The Disturbing Reason Parents Worry About Their Sons’ Penis Size

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Why in the world are parents freaking out about this?!

I’m the father of a daughter, which comes with a lot of benefits, but one benefit (that I hadn’t realized until now) is that I’ve never had to worry about relative size of her genitals. Because that is disturing and awful on every level ... except when it comes to boys.

I say that because, according to a recent article that appeared on the New York Times website, that is something that parents of boys are worrying about — the article claims that parents becoming more and more anxious that their sons’ penises are too small.

Can you imagine that? Imagine the most awkward doctor’s visit you ever had with your parents and then imagine being a boy, hearing your dad clear his throat, and then asking your pediatrician if he thought you had a micropenis.

It’s absolutely mortifying, but it is happening. Dr. Aseem Shukla, a pediatric urologist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, was quoted as saying “I see dissatisfaction with the phallus very regularly” and added that one common complaint he was hearing from parents of boys as old as 10- to 11-years-old was “my son’s penis is too short.”


So, are boys’ penises actually getting smaller?

No. The author of the New York Times article, Dr. Perri Klass, doesn’t cite any research or statistics that would suggest any kind of smaller penis trend, but he does recount from his own personal experience that “questions about penis size have become more common over the past decade.”

Klass’ theory seems to be that weight is playing the biggest role in these new parental penis anxieties. (The title of his article is “As Boys Get Fatter, Parents Worry One Body Part Is Too Small.”)

But how can a boy’s weight affect the relative appearance of his penis?

Klass spells it out like this: “The penis can be buried in the fat pad that sits in front of the pubic bone, and it can remain hidden as boys go through adolescence. What is called a “hidden penis” can be a combination of being prepubertal (so the penis has not begun to grow), being overweight (so the fat pad is significant), and in some cases an anatomical condition in which the soft tissue below the skin of the penis doesn’t adhere well to the Buck’s fascia, the thick covering that surrounds the penile nerves and arteries.”

(Let’s pause for a moment and silently weep for any boy who has had to listen to his parents talk to his doctor about his “fat pad” or “hidden penis.”)


There are surgical procedures that can “unbury” the penis in the most extreme situations, but the more common (and less invasive) solution would just be for the boy in question to lose some weight. Klass’ article is quick to point out that, in his opinion, the majority of these cases of parental worry are just caused by weight issues or varying body types.

It appears to be unusual that any of these cases would actually be labeled as a “micropenis.” WebMD defines the term “micropenis” as applying “to the 0.6% of men with the smallest penises. According to Palmer's statistics, an SPL of three and two-thirds inches or less indicates a micropenis.”

Dr. Klass notes that micropenises can occur in cases of hormone imbalances and genetic disorders, but they’re relatively rare. The majority of the parental penis anxiety that Dr. Klass and Dr. Shukla seem to be encountering, apparently, comes more from concern about body type than anything else.

What’s the overall takeaway from this for parents?

In my opinion, stop worrying about your son’s junk.

If your son legitimately has a serious developmental issue with his penis, chances are, that’s something your pediatrician will identify during their normal annual check-up.

But if a parent is occasionally catching sight of their son naked and thinking “Man, that’s underwhelming,” the problem CLEARLY resides with the parent. Yes, it’s important to have frank and open discussions with our kids about their bodies (particularly during puberty), but if you’re entering into the conversation with concern about your kid’s relative penis size, there’s a decent chance your son is going to pick up on that.

Which is horrifying. That poor kid. Boys have enough things to worry about without thinking about whether or not Mom and Dad consider their sons to be well-endowed. 

So, Moms and Dads, let’s all chill out and leave the penis diagnosing to our doctors, OK? Give the kid some time to develop and don't permanently screw up his body image. 


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