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Penis politics: Sex, size and stereotypes in the gay community

When it comes to penis size, gay men face a host of preconceptions about masculinity and race



Recent studies have shown that actual penis size is smaller than men are claiming. According to the Journal of Sexual Medicine, the average male penis measures 5.6 inches when erect; the Journal of Urology puts it at a slightly smaller 5.08 inches. This is considerably smaller than previous numbers from Alfred Kinsey, Durex and the Definitive Penis study, which averaged 6.25 inches in their estimates. The difference between the two estimates: surveys like Durex’s rely on self-reporting, and men are likely to overestimate. As Tom Hickman wrote in “God’s Doodle”: “What is incontrovertible is that where men and their penises are concerned there are lies, damned lies, and self measurements.”

Just ask any gay man looking for a hook-up on Grindr. “If a guy tells you his size and you meet up, you realize he must have a different ruler,” said Noah Michelson, editor of The Huffington Post’s Gay Voices section. Michelson believes that the reason men are likely to overreport their penis size is because of the “cultural currency” the gay community places on having a large penis. “I think there’s something to do with internalized homophobia or insecurities about being a man,” Michelson said. “You want to have a big dick and you want to be with a big dick. You want to be with a ‘man.’”

Michelson argued it’s not just about having a large penis; it’s what that penis signifies. “Having a big dick means that you’re ‘masculine’ and you wield a lot of power, because we assign so much power to the phallus itself,” he told me. “You’re a dominator and a conqueror.” Michelson said that this idea is largely informed by pornography, a strong force in shaping desire in the gay community; but for those who don’t fit into that “porn culture,” it leads to a feeling of being left out. “It’s totally a lottery,” Michelson explained. “And you either win it or you don’t.”

According to Jaime Woo, author of the book “Meet Grindr,” which explores how men interact on mobile hookup applications, that game can have very negative consequences for queer men who find themselves on the losing side. That’s why the size issue can seem even more fraught in the gay community than among heterosexuals. “In gay male culture, your sexual worth is very tied to your worth in the community overall,” Woo said. “We don’t have a lot of structure in place for men who aren’t sexually valuable, and they disappear into the background. Gay men have enough issues already, and this is just another way for them to feel bad about themselves, if they’re not packing eight inches under their pants.”

Woo told me that looking for sex on Grindr “makes the expectations much more heightened.” “Grindr has really distorted peoples’ understanding of what average or normal is, and the fact that people can ask if six or seven inches are too small — it’s jaw dropping,” Woo said. “You can be very picky because there is something better around the corner, someone bigger or hotter and someone more your type. It creates a very narrow band of desire.”

Huffington Post writer Zach Stafford argued that in order to hook up, we’re commodifying ourselves for sexual consumption. “On Grindr, you’re literally putting someone in a box,” Stafford explained. “The app’s layout is an actual shelf, like you would see in a grocery store.” In order to participate on the site, Stafford said that you have to learn how to market yourself by those confines. “It’s like being a book on Amazon,” Stafford told me. “You give yourself a little cover and write your summary. You make yourself a product, and when you’re selling yourself, you always go bigger.”

Stafford said our fascination with penis size is inherently tied to capitalism. “Studies have shown that people with larger penises make more money,” Stafford explained. “It’s power in our pants.” Stafford also explained that the correlation between sex and power leads to a skewed power dynamic between tops and bottoms. Research shows that bottoms have smaller penises on average, and are more likely to have penis anxiety and low self-esteem.  In an essay for the Huffington Post, Stafford called it “Top Privilege.” Stafford wrote, “In this line of thought, bottoms are seen ‘less than,’ ‘feminine’ or ‘the woman’ because they are the taker of the phallus.”

But it’s not just an issue of money and gender. Race also plays a large part in how gay men read each others’ bodies, especially for black and Asian men, stereotyped at the ends of the size spectrum. Stafford, who is multiracial, said that men will often approach him in bars to ask about his penis, expecting him to conform to the stereotype. “It creates an enormous amount of pressure for black men,” Stafford stated. “Black men are only seen as a tool — a tool of building and a tool of fucking. They’re reduced to a big penis.” In his case, Stafford said men often fall into two camps: “Either white people look at me as a black man with a big dick, or they see me and fetishize me — they want to dominate me.”

Jay Borchert has had the exact opposite experience. A doctoral candidate at the University of Michigan, Borchert (who is white) has frequently dated men of color, causing his romantic experiences to be reduced to a fetish. “People make remarks that I must be in it for the dick,” Borchert told me. “Why can’t I be looking for ass? Why can’t I be looking for mouth? Why can’t I be looking for a person?” People sometimes assume that Borchert adopts the “bottom” role in his sexual relationships, which isn’t the case. Borchert sighed, “It was really frustrating because there’s more to dating and relationships than penis.”

Due to his ethnicity, Thought Catalog writer John Tao has also found himself being put in a box in the bedroom. “Because I’m Asian, I’m automatically categorized as being a bottom,” Tao said. “There’s a perception that I wouldn’t want to top.” Because of this, Tao said that’s the role he’s most often performed in sexual relationships. “All of these people think I’m a bottom, so I’ll just be a bottom,” Mr. Tao explained, “You have to be careful because we internalize these stereotypes about ourselves. Your gay Asian friend might identify as a total bottom, but that could be years of societal expectations.”

Justin Huang, who blogs about his experiences being gay and Chinese at I Am Yellow Peril, agreed that the baggage around penis size can be particularly harmful for Asian-American men. In school, Huang’s friends would often tease him about what they assumed was the size of his penis, which was difficult when coming to terms with his sexual identity. “For a long time, I thought I had a small penis,” Huang explained. “It’s amazing what your brain can train you to see. I didn’t have a lot of respect for my penis. Gay men are emasculated already, so when you’re gay and Asian, you feel doubly emasculated.”

Huang told me that when you’re Asian, you’re expected to perform the stereotype, meaning that guys are very curious to see what’s inside your pants. “I’ve been in straight bars using the bathroom where a guy will lean over and look at my dick, just to see if what they say is true,” Huang said. But Jaime Woo argued that the same isn’t true for white men, whose penis size isn’t policed in the same way. “White men are considered the sexual default, so you’re allowed to have some variability,” Woo said. “White men get to be anything and everything, and there’s no presumption there. So for white men, a big dick is a bonus.”

Huang also argued that these stereotypes are a symptom of our lack of sex education and lack of knowledge about our bodies. “We’re told to hide our penises,” Huang said. “It’s a form of sexual oppression we don’t talk about. You see boobs everywhere. You don’t see penises anywhere, not even HBO. It’s something that’s scandalous and cloaked.” Because of the shame surrounding invisibility, men often place too much emphasis on something so small. “When I think about the guys I’ve been with, I don’t remember the penises,” Huang said. “I remember the boy. A penis doesn’t smile. A penis doesn’t look into your eyes. A penis can’t wrap its arms around you.”

Instead of holding out for an unrealistic fantasy, Justin Huang believes gay men should start embracing each other for exactly who they are. “Gay men need to stop expecting each other to be porn stars,” Huang said. “If you dump a guy just because of his penis size, you are an asshole. So if you love your man, tell him that you like his penis. After all, when you’re dating a guy, you’re dating two people: You’re dating him and you’re dating his penis. We need to start valuing and appreciating both of them.”
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I Can’t Believe People Tell Sex Workers to “Go to the Police” If They’ve Been Raped

A Few Thoughts About Stoya, James Deen, and the Rape Allegations Made on Social Media

by Mistress Matisse


The law does not give a shit about sex workers. Neither do many people on Twitter.

On November 28, writer, director, and porn actress Stoya fired off two tweets that would upend the porn world.

@Stoya: “That thing where you log in to the internet for a second and see people idolizing the guy who raped you as a feminist. That thing sucks… James Deen held me down and fucked me while I said no, stop, used my safeword. I just can’t nod and smile when people bring him up anymore.”

Stoya was talking about her former partner, James Deen—the adult-video-industry icon, he of the boyish good looks and crossover media fame, whose swooning female fan base dubbed him “the feminist porn star.”

Deen was silent for a day and then posted to Twitter: “There have been some egregious claims made against me… I want to assure my friends, fans, and colleagues that these allegations are both false and defamatory… I respect women and I know and respect limits both professionally and privately.” He then went silent until earlier this week, when he gave an exclusive interview to the Daily Beast denying all allegations. He has not replied to a request for comment from The Stranger.

I believe Stoya. Unpleasant stories about Deen have circulated in the sex-work community since well before they were a couple, and in the days following her tweets, nine other women also came forward to say that Deen has assaulted them. One of the women, Joanna Angel, was in a relationship with him for six years. Their stories don’t sound like descriptions of misunderstandings or moments of bad judgement. They sound like persistently abusive behavior, dating back nearly 10 years in Deen’s life. I believe all of them.

However, one development of all this did pleasantly surprise me: Major porn companies responded swiftly to the womens’ allegations. Shortly after the allegations began coming out, major porn studios and Evil Angel announced they would no longer work with Deen, effective immediately. Other adult businesses that had connections with Deen also distanced themselves, and non-porn website The Frisky dropped Deen’s sex-advice column from its site. In a matter of days, James Deen went from being the golden boy of porn to probably unemployable in the industry.

Of course, there was a backlash. Any allegation of sexual assault invariably brings forth strident deniers, and this was catnip for whorephobes. But it wasn’t just people accusing the women of “lying” and “slander.” One person replied to Stoya’s original tweet with “Rape a whore? Isn’t that just shoplifting?”

Defending a man accused of rape by calling his accuser a “whore” is especially irksome when that man is himself a sex worker. But there’s another reaction that bothers me, not only from outsiders, but also from a disturbing number of women in the sex industry. They’re defending Deen because Stoya accused him on Twitter.

Over the last two weeks, I have had a lot of conversations with people who say things like Deen is being tried in the court of social media. His professional reputation is ruined because he can’t prove himself innocent. None of them made a police report at the time, so how do we know it was REALLY rape? You can’t accuse someone of a crime without proof! There was a nearly constant thread of “innocent until proven guilty.”

But no one has filed criminal charges against Deen. He has exactly the same access to social media as his accusers do, he can talk to the reporters of his choice, and he has an agent and a lawyer to advise him. In my opinion, James Deen is not being victimized by the women who are saying he has harmed them.

When you say, “If it was rape, why didn’t you go the police?” here’s what it really means: If you don’t go to the police, you’re not allowed to talk about your sexual assault. Rape is like a ticket in a parking garage, apparently—if you didn’t get it validated by the powers that be, you will pay for that later. This is a silencing tactic, nothing more. No one spewing about “due process” to a sex worker who’s been assaulted until her ass needs stitches actually gives a shit about the sanctity of law.

And the law certainly does not give a shit about sex workers.

I have a lot of power and privilege for a sex worker, and still I can’t imagine going to the police if I were raped. To a sex worker, police are as likely to be the problem as they are to protect you from one. Take Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw, for example, who’s on trial for sexually assaulting 13 black women, many of whom had been sex workers. We’re supposed to get a rape-note stamp of approval from that guy?

Another gut-churning lesson on how sex workers fare in courtrooms is the case of Christy Mack, a nude model, dancer, and porn performer who was the victim of a horrifically violent attempted rape by her ex-partner, MMA fighter War Machine. Last year, War Machine, aka Jonathan Koppenhaver, allegedly entered her Las Vegas house, assaulted a friend of Mack’s who was also present, and then beat Mack so savagely that she suffered 18 broken bones, missing teeth, and a ruptured liver.

Koppenhaver was arrested and is now facing trial on 34 felony charges, including attempted murder. His defense? Since Mack was a sex worker, she enjoyed the attack. Koppenhaver’s defense lawyer, Brandon Sua, said in court that Mack’s career shows she had a “desire, the preference, the acceptability toward a particular form of sex activities that were outside of the norm.” Koppenhaver laughed openly when Mack testified in court, and at another point blew a kiss at the prosecuting attorney.

Even if Koppenhaver is convicted, it’s a stark reminder of what every sex worker learns: For us, there is no due process, no unbiased hearing. When it first became known that police were seeking War Machine for the assault, MMA fans on social media vilified Christy Mack as (of course) a lying whore. Then she tweeted pictures of herself in the hospital with shocking injuries, and public sympathy shifted considerably (if not completely) in her favor.

In the case of Deen, Stoya’s high social-media visibility is part of what made it safe for her to speak. Other women joined her, and their supporters made the hashtags #standwithstoya and #solidaritywithstoya go viral. If our suffering is plain, or our numbers many, then the court of public opinion is a place where sex workers may have a chance of prevailing.

James Deen is a porn brand whose stock has dropped. Doubtless that stings, but Deen is not headed to court and he’s not headed to jail, so the frenzied cries of “twitter lynch mobs” are absurd. It’s too soon even to say for sure his porn career is finished; other pop-culture heroes have recovered from sexual-assault accusations. Although really, if Deen truly can’t tell when he’s crossed over someone’s boundaries, is he really a guy who should be employed pushing them?

Moral questions about Deen’s behavior aside, it’s simply his job to have the consent of his scene partners, the professional trust of his producers, and the admiration of his fans. If he loses that? Then he loses his livelihood. That’s how fame works: You must cater to “the court of public opinion,” or the public will have no use for you.

Stoya punched a hole in the wall of silence about sexual assault against sex workers, as did all the women who joined her, and I’m grateful. You may decry the court of public opinion, but until sex workers are given equality before the law, we will use it, because it’s the only one open to us. recommended

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Better Oral Skills For All

Name: Glenda
Gender: Female
Age: 57
Location: Midwest
My husband and I have been together for 23 years and have a great sex life. I love giving him blowjobs and he says he enjoys it too, but he never has an orgasm from the BJs. He says that the head of his penis (circumcised) is just not very sensitive. Is this common and is there anything we can do to increase the sensitivity? Thanks for your help.

Hey Glenda! Your concern about your husband not gettin’ off on your blowjobs is a familiar complaint. Lots of men can’t get off that way. And I don’t think it has much to do with his desensitized dickhead.

blowjob humorIf you are confident that you are an expert cocksucker and you know all the tricks of getting your man off with your mouth, fine! However, if you need to brush up on your technique there are lots of resources out there. First, check out my handy-dandy tutorial: So Ya Wanna Be A World-Class Cocksucker …Or How To Give The Perfect Blow Job.

Want some visuals with your tutorial? I got that covered too. Take a look at The Dr Dick How To Video Library for the help you need. Look for the Video Library tab in the header.

One such video is Heads Up: The Official Guide To Fellatio from my friend and colleague, Dr Carol Queen’s Pleasure Ed series. Also look for Tristan Taormino’s video tutorial for orally pleasuring you man titled, Expert Guide To Oral Sex 2: Fellatio. Don’t forget Dr Michael Perry‘s How to Give A World-Class Blowjob.  His whole series of educational videos is great. There’s even a video called: Pinky’s Dick Sucking For Dumb Asses.Heads Up

If you want to know my secret to gettin your man off with your mouth, try diddlin’ his prostate with your finger while you blow him. Or kick it up a notch and use a slim-jim vibrator in his bum to get his juices flowin’.

Good luckHow to Give A World-Class Blowjob

Sexual Frustration Reigns

Hello Dr. Dick

First time question to you. I’m sure you’ve probably heard this one a million times, but I could use some advice 🙂

I married my best friend. Sex has never been frequent or great. Most of the time he finishes in less than five minutes of penetration and I rarely if ever get to orgasm. The first and last time I think I did have an orgasm I think was the day we conceived our little girl.

He’s a great guy in all other aspects, but when it comes to the bedroom, it doesn’t happen. I’ve tried seducing him (which he responds to eagerly, finishes and then rolls over and goes to sleep), tried asking if we could try different things (different has ended up being one of two positions – missionary and woman on top – he does not like and will not do anything else). He also does not want to and won’t do stimulation with his hands or anything else for that matter. He also does not like or want toys in the bedroom, for him or me.

Any ideas on how I can convert him into a wife pleaser? I’m at my wits end. Last time I seduced him to get some “cock” in me was two months ago and needless to say I didn’t get any satisfaction. For the first time though I took care of things myself and at least I slept without really resenting him 🙂

I’ve been trying to not care, but I’ve found out I’m a very passionate woman who only gets more passionate with time… and with those needs not being met, I’m wondering if it’s the end? Can people be happy without sex? I haven’t found a way to yet but if you know of something, please let me know.

Anyway, if you have a chance to respond to my ramblings it would be appreciated… even if you have some insight into his actions/non-actions it would be greatly appreciated.


You’re right; I have heard this a million times.

sexual frustrationI’m gonna spare you the niceties and get right t the point, Coral. Your husband is clearly not up to the task of being your lover. His behaviors and his disinterest in finding a solution to the problem you have together tells me that he is a selfish lout. And how in the world can he be your best friend. Best friends don’t behave like this.

Let me put it to you another way. If you were writing to me to tell me that your husband hordes all the food in the house to himself. That he has you feed him till he is satisfied, but offers you only crumbs to sustain you. And that he won’t even negotiate you getting the food you need to survive and sustain yourself. What do you think I would say about that?

I suppose you see where I’m going with that, right? Listen, you oughtn’t be beggin’ for shit that is rightfully yours.

I have one real simple premise that I live by. And that is, each of us has a right to a happy, healthy, integrated sex life. If there is something that is getting in the way of achieving that, whatever it might be, it is a problem that needs to be addressed immediately.

As far as relationships go, I am of the mind that we ought, first and foremost, work to honor our commitments of fidelity and mutual support. Are there ways that these two moral principles — a right to a healthy sex life and one’s relationship commitments — can coexist when one’s relationship excludes the possibility of happy sexual expression? Yes, I believe there are. And many couples achieve this balance, because they have an overriding love and concern for one another.

Now the facts — not all loving relationship have a sexual component. Many, for one reason or another, simply don’t. But if a partner is unwilling to provide sexual satisfaction to his/her partner and he won’t even begin negotiate an amicable solution or other accommodations then, I believe, this a form of sexual abuse.factors-of-sexual-dissatisfaction

If what you report about your husband’s distaste for anything sexually adventurous is accurate, then you have a very hard row to hoe. (BTW,are mutually enjoyed sex toys in the bedroom all that adventurous these days?) Trying to negotiate a satisfactory solution to a problem is all the more difficult when your partner is opposed to even discussing the issue. Here’s what I suggest. Have a frank talk with the bonehead. Tell him, in no uncertain terms, that he has first right of refusal to you and your long-suffering naughty bits. If he isn’t interested in keeping you sexually satisfied, that means the door is open for you to get your groove on elsewhere. If he balks at that, stand your ground. Insist that he has just the two options of taking it or leaving it.

If this means the end of this relationship, as I suspect it might. Then have the spine to make a clean break of it. Because, if you don’t, then you are complicit in the abuse you are suffering.

Good luck

Stretching out of the sexual doldrums

Name: Gwen
Age: 57
Location: Philly
My husband and I have been married for 33 years. Our relationship is hell when it comes to sex. My husband is overweight, and he’s stressed out about his elderly parents. Sex is non-existent. He never was the instigator in our relationship. And he is the kind of guy who thinks having sex on the couch as opposed to the bedroom is adventuresome. He has become so boring. I don’t believe the man feels sex should be that important at our ages. (I’m 57 and he’s 62) I, on the other hand, am more sexually aroused and creative than ever now that I am more mature and the kids are out of the house. Menopause and all the sex on the internet helps too. 😉 Is there anything I can do to make my man return to being a healthy sexual being once again? Thank you, Gwen

No, thank you, Gwen. Your complaint is a familiar one. In fact it’s so familiar I regularly offer therapy groups for couples in long-term relationships. Like you and your old man, these couples have, for one reason or another, hit a wall when it comes to their sex lives.senior intimacy

I take a very unique approach to these groups by inviting both straight and gay couples to the same group. At first I got a lot of resistance. Most couples, both gay and straight, think there is nothing to be learned from a couple unlike them. They can’t imagine why I would want to integrate the group in such a manner. I think most of my couples feel more comfortable being in a segregated group — straight folks with straight folks, gay folks with gay folks.

But that is of course the reason I integrate the groups. I don’t want them to feel all comfy and cozy, I wanted them to work and learn and stretch themselves out of their sexual doldrums. At first, I had to ask all my couples to suspend judgment about an integrated group until they had an opportunity to participate in one. Now I don’t encounter so much resistance. Word’s gotten out that this is a really creative solution to an otherwise tricky problem. And that old married couples, regardless if they are gay, lesbian or straight have very similar problems. And they can and do learn from one another.

To your specific issue, Gwen, I’m sad to say there’s not much you can do to beef up your sex life if there’s no interest on the part of your husband to do so. I mean, you can lead the horse to the cooch, but you can’t make him lick, if ya know what I mean.

Fat man holding a measurement tape against white background

Fat man holding a measurement tape against white background

You confide that you husband is overweight and stressed; this is not a happy combination when it comes to his sexual response cycle. In fact, your husband sounds like a heart attack waiting to happen. Perhaps if your challenged him about his general health — encourage weight loss and stress reduction, you might find that this would also reignite his sex drive. It’s worth a try.

And thank you for mentioning menopause. So many women find the changes that take place in midlife confusing and disorientating. It’s so good to hear from a woman who is eager to explore and enjoy her sexuality post-menopause.

Men also go through changes, in midlife. There’s even a name for it — andropause — the male menopause as it were. It’s clear that as we age, both women and men need more time and stimulation in which to get aroused. The slower, more sensuous foreplay that often results is a welcome change for most women and even some men.

Increased focus on sensuality, intimacy, and communication can help a sexual relationship remain rewarding even well into our senior years. I think you already know this, Gwen, but many women in my audience don’t.sensual touch

If your husband is avoiding intercourse, there still many ways of expressing your love and staying connected:

  • Hugging, cuddling, kissing
  • reading erotica aloud together
  • Touching, stroking, massage, sensual baths
  • Masturbation and oral sex

However, if your husband is more wedded to food and stress than he is to you, and if he continues to refuse to join you in finding an appropriate outlet for your sexual frustration, then it’s up to you to make this happen on your own. 57 is way too young to say goodbye to your sex life.

May I suggest joining a women’s group. Not a therapy group, but more of a support group or activities group. Getting out of the house, involving yourself with other self-actualized mature women, may uncover the secret solutions other women have put in place to find sexual satisfaction when they are without a partner or have a partner who’s no longer interested in a sex life with them. I think you will be surprised by how creative your sisters can be. Make it happen, Gwen. Don’t sink to the lowest common denominator of living a sexless life.

Good luck