Men with sports cars are compensating for something, study confirms

Fast and flashy cars have long been associated with wealth and masculinity. But there’s also a common stereotype that men with sports cars are insecure about the size of their manhood. So a group of psychologists (all of which were men) decided to test the theory. The new preprint study has not been peer-reviewed but it indicates a correlation between men who think their penis size is smaller than average and the desire for sports cars. The authors write, “These results raise intriguing questions for future research.[1]

A potential correlation between small members and fast cars

The research team led by Professor Daniel C. Richardson of UCL‘s Experimental Psychology department analyzed 200 English-speaking men between 18 and 74 years of age. The participants first completed a task, which, the team told them, was supposed to test their ability to remember details while shopping online. Each round involved a statement on the screen for seven seconds. Then a picture of a product appeared, from luxury items to common items. The men had to drag a slider to indicate how much they desired the product. Then the statement returned, sometimes with a subtle change, and the participants had to determine if it were true or false. [2]

Here’s the catch: Some statements were about the average penis size, and they were always followed by an image of a sports car. However, these statements weren’t always true. They were written to manipulate the self-esteem of the men. So some men were told the average size of an erection was 7.1 inches (18 centimeters). Others were told it was 4 inches (10 centimeters). The true average cannot be fully determined but scientists estimate it around 5.1–5.5 inches (12.9–13.97 centimeters). [3] The point was that men in one group would think their penis was smaller than average and one group would think theirs is larger than average.

The team analyzed the results and found that the participants made to think they were smaller than average were more likely to deem sports cars as very desirable. There was also a notable age difference, with men over 30 more likely to follow this trend. Keep in mind, the team also tried to insert misleading facts about friendship, personal finance, physical health, and charity work, but none of these topics correlated with an increased desire for a sports car.

“The phallic car trope”

Since the study has yet to be peer-reviewed, there are no definite conclusions on the matter, but it does hint at some truth behind the old stereotype. As the authors state, “Perhaps there is just something specific linking cars and penises in the male psyche. That hypothesis is supported by the data in this paper, and would explain the existence of the phallic car trope in everyday jokes, advertisements and academic discourse […] The luxury automotive industry may be unwilling to acknowledge this link, but our results do provide some succour.” [4]

It’s common for men to feel self-conscious about their penis size, even when they’re within the average range. So in 2015, researchers from the King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust set out to determine what exactly is an average penis. “The data comes from a very large number of men from the best existing studies,” said co-author Dr. Gordon Muir. “We are particularly aware that many men with normal penis size can feel inadequate or ashamed, and this paper should allow specialists to reassure them. We also hope that men may be spared unnecessary and harmful surgery, which some less reputable surgeons still promote.” [5]

On average, they found that a flaccid penis was about 3.58 inches long (about 9 cm) and 3.66 inches in circumference. The average erection was 5.16 inches long (about 13 cm) and 4.59 inches in girth (about 11.7 cm). The authors didn’t find much association with these measurements to other physical attributes, like foot size or body weight. However, height had some correlation, with tall men trending toward having longer members. “There is not a ‘right’ penis size for a man of any height, just a range of ‘normal,’” Muir said. “A bit like shoe size, really!”

They are indeed normal”

But of course, the main concerns about size revolve around performance. And Muir reassures that size isn’t the be all and end all. “Many men with a 9 cm (3.54 inch) erection will have no problems having mutually satisfactory sexual relations, and few men with a longer than average penis seek medical help,” he said. “And research shows that women are rarely concerned about the penis size of their partner, rating it much less important than many other factors.”

Muir and his co-authors hope that this data could help soothe anxiety over penis size, which can lead to psychological harm and difficulties in relationships. Even worse, they hope it could prevent men from seeking out potentially dangerous surgeries and remedies. “We hope that these results will be of help to reputable clinicians who can use them to help reassure men with normal penis size they are indeed normal,” Muir said. “We also hope that no man will be subject to physical treatment without a clear understanding of where he sits in the normal range.”


  1. “Small Penises and Fast Cars.PsyArXiv. Daniel C. Richardson.
  2. “Scientists prove link between perceived penis size and sports cars.NZ Herald. David McCowen. January 13, 2023
  3. “What size is the average penis?” Medical News Today. Markus MacGill. December 22, 2022
  4. “Having A Small Penis And Driving A Sports Car May Be Linked After All.IFL Science. Laura Simmons. January 11, 2023
  5. “Most penises are normal, more research says.Reuters. Kathryn Doyle. March 3, 2015