Penis and Testicle Health: Myths & Misconceptions
Is there any single part of the body that has undergone more absurd myth-making and ridicule than the penis?
The sheer, objective absurdity of the penis—the clown prince of all human organs—certainly makes it stand out as one of the most talked-about appendages.
Let's take a little time to debunk some of the more egregious myths about male genitalia.
Myth: Bigger is always better.
Reality: Not according to a whole lot of penis-adjacent people.
We had to start with this particular myth, and for good reason: A Google search of "penis size" yields 474 million results—about half a billion hits—so it's clearly a topic of interest.
Males have obsessed over penis size for millennia, but in recent years, science has finally managed to give us some reliable data on it. According to a 2014 meta-study by BJU International, which looked at 17 previous studies involving 15,000 males, researchers indicated the average penis size is 3.61 inches flaccid and 5.16 inches erect.
Perhaps more important than this raw data, at least for insecure males, is the fact potential sex partners don't seem to favor one penis size more than another. Preference for penis size seems to come down to personal taste and many have reported girth matters more than length.
Myth: The penis has no bone, so you can't break it.
Reality: Well, the truth is it can be broken. Although the penis has no actual bone, there are components in there that can break.
Inside the penis shaft, a thin, elastic sheath called the tunica albuginea surrounds the corpus cavernosa, the chambers where blood is held while the man is erect. It helps to keep the blood trapped and the penis erect.
If too much pressure is placed on the penis at the wrong angle when it's hard—for instance, if the man's partner is on top during sex and comes down full force at the wrong angle—the penis can literally snap, which requires emergency surgery.
Myth: Testicular cancer is common.
Reality: Despite its high profile, testicular cancer is actually one of the rarer forms of cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, about 9,470 men will be diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2021, resulting in around 440 deaths. The rate indicates about 1 in 250 men will develop testicular cancer in their lifetimes.
To put that in perspective, around 1 in 8 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point, and more than 248,000 newly diagnosed cases are expected in the U.S. in 2021.
However, that's not to say it's not important to make time for a self-exam the next time you're in the shower. Anything that feels different down there is worth reporting to your doctor, sooner rather than later.
Myth: Testicular cancer will ruin your sex life.
Reality: If you catch it early, you'll probably be just fine. Most males diagnosed with testicular cancer have it in only one testicle, and you really only need one to produce enough sperm and testosterone to maintain a typical sex drive. If your treatment requires the removal of a testicle, your sexual response and ability to father a child are likely to remain unchanged.
Even if both testicles are affected, testosterone replacement therapy can likely help you maintain a normal sex life although you may have to consider alternative options if you want to have children.
Myth: Uncircumcised penises are dirtier than circumcised ones.
Reality: Proper hygiene isn't difficult to teach nor to accomplish, whether a male is cut or uncut.
An ongoing myth about circumcision tells us uncut penises are inherently dirty, no matter what. However, the truth is there's nothing naturally dirty about an uncircumcised penis. Keeping it clean is no more difficult or time-consuming than washing one's hands.