Ask the Sexpert:
I’m a male with an above-average-sized penis (length and girth), and I find it difficult to become intimate with men because they're afraid of the pain of getting involved with a penis of that size. It makes me feel wrong during intercourse because it seems like I'm physically harming them. Even though they say they like it, it still feels odd to me. Should I feel this way? I would appreciate any advice.
— Tentative Top
Dear Tentative Top,
Thank you for writing in! It’s good to hear that you are attentive to and considerate of how your partners may be feeling during sex, both emotionally and physically. It’s also really important that you are reflecting upon your own feelings and how it impacts your comfort level. There’s no correct or incorrect way for you to feel about any given sexual act, so if something feels “wrong” to you, exploring modifications and communicating openly with your partners are great ideas.
It sounds like you have already established a pattern of good communication with your partners, which has allowed you to understand that they’re worried about pain from a large penis. That’s an excellent starting point! Continuing this conversation could be a good opportunity to tell them that you’ve heard their concerns or observed their hesitation or discomfort and that you’re interested in developing a solution together. Letting your partners know that you’re worried about hurting them can help you make a game plan for the next time you have sex; likewise, discussing your own and your partners’ ideas and desires at a time that’s not particularly charged — so not when you’re in bed together — can also aid with communication prior to sex. When you are having sex, starting out slowly and using verbal communication (e.g. asking if you should go faster or slower, or asking if something is comfortable) can ensure you and your partners are on the same page. Communicating your preferred adjustments during sex could also help them feel like they can be straightforward with their thoughts.
Concerns around penis size are common, especially when it comes to sexual compatibility. A brief anatomy lesson: the average flaccid (not erect) penis is 3.6 inches long and about 3.7 inches in circumference. When erect, the average length is 5.1 inches and average circumference is 4.5 inches. While size can impact comfort during sex, there are many opportunities to be creative with sex to make things more comfortable and pleasurable for all parties involved. For example, there are positions that allow a partner to have more control over depth and pace of penetration, and oral sex could allow a partner to use a hand or a toy to stimulate the shaft of the penis rather than relying on the mouth alone. For anal sex, a partner could use a toy (with a flared base) before penile penetration, which could allow their body to acclimate. Also, the use of a lube can help things go smoothly, and is especially important for anal sex. Since the anus doesn’t self-lubricate, adding lube prevents friction-induced tears and damage, decreasing risk of sexually transmitted infections. However, lube doesn’t preclude the need for a condom; using both together can make for a lower-risk and more pleasurable experience.
Last but not least, know that your concern or discomfort around hurting your partners can impact your ability to enjoy being intimate. If you communicate openly with your partner and try modifications, but are still feeling anxious or distracted during sex, you may want to talk through your concerns with a professional. Whether it is a clinician at Sexual Health and Wellness at UHS, a CPS counselor, or someone off-campus, talking through your concerns can help relieve some anxiety and make things more pleasurable for you.
The Sexpert is a monthly column written in collaboration between The Prospect and the Peer Health Advisers (PHA) program. For more information, you can visit the Sexpert’s website. If you are interested in submitting a question, you can send it through this form: tinyurl.com/princetonsexpert.