You've probably heard friends share stories about having sex with a guy who has a micropenis. Most likely, though, those men simply had a small penis, which is by no means the same thing.
Micropenis is a real, diagnosable medical condition; it refers to a penis that's less than 2.8 inches long when erect, according to Jamin Brahmbhatt, MD, urologic surgeon and co-founder of The PUR Clinic in Clermont, Florida. In our size-obsessed world, having a micropenis can leave a guy feeling very self-conscious. And it can be a big surprise to his partner as well.
Only a fraction of men have an actual micropenis. Yet if you find yourself with a micro guy (or are just plain curious), here are some things to know about the disorder—from why it happens to how it really affects sexual satisfaction.
Micropenis is present at birth
Typically, micropenis is diagnosed in newborn babies; it's not a condition that causes a normal-size member to suddenly shrink. "You cannot develop micropenis over time," says Dr. Brahmbhatt.
Micropenis is likely caused by a hormonal abnormality during fetal gestation, says Arash Akhavein, MD, urologist at Comprehensive Urology in Los Angeles. "The hormonal imbalance is thought to be low testosterone production at that stage, which normally should increase and cause the penis to become larger rapidly in a normal male fetus," explains Dr. Akhavein. “True micropenis is reported to be present in 1.5 in 10,000 born male children,” he adds.
What qualifies as micro?
When it comes to a baby’s penis, normal size is 2.5 centimeters (.9 inches) in length. “Anything significantly smaller than that would be considered a micropenis,” says Audrey Rhee, MD, urologist at the Cleveland Clinic. As for an adult member, the average length is 3.5 inches flaccid and 5.1 inches erect. As Dr. Brahmbhatt notes above, an erect penis that clocks in at under 2.8 inches—slightly smaller than the width of a credit card—is a micropenis.
Treatment options exist—for boys
"Sometimes you can give [an infant with a micropenis] a ton of testosterone in the first three months of life and get the penis to grow," says Dr. Rhee. Testosterone treatment can still be effective even after infancy so long as it's done prior to puberty.
Surgery, too, is an option. If a standard penile lengthening procedure isn't enough, a phalloplasty may be required, says Dr. Akhavein. "Phalloplasty uses tissues from other body sites (for example, the forearm muscle flaps) to create a new penis (and urethra) for the patient," he says.
A micropenisfunctions normally
Having a micropenis doesn't generally prevent men from getting erections, masturbating, having orgasms, or urinating, says Dr. Brahmbhatt. However, sometimes a micro guy will be unable to have penetrative sexual intercourse, points out Dr. Akhavein, which in turn may mean that assisted reproduction technology (such as IVF) is required to conceive a child.
Psychologically, it can be tough
The psychological impact of having a micropenis is hard to underestimate. (Did you snicker when you read this article's headline? The name of the condition has the echo of a punch line.) "Any discussion of micropenis comes with social and cultural implications: What is it to be a man? How do men see themselves and how are they seen? By what standards are they judged?" says Michael Reitano, MD, sexual health expert and physician-in-residence at the men's health service Roman.
What about sex?
"While micropenis can be a discomforting condition for some men, a fully satisfying sex life can be possible both for them and their partners," says Dr. Reitano, who adds that "from a functioning point of view, the size of a man’s penis is the least significant aspect of their sexual capacity to provide a partner the pleasure they desire."
Sex educator Kait Scalisi, MPH, recommends focusing on the sex acts that can be performed—not the ones that can't. "You can have a whole lot of fun and satisfaction from fingers, mouths, and toys," she says. "Strap-ons and penis extenders augment your body. Vibrators stimulate the most sensitive part of the genitals, whether that's the clitoris, G-spot, prostate, or frenulum."
She suggests experimenting with positions. "Try variations of missionary where the receptive partner props their hips on a stack of pillows and then places their legs straight up to rest on the partner's chest and shoulders, while the penetrative partner kneels." Doggy style is another great option, she says, as larger penises can cause discomfort or pain. It's all about finding "creative solutions to enjoy each other's bodies," adds Scalisi.