My family thinks I shouldn't date because of my penis size


Hi. I'm 16 and I live with my mom, her friend, and my two aunts. About a year ago I was diagnosed with micropenis. I was very embarrassed and insecure even before the diagnosis, and thought that no one would ever want to be my girlfriend. But now I want to try dating for relationships and sex. My mom and aunts are AGAINST this, feeling that girls would dump me when they learn of my condition and leave me heartbroken.

This made me feel very bad because my family doesn't support me. But my mom's friend told me that there's more to relationships that just sex and that just because I won't have a NORMAL sex life doesn't mean I can't have a GOOD sex life. This made me feel better because I'd never thought of it that way all this time.

The question I'm asking is what would be the best way to discuss my size worries with a potential partner? I don't feel this is something I should surprise them with and I'm really afraid of being laughed at when I take my pants off.

First things first - it sounds like your family needs to step back and let you make your own choices here, without adding their own commentary or judgment. They may be coming from a place of concern, but it's misguided and hurtful, and whether they wind up being right about this or not, it's still important that you make your own decisions about dating, now and in the future. In addition, your medical details really aren't their business. Maybe your mom or aunt went with you to the doctor and heard your diagnosis, but that wasn't their story to tell everyone else. If you feel comfortable doing so, it's ok to set some sort of boundary with them, where you ask them not to comment on whether it's appropriate for you to date or not, and to give you more privacy when it comes to your body and your decisions. You may want to start seeing your doctor by yourself to help maintain more privacy.

I halfway agree with your mother's friend here: there's certainly more to relationships than just a sexual⁠ component, and you can certainly have a good sex⁠ life.  No matter what your penis⁠ size is, your sexual relationships can be enjoyable and fulfilling for you and for your partner⁠ . But it sounds like she may have set up "good" sex as a consolation prize for missing out⁠ on "normal" sex, and that's not a helpful distinction to make. Sexuality is so vast, and so different from person to person, that "normal" isn't something we can calculate in any useful way. Worries about being normal are incredibly common, and when you've had people flat-out tell you that you can't have a normal sex life I can definitely understand that you might be concerned about this, but I encourage you to look beyond "normal" when you're evaluating the kind of sex you have and want. We have a great article about being "normal" when it comes to sex that I think you'll find quite helpful. 

Keep in mind, too, that at age 16 you likely have several years of puberty⁠ ahead of you; in fact, some people are just starting puberty at your age. I assume your doctor had a reason for diagnosing you at this point in time but they can't predict how much penis growth you may experience in the next few years.

I don't want to downplay the fact that some people do subscribe to and uphold the idea that a larger penis makes someone a better sexual partner⁠ or more of a man. It sucks, but the idea is out there. The truth, however, is that the size of your penis doen't have much to do with what kind of a sexual or romantic⁠ partner you can be. What does have an impact on someone's excellence as a sexual partner? Communicating openly and honestly about your desires, preferences, and boundaries. Seeking enthusiastic consent⁠ for sexual activity. Being equally invested in your partner's pleasure and your own. Having a sense of fun and exploration around sex. Seeing sex as a collaborative activity, not something one person is doing to another or that they're letting someone do to them. This isn't an exhaustive list, of course, but these elements are likely to be much more important to most partners than your penis measurement.

It sounds like your mother's friend was making two big assumptions when she told you that you can't have a normal sex life: that you will be unable to have or enjoy intercourse⁠ , and that intercourse is required in a sexual relationship⁠ . While it's fairly common for people to assume that when we talk about having or enjoying sex, we're only talking about intercourse, in reality sex encompasses a wide range of activities and experiences. If you're concerned that intercourse with a partner won't be fulfilling and enjoyable for you both (which isn't necessarily the case), it may help to keep in mind that it isn't the only or "best" kind of sex you can have. There are plenty of people who love intercourse, sure, but many others don't particularly enjoy it, or could take it or leave it and enjoy other kinds of sex much more.

If you do discover that intercourse just doesn't work well with your body or your preferences, you still have a huge list of types of sexual and physical intimacy to explore with a partner. In fact, we have a list here, of a lot of different sexual activities that can be helpful to go through when you're thinking about what you might be comfortable with or interested in exploring with a partner.

In terms of how to talk to a partner about this, I wouldn't treat it like bad news, or something you need to apologize for. It's ok to feel a little nervous or insecure the first time you talk about or show your body to a partner; many people feel that way, especially in their first relationships. But bodies never need to come with an apology. They're all going to be flawed and wonderful in their own ways, and part of having a sexual relationship is finding the ways that your own specific bodies can fit together in a pleasurable way. This isn't to say that you have to fake a level of confidence you aren't feeling. Sometimes just saying something like "just so you know, I'm a little insecure about this" can be enough to get your feelings out on the table without setting yourself or your body up as a problem.

The context you give this has the chance to really impact how a partner might interpret the situation. If you approach the topic with a defeatist attitude, or assume right away that your partner won't enjoy sex with you or will laugh, I think it might make them a little bit more likely to react negatively; people will often take cues about how to react to information based on how it's presented. There's a pretty big difference in what it looks like to see someone apologizing for a perceived flaw and to have them say "this is how my body is, how can we work with this to have a great time together?"

As for when to have this talk, a good time might be when you're at the point of having a conversation to share your feelings and desires around sex. That conversation could include sharing sexual boundaries, making decisions around birth control⁠ and STI⁠ prevention, and talking about kinds of sexual activity you're both interested in exploring. Again, I don't think this is something you need to apologize for! But in early conversations about sex it's common for people to give partners any information about their bodies that might impact how they interact sexually, either to set limits or give a general heads-up.

Those could be statements like: "I'm really ticklish, so please be careful if you touch my feet." "I have limited mobility in my legs so we may need to experiment to find the most comfortable positions during sex." "Oral sex just doesn't do it for me so I'd rather not, thanks." "I'm not sure if I'd enjoy intercourse but I'm willing to try it; I know I love manual sex⁠ , though, so I'd love to focus on that." None of these examples mean that sex isn't going to be fun or fantastic; communicating the specifics of one's own body, preferences or desires are a good way to get things started out right when beginning a sexual relationship.

If you aren't sure how your penis size will impact your sex life or the kinds of sex you enjoy, it's ok to say that to a partner. I suspect that as you gain experience you'll have a better understanding of what does work, and discussions with future partners will become easier over time, but it's always fine to just say "I'm not sure but here's what I'd like to try" and see where things go from there. I can't promise you that no one will react negatively, but what I can say is that a partner who's hung up on your penis size isn't likely to be a great partner in other ways. Even people who have preferences about what sort of physical attributes they'd like a partner to have - from penis size to hair color to body shape - are perfectly capable of loving and being attracted to people who don't align with those preferences, or of giving a polite "no thanks" when they're not feeling it. If someone laughs at or belittles you or your penis, that says a lot more about their lack of maturity and compasson than it says about you or your suitability as a sexual partner.

As a final note, I'm thinking you might benefit from reading this article about disability and sex; not because a smaller-than-average penis is a disability, but because there's a lot of great content there about accepting and making accommodations for your body as it is currently, and not trying to fit your body or abilities into a perception of how it should be. Here are some particularly relevant quotes, but I highly encourage you to read the entire thing:

If you've worked to try and resemble someone else's fantasy instead of being your own reality, then it's been a problem for you. If you've used a term like "real sex" to describe one given activity or way of having sex, then it's been a problem for you. The problem isn't your body or mind or someone else's body or mind not doing what they are supposed to, because when we're doing it right, there just isn't a supposed-to in sex. I know, I know: you can pick up a ton of magazines or books that tell you there is. But they only keep saying that because they both make gobloads of money on all the folks who want to badly to believe it's all that simple and homogeneous, and because most of the folks who write that stuff themselves haven't outgrown that way of thinking, which is a pity for everyone. The problem is staying stuck in ideas about or definitions of sex that might be someone else's that work for them (or don't, but they still cling to them all the same), but which won't or don't work for you, and not recognizing that the aim is to explore and find what works for you, uniquely, rather than reading from someone else's script based in fantasy or in someone else's body or sexuality.

Sex isn't one-size-fits-all, after all: not for anyone. Some people can treat it that way, sure, and too many people do, but those don't tend to be the people reporting wonderful sexual lives and relationships that they and their partners find particularly inspiring and enjoyable. Sex and sexuality are massively diverse from person to person, partnership to partnership, experience to experience, between one phase of life and others. Sex and sexuality are about how each of us experiences and expresses ourselves as sexual beings, and the range of diversity on those experiences and kinds of expression is as vast as the range of diversity in how each of us talks, what each of us dreams about, how each of us was raised, and how different we all look and are embodied. The more adaptive and inclusive we can all be in how we think about and frame sex and sexuality, but also in how we enact it, the better it is for all of us.

I wish you the best of luck as you begin dating! Here are a few more links for further reading:

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