Illustration by Dave van Patten
by Amanda Mull
Bigger isn’t always better: Most women just want a dick they can take home to meet their parents
When a woman starts sleeping with a new dude, there’s a customary round of questions most of us field from our friends: What does he do? How’d you meet him? Do you actually like him?
There’s only one that’s actually any fun to talk about, though, and that’s what the sex is like.
A few months ago, I had a round of these conversations with the usual suspects in my life. Trying to describe a sexual appendage you’ve only seen a couple times is difficult — you were probably at least a little drunk, the lights were low, and if things went well, the penis in question spent most of its time hidden in various places that prevented it from being visually observed.
While struggling to explain the details to a friend — “Big, but I’m not sure exactly how big; not huge, but I was happy when I saw it…” — I finally arrived on a phrase that felt right. This guy had a “boyfriend dick.” Though neither of us had heard the term before, my friend immediately knew what I meant: “Mmm. That’s the best,” she replied. For those who don’t immediately identify, a boyfriend dick is, more or less, a penis you could settle down with, or at least see three times a week; It’s a dick you could metaphorically take home to meet your parents. Basically (and fortunately), every dick can be a boyfriend dick to someone.
A boyfriend dick isn’t a measurement, per se, but a range. Think of it as a dick Overton window: a continuum of acceptability, but in this case, one that varies from person to person. Boyfriend dicks have a measurable component, of course, but not a consistent one. Vaginas vary in depth and sensitivity just like penises vary in length and shape, and where some women may enjoy the mix of pleasure and pain she gets when someone hung repeatedly bashes into her cervix, others want nothing to do with it. For the first group of women, a 10-inch monster looks like a Christmas gift wrapped up in a pair of boxer-briefs. For the second, it’s a bad time that the dick’s owner will nonetheless feel very proud providing, as though he was put on this planet to bless people with his genetic gift.
“Small dicks aren’t a problem for me,” Elisa, 29, told me. “I’m more worried on the larger side of things, and I’ve said that to a couple guys and they’re always like, ‘Well, shouldn’t you be turned on by that?’” But for other women, like Sandra, 34, the top end of the cock-size window is purely theoretical: “I’ve never met one I didn’t like.” (For penises whose size extends beyond a partner’s preferred everyday range, the attendant terminology might be “stunt dick,” or as one Urban Dictionary contributor termed it, “vacation dick.”)
What really makes a boyfriend dick is a holistic evaluation of the situation at hand. There’s a Goldilocks element to it: It needs to be big enough to hit all the right physical spots, but not so big you can’t see yourself dealing with it on a consistent basis for years. It’s reliable in a way that works for you, which maybe means it stays hard while its owner goes down on you, or it matches your preference of mornings instead of evenings.
But as much as American sexual norms have evolved over the past several decades, one stubborn idea remains relatively unchanged: When it comes to dicks, bigger is better. The accepted wisdom states that average penises are fine but big penises are greatly preferable. And small ones—well, women hate them, and gay men hate them even more. This belief presupposes almost no variation in preference or anatomy, which makes it easy to pick out as false by a person of any gender who’s ever had a dick inside them. Size matters, but not in the way men are taught it matters. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, even (and maybe especially) when it comes to genitalia…