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Medical Health Aged Care, Mental Health


Monash University 5 mins read
Male self-esteem, body image and normalizing the idea of penis size


When you think about men and body image, its assumed that the focus is on weight, fitness and muscularity. Now a new study from Monash University has interviewed men about an under studied aspect of body image – their penis.

The study, led by Associate Professor Gemma Sharp and published in the journal, Body Image, studied how positive genital body image could be fostered among people with a penis with a brief, animated video developed by the research team, in collaboration with study participants, young men.

The study is important because the often-hidden concerns that many men may have re their penis size can impact their self-esteem, their relationship with partners and even their willingness to allow a doctor to view their genitals for a health check. Body image relating to penis size may even relate to the rise of “involuntary celibates” or “incels” or a rise in debate about toxic masulinity. According to the researchers,  feelings of inadequacy in penis size may contribute to incels strongly criticising societal standards of masculinity and how these standards may be utilised by girls/women to mistreat boys/men like themselves.

Twenty men, average age 25 years, were involved in the co-design and development of the educational video. The study found most were not supportive of challenging the idea that “bigger is better” regarding penis size but did support the inclusion of information about the range of penile functions.

The study found that - despite the presentation of scientific literature highlighting that penis size is often not important to intimate partners - most participants remained adamant that penis size did indeed matter. “The idea that “bigger is better” and “size matters” for penis size is often propagated through mainstream and social media including widely available pornography often encountered by young people as well as joke-like remarks or teasing regarding smaller penis sizes among peers as well as through mainstream or social media,” Associate Professor Sharp said.

“However, the men also reported that any educational video should focus on promoting acceptance of penile size/appearance and fulfilling intimate relationships irrespective of penis size.”

The researchers acknowledge that the impact of societal ideals surrounding muscularity, body size and penis size may also extend to gender diverse people, which is an area that requires further study, Professor Sharp said.

“Our findings reveal a gap in familiarity with the concept of genital body image and confirm the importance of addressing dissatisfaction with genital appearance.”

Associate Professor Sharp and her team have previously found that parents are generally very supportive of their teenagers receiving genital body image education in school settings, particularly their sons, given their higher likelihood of encountering pornography at young ages.

She hopes that genital body image education will become standard part of the educational curriculum.


Case Study 1 “Trevor” (wants to be anonymous)

 Experienced significant penile concerns as a teenager and would have liked support at that time in life. Has not undergone penile augmentation, but can readily speak to penile concerns younger in life.

Some quotes from him below:

“At around age 13, I started to become concerned as to whether my erect penis was ‘normal’ in terms of size and shape. I was especially concerned that my penis wasn't completely straight, and wondered if this was ‘normal’.”

As I matured, I came to think that penises varied, and mine was probably not that different from average. However, I don't think I was fully reassured until I had my first sexual experiences at age 18.”


“I think it would have been very valuable to have to have an educational video shown to me at school when I was around 13 as it probably would have allayed at least some of my concerns. Given that pornography is so accessible these days, the video might help to show teenage boys that not all penises are so large as in pornography.”



Case Study 2

“James” Quotes

- It would be great for me to please know why you had the procedure with Dr Oates?

Well if I was to go way back, when young men start being introduced to porn it instantly creates issues with penis size for all the obvious reasons. It was on my mind for many years but I lived with it. Then my wife (at the time) and I had kids and that was when I really started noticing that unfortunately I didn't feel adequate anymore. 


So I dived into the research and forums and found Dr Oates' procedure. It was reversible, low risk, relatively non-invasive, so why not give it a go. The results were instantly impressive across the board. I felt more confident in and out of the bedroom. Unfortunately, for many different reasons the marriage inevitably fell apart. 


From that point on, and I think penis size did have a contributing factor, my life became amazing. I started dating women again, my confidence exploded, I stood taller, I dived into self help books, embraced becoming healthier, fitter, I learned about women, communication, healthy relationships, sex, my business skyrocketed and I sold it for 8 figures and ultimately met the woman of my dreams 2.5 years ago. All of the work I did, plus my larger penis gave me the confidence to talk to her for the first time and the rest is history. Our relationship is amazing, we have each other's backs, we encourage each other, support each other, communicate so well, our sex life is unbelievable and we are simply living the dream. We just bought a new house and we're excited to bring the families together. 


I have no doubt that seeing Dr Danh (Dr Oates colleague) and having my procedure done played a pivotal role in how much life has turned out. 


- When did you have it done? 

6 years ago, I was 34. 


- How long you had thought about it for? In my experience it's usually years before people take this step. 

See above.


- What have you noticed in terms of outcomes/impacts on your life? 

See above. 


- Finally, from your own lived experience, what do you think of an educational video which we intend to use in schools with adolescent boys?

I think it's a good idea. I have two boys and as they enter their teenage years I plan on talking to them a lot about being comfortable with their bodies and staying as far away from porn as possible. Watching porn as a young male is unavoidable unfortunately, but the negative impact it has is essentially the polar opposite of what they should be learning at that age and as they start experimenting with sex. 


Watching porn is honestly the worst thing for their developing brains. This becomes their first insight into what sex should be as they watch men with huge penises disrespecting women, who are very attractive, and then use those references in the real world. Teenagers would instantly think that their penises are too small and also have difficulty getting aroused because their partners in the real world are not as attractive nor do they behave in the same way as the pornstars on the screen. Eventually guys become too lazy to go out and meet girls because staying home with the screen with an endless smorgasboard of visual stimulation beyond their wildest dreams is available to them. It's bad. 



Key Facts:

First study into men. body image and penis size

Personal and societal implications of a healthy self image relating to male genitals

Contact details:

Tania Ewing



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