"Long before it's in the papers"
June 04, 2013


Yes, gentlemen, size matters—but less than another factor, study finds

April 8, 2013
Special to World Science  

For men wish­ing to at­tract wom­en, pe­nis size mat­ters about as much as body height, and a good broad-shouldered fig­ure mat­ters much more than ei­ther, new re­search sug­gests.

Sci­en­tists ex­am­ined the rel­a­tive im­por­tance of these traits in fe­male rank­ings of male at­tractiveness us­ing life-sized, com­put­er-gen­er­at­ed im­ages of nude men.

The study was the first to as­sess the im­por­tance of those three fac­tors in com­bina­t­ion rath­er than in isola­t­ion, said the in­ves­ti­ga­tors, Bri­an S. Mautz of Aus­tral­ian Na­t­ional Uni­vers­ity and col­leagues. This change is im­por­tant be­cause fe­males might eval­u­ate fac­tors in rela­t­ion to each oth­er: for ex­am­ple, “the same sized pe­nis might be per­ceived dif­fer­ently on short and tall men,” the re­search­ers wrote, re­port­ing their study in this week’s early on­line is­sue of the jour­nal Pro­ceed­ings of the Na­tio­n­al Aca­de­my of Sci­en­ces.

Mautz and col­leagues wrote that they pre­sented a sam­ple 105, het­er­o­sex­ual Aus­tral­ian wom­en of av­er­age age 26 “with pro­jected life-size, com­put­er gen­er­at­ed male fig­ures. Each fig­ure was an an­i­mat­ed [4-second] vi­deo in which the fig­ure ro­tated 30 de­grees to each side to al­low par­ti­ci­pants to more easily eval­u­ate the fig­ure. We tested for the ef­fects of flac­cid pe­nis size, body shape (shoulder-to-hip ra­tio), and height on male sex­u­al at­tractiveness. The lat­ter two traits have reg­u­larly been in­ves­t­i­gated and are known to in­flu­ence male at­tractiveness or re­pro­duc­tive suc­cess.”

The new find­ings show that “fe­male mate choice could have played a role in the ev­o­lu­tion of the rel­a­tively large hu­man male pe­nis,” along with those two oth­er traits, they wrote.

The im­ages used in the study were life-sized in or­der to more real­is­tic­ally as­sess the role of height, Mautz and col­leagues wrote. They not­ed that a fe­ma­le’s own body shape could in­flu­ence her rat­ings, too; for in­stance, taller wom­en placed more of a pre­mi­um on taller men.

Over­all, broad shoul­ders as com­pared to the hips were the most im­por­tant fac­tor in at­tractiveness rat­ings, ac­count­ing for 79.6 per­cent of the varia­t­ion in these rank­ings, the study found. Pe­nis size and height ac­counted for 6.1 per­cent and 5.1 per­cent, re­spec­tive­ly.

The huge ef­fect of shoulder-to-hip ra­tio might have re­sulted be­cause the com­put­er fig­ures veered strongly in­to “unat­tractive” ter­ri­to­ry with wid­er hips than shoul­ders, the sci­en­tists spec­u­lat­ed. “How­ever, giv­en in­creas­ing waist­lines, the val­ues we used are well with­in the range now seen in ma­ny West­ern coun­tries.”

If there is any “ide­al” pe­nis size, it seems to be larg­er than range shown in the stu­dy, which went from 5 to 13 cm (2 to 5.1 inch­es), the sci­en­tists found. Yet the pe­nis size-related boosts in at­tractiveness were found to di­min­ish pro­gres­sively for pe­nises over 7.6 cm (3 inch­es) long. Pe­nis width was­n’t stud­ied as a sep­a­rate fac­tor, but rath­er was lumped to­geth­er with length, as larg­er pe­nises were shown as both wid­er and long­er.

“Larger pe­nis size had a great­er ef­fect on at­tractiveness for taller men” af­ter con­trol­ling for the shoulder-to-hip ra­tio, the in­ves­ti­ga­tors wrote. This “could be be­cause per­ceived pe­nis size was smaller when as­sessed rel­a­tive to the height of a taller ma­n; or be­cause of gen­er­al dis­crimina­t­ion against short men ir­re­spec­tive of the val­ue of oth­er traits, so that even a larg­er pe­nis did lit­tle to in­crease their net at­tractiveness.”

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For men wishing to attract women, penis size matters about as much as body height, and a good broad-shouldered figure matters much more than either, new research suggests. Scientists examined the relative importance of these traits in female rankings of male attractiveness using a series of life-sized, computer-generated images of male figures. The study was the first to assess the importance of these factors in combination rather than in isolation, said the investigators, Brian S. Mautz of Australian National University and colleagues. This change is important because females might also evaluate factors in relation to each other: for example, “the same sized penis might be perceived differently on short and tall men,” the researchers wrote, reporting their study in this week’s early online issue of the journal pnas. Mautz and colleagues wrote that they presented a sample 105, heterosexual Australian women of average age 26 “with projected life-size, computer generated male figures. Each figure was an animated [4-second] video in which the figure rotated 30 degrees to each side to allow participants to more easily evaluate the figure. We tested for the effects of flaccid penis size, body shape (shoulder-to-hip ratio), and height on male sexual attractiveness. The latter two traits have regularly been investigated and are known to influence male attractiveness or reproductive success.” The new findings show that “female mate choice could have played a role in the evolution of the relatively large human male penis,” along with those two other traits, they wrote. The images used in the study were life-sized in order to more realistically assess the role of height, Mautz and colleagues wrote. They noted that a female’s own body shape could influence her ratings, too; for instance, taller women placed more of a premium on taller men. Overall, broad shoulders as compared to the hips were the most important factor in attractiveness ratings, accounting for 79.6 percent of the variation in these rankings, the study found. Penis size and height accounted for 6.1 percent and 5.1 percent, respectively. The huge effect of shoulder-to-hip ratio might have resulted because the computer figures veered strongly into “unattractive” territory with wider hips than shoulders, the scientists speculated. “However, given increasing waistlines, the values we used are well within the range now seen in many Western countries.” If there is any “ideal” penis size, it seems to be larger than range shown in the study, which went from 5 to 13 cm (2 to 5.1 inches), the scientists found. Yet the penis size-related boosts in attractiveness were found to diminish progressively for penises over 7.6 cm (3 inches) long. Penis width wasn’t studied as a separate factor, but rather was lumped together with length, as larger penises were shown as both wider and longer. “Larger penis size had a greater effect on attractiveness for taller men” after controlling for the shoulder-to-hip ratio, the investigators wrote. This “could be because perceived penis size was smaller when assessed relative to the height of a taller man; or because of general discrimination against short men irrespective of the value of other traits, so that even a larger penis did little to increase their net attractiveness.” finds