,” says Drew, “and am constantly worried I’m not good enough.” “I didn’t have any context when I was younger. I had a sheltered childhood and was a fat, shy kid,” admits Joseph, 34 from London, “so I thought I was small because I was comparing myself to comedy porn dicks.” Men with large cocks can also suffer from anxiety. “Quite often I’ve had guys say, ‘you’re not fucking me with that thing. It’ll never fit’ or people have expectations that go with a big cock I get worried I can’t fulfil them,” says James, 38 from Middlesbrough. “I’m aware they’re champagne problems. I’d rather have it and have these problems than have a smaller dick.” “Considering the cultural value that is placed on penis size, particularly the myth that having a bigger cock makes you more manly and better at sex, I’m not surprised that large numbers of men feel that their penis size has a big impact on their confidence and the way that they feel about themselves,” says Matthew Hodson. “I think it’s interesting to note that men with big penises often found this to be a problem, as well as those men who feel that their penis is too small. There’s not much that you can do about your penis size, so learning to love it as it is has to be a part of learning to love yourself.” COCK CONFIDENCE Another cause of penis anxiety is being unable to maintain an erection. “My penis is eight inches long and quite thick,” says Adam, 45 from Pontefract. “Not a lot of guys can take it – I need the bottom to be ready to take it, because if I have to muck about I can lose my erection.” “I got into a spiral of worrying about it, which made it more difficult to maintain an erection, which meant that I worried even more,” says Daniel. “I often take Viagra now and that really helps with both my erection and my confidence.” “Anxiety causes it. Performance anxiety for the first time, or stress elsewhere in life,” says James. “Also, drink doesn’t help.” “Due to my overall body image, I lacked confidence, which caused my inability to get an erection,” says Andrew, 44 from Southampton. “It was a self-esteem issue combined with porn overuse,” admits Jorge, 32 from Manchester. “I stopped watching porn and got to the gym.” “Overly masturbating and too much porn caused desensitisation to human contact,” says Daniel, 25 from London. “I had to abstain from any form of sex and porn.” HARD FACTS Does penis size matter? 37% say yes 49% say no 14% don’t know Do you use condoms during sex? 40% say yes 19% say no 41% say sometimes Have you ever shared a dick pic? 89% of you said yes and 30% said they wouldn’t care if the pic was shared with other people. CONDOM FIT Although 90% of those surveyed say that the size of their penis doesn’t influence whether or not they wear a condom, 8% say it does influence their condom use. “I only use large size condoms from the USA but I still struggle to top with them,” says Martin, 51 from London. “My main reason for not liking to wear a condom is that it’s too tight,” says Peter, 28 from London. “My penis is pretty thick and most condoms (even large ones) don’t accommodate for that.” “‘Normal’ sizes don’t fit properly, but even when I’ve tried ones that do fit, they just kill my boner as all the feeling goes,” says Kyle. “When I’m trying to top, especially with a condom, it just wilts. I just bottomed instead. But now with PrEP can top a bit more.” “If you want to be active but are anxious about losing your erection from putting on a condom, PrEP is clearly one possibility for you,” says Matthew Hodson. “There are other options though. Viagra, or similar erectile dysfunction drugs, may help you keep it hard. Another factor is practice. If it’s the putting the condom on that causes you problems, the more you do it, the more confident you should feel – and men who are confident about using condoms are less likely to experience condom failure. “If you do go on PrEP it’s important to let your GUM clinic know so that they perform the right tests, to check it’s working and not causing other problems. It’s also really important to get regular tests for other STIs, especially if you have multiple partners.” RUBBER EXCUSE? The majority seem to think that blaming cock size for not using condoms is just an excuse. “Condoms are incredibly adaptable,” says Dan, 28 from London. “It’s a fallacy that condoms can be ‘too small’ for most men of size. It’s rubber, it stretches!” “I’ve never found the size of condoms to be a problem,” adds Sam, 25 from Nottingham, “and having seen the various sizes available for cocks on either end of the size scale, I am personally offended when someone uses this excuse to forgo safer sex.” “Wearing a rubber is important,” says Danny, 28 from Leeds. “Whilst they’re tight on my dick, I’d rather stretch one on a bit than get herpes.” However, as NAM’s Matthew Hodson explains, it is true that a condom can fail if it isn’t the right size for your cock: “The risk of condom failure is increased if you use a condom that isn’t the right size for you. This has been backed up by research. A standard size condom is more likely to tear if your penis is big or long or to slip off if your penis is smaller than average. A condom that fits better will probably be more comfortable too, so it’s worth shopping around for one that works for you. Whatever your penis size, there are also other factors that contribute to condom failure. It’s more likely to tear if you don’t use enough lube and it’s more likely to slip off if you get lube on your cock before putting the condom on.” THE PENIS ISSUE It goes without saying but the penis is a big part of our sex lives but it also brings a lot of problems too. Many of these are mental issues. Ian Howley, CEO for GMFA says, “Our relationship with your penis is important. If you think negatively about your penis then this will affect the sex you have, the risks you take and even your self-esteem and self-worth. Likewise if you have a bigger than average penis, this can lead you to be anything from over confident to feeling used at times. Again this can affect your self-worth and self-esteem. So it’s important that if you are someone who has confidence issues with your penis and then you should do something about it. “We at GMFA recommend that you talk to your GP about this. Or if you’d rather talk to a sexual health professional then seek out a counsellor who can help you address the issues you have between you and your penis. All gay men deserve to have the best sex possible. Our penises come in many shapes, sizes and skin tones – just as we do. And like us, our penises need looking after. Just don’t let your dick dictate your whole life." HARD FACTS 38% of you say that your penis size causes you anxiety. 16% of you have had derogatory comments made about your penis. 22% of you have rejected someone because of their penis size. 21% say they have suffered from erectile dysfunction. 28% have problems with cumming too quickly. However, 74% of you say that you are happy with your penis. So does size matter when it comes to sex? It’s clear from the responses to our survey that most men believe the bigger your cock the more likely you are to be ‘top’ or the smaller you are the more likely you are to be ‘bottom’ or ’versatile’. The average size of a penis in the UK is 5.5 inches. Studies show that to satisfy men during penetrative sex you need only 2.5 inches. This is because the male ‘G’ spot is located just at the top of the anal canal which is roughly two inches long. So you don’t need a big penis to hit his ‘G’ spot. Also the most sensitive part of the anus is the first centimetre or two. What does this all actually mean? Is it coincidence that the men who claim to have 8 inches or more are more likely to be top or that the men with 6 inches or smaller are more likely to bottom? It seems to us that the men who responded to this survey are basing their sex lives on the size of their penis. Whether they realise it or not. Is this a problem? No, not really, but you need to ask yourself if you are having the sex you really want or the sex you think you should have because of the size of your cock. If you are enjoying the sex you are having then keep at it. If you are not then it’s something to think about. When it comes to HIV prevention is it better to be top or bottom? The research shows us that men who bottom are more likely to become HIV-positive. This is because the lining of the arse acts like a sponge. So if you bottom and you allow someone to cum in your arse then the body absorbs the cum and anything that is in it. If you top, the chances of becoming positive are less but the risk is still fairly high. What if he pulls out? This is a strategy that we have heard many times. Coming outside the body can reduce the risk of becoming positive but it’s not a strategy that should be taken lightly. There is HIV in pre-cum. HIV also exists in blood. Not to mention other STIs which can be passed on too. So what should I do? Whether you’re top, bottom or both one of the best ways to stop HIV transmission is to use condoms while having sex. I don’t use condoms. That’s your choice and no-one can force you to use them during sex, but the more you have sex without condoms the greater chance you have of becoming positive or passing on HIV. If you are HIV-positive and don’t want to use condoms: The best thing to do is keep on taking your medication. If you are undetectable then the chances of passing on HIV is close to 0%. If you are HIV-negative and don’t want to use condoms: Then we suggest you learn about PrEP and how it can stop you becoming HIV-positive. PrEP is daily anti-HIV medication that you take once a day. The medication works to stop HIV sticking to your cells so you remain HIV-negative. It’s not 100% effective but it works for the vast majority of gay men. Make sure you test regularly for HIV and STIs. If you become positive you will be put on medication and become less likely to pass on the infection to others. Whatever your status, fucking without condoms is still risky, you can pick up any STIs including hep C. Regular testing is recommended for all sexually active gay men - whether HIV-negative or HIV-positive. SUPPORT For more information about sex and sexual health, visit www.gmfa.org.uk/sex. To buy cheap condoms (that come in all sizes) and lube, visit www.freedoms-shop.com. To talk to someone about any issues, visit www.metrocentreonline.org.