Sunday 4 December 2016

Dear Mary: Does size really matter to women?

Published 26/09/2016 | 02:30

Illustration: Tom Halliday

Q. I am a 17-year-old boy with an embarrassing problem.

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I think my penis is small. Though I am six-foot tall and quite muscular, I am not similarly built down below. When I see Michelangelo's David statue in history books it reminds me of me in front of the mirror in my bedroom. My penis is two to three inches when soft and at its hardest and biggest it's barely five inches long.

My erect penis looks like other boys' penises when they are just hanging there. As a result I am very shy with girls when it comes to being more than friends. I've been told by girls that I'm 'cute' and 'good-looking' but I think to myself 'if you saw my little cocktail sausage you'd laugh at me'. It gets even worse after swimming or running as my penis and testicles almost disappear into my body and only my foreskin remains. I am mortified at the thought of girls laughing at me when they see me naked or me not being able to have sex with them because I'm too small. Please help me if there's anything that you can do.

Mary replies: The first thing I will tell you is to stop worrying. Many guys like you feel that they are abnormal whereas the average penis is three and a half inches when flaccid and when erect is just over five inches. There are a couple of points that you should bear in mind.

When you see other guys - for instance in the shower after sports - you are looking at them full on whereas when you look down at your own penis you are seeing it slightly altered as it is foreshortened from that angle. You look in the mirror as well, but every time you see your penis apart from that you are looking down at it. As regards swimming and sports almost everybody has the same experience as yours. One man - who does not have a problem with size - mentioned to me that when he has been swimming or working out it looks like his navel has moved downwards!

Many guys with longer penises than yours do not get much larger when they become erect, whereas a very short flaccid penis does. In other words they all average out to roughly the same length when erect. Of course there are exceptions and some guys have large penises but if anything this can cause problems to the girl with whom they are having sex.

 It can be quite daunting for a young woman to try to accommodate a very large penis and they report pain and fear. But above all what you have to bear in mind is that a girl has very little sensitivity actually inside the vagina, and it is far more important that you learn how to pleasure a girl in a way that she enjoys, rather than worrying about whether the length of your penis will satisfy her.

Q. My husband was cruel and I just can't move on after his death

This letter has been written over and over again in my head. I was married for 35 years - my husband died just over a year ago. In the last years of my marriage, I was quite lonely and doing things on my own most of the time. I am no more lonely now than before he died.

He had an affair with my sister-in-law back in the 1990s and I never got over that. I felt complete betrayal. It wasn't talked about, like everything else. He was always running down my sisters and brothers. Thinking back, I think it was emotional abuse. He was very intelligent - intellectually far superior to me. The trust was gone completely on my part.  He also used to say (under the influence of alcohol) that all his family lived to an old age.  This would always be said in the middle of the night when I would be 'asleep'. In the end I used ear plugs so I wouldn't hear what he was saying.  I believe he was saying indirectly, and not in a nice way, that he himself would live to an old age. He was 73 when he died.

I cried so much over the years that I thought there were no tears left. None of my family know any of this stuff, including my children, as it would be too upsetting for them, and would not solve anything. Looking back, I think he was very controlling. When he was diagnosed with stage-four cancer, it was very difficult. He was impossible to deal with and extremely angry. The nurses in the hospital avoided going to his room he was so demanding. We had wonderful children all grown up now, and happy in their lives. When my daughter got married she did not ask him to walk her up the aisle. It was a civil ceremony and her reason for that was he was so hurtful to her when she was younger for absolutely no reason. She was an A student all through college. Strangely, he never had words with our sons. Why, why, why? I don't understand. I am now 68. Through all this time there were very few open rows. I kept it all inside. I don't think my children have any idea who their father really was - nor do I. How do I get rid of all this going round in my head. Do you think I need a counsellor to chat to?

Mary replies: It's such a shame that you were unhappy for all those years and did not feel able to share that unhappiness with anybody. You certainly were subjected to emotional abuse - the image of him threatening you that he would live to a ripe old age, knowing that you were awake, is particularly menacing. Because you did not stand up to him, and I understand that it was to keep the peace in front of the children, he was allowed to get away with the bullying and bad behaviour. Also, his affair when you were in your 40s wasn't talked about between the two of you and so this remained unfinished business for you.

I'm sure you are very proud of your children and their achievements. Despite nothing having been said by you it is very likely that they have some idea that you had a difficult life with your husband. Your daughter in particular suffered at his hands, and this will have been observed by her brothers, and no doubt spoken about among themselves. Now it is time for you to take care of yourself, to offload to a trusted unbiased person just how difficult your marriage was. You should indeed seek the help of a qualified counsellor. You will find that just as writing to me has been helpful, actually telling your story from beginning to end will stop your endless thoughts about the past and, indeed, what might have been.

You signed your letter 'from a real person afraid to put my name to it'. The time has come when you must no longer feel afraid.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting www.dearmary.ie or email her at dearmary@independent.ie or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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