The Average Penis Length Is…

In the never-ending search to find out what’s really “normal” down there, a new review of penis studies has arrived. (For more on how your guy stacks up against the average man: Is Your Guy Normal When It Comes to Sex?) The research is published in BJU Internationaland is said to be the first attempt to create a formal systematic review of penile measurements. In their research, scientists collected data from 17 studies involving over 15,000 men who underwent penis size measurements by health professionals, determining the following averages for penis length and circumference (we went ahead and converted to inches for you):

Average length of a flaccid penis: 3.6 inches
Average length of a flaccid stretched penis (we’re still pondering the method on this one): 5.2 inches
Average circumference of a flaccid penis: 3.7 inches
Average length of an erect penis: 5.2 inches
Average circumference of an erect penis: 4.6 inches

The Average Penis Length Is...

The point of the handy diagram (officially known as a nomogram)? “We believe these graphs will help doctors reassure the large majority of men that the size of their penis is in the normal range. We will also use the graphs to examine the discrepancy between what a man believes to be their position on the graph and their actual position or what they think they should be,” said David Veale, M.D., who led the review. 

We’re not saying you should print out the chart and leave it on your nightstand for comparison, but hey, it’s always good to be informed, right?

Have an Amazing Orgasm: Eat Right for a Bigger O!

There’s a reason why romantic dates often involve wining and dining, says dietician Torey Jones Armul: “Eating causes the release of oxytocin, which is associated with feelings of pleasure. The act of eating, like a massage, is intended to feel good.”

But what you eat can amplify that pleasurable effect—and we’re not talking chocolate and champagne. Two brain chemicals, dopamine and serotonin, are strongly linked to pleasure, satisfaction, and mood. In fact, low dopamine levels can lead to a low sex drive. Fortunately, proteins found in beans, nuts, and poultry, as well as the amino acid tyrosine, found in bananas, avocados, and almonds, all help your body maintain it’s dopamine levels, says Armul. And eating folate- and B-vitamin-rich food like leafy greens, chickpeas, fish, and fruits and vegetables, can keep your levels of feel-good serotonin high too.

As for traditional aphrodisiacs like chocolates and oysters? There’s not much scientific support to back them up, says Armul. However, studies have linked both moderate red wine consumption and an apple-a-day habit to improved sexual function. And while they haven’t necessarily been linked directly to orgasm, antioxidant-rich foods like beets, cherries, and oranges can improve vasodilation (the opening of veins for blood flow)—which could improve arousal, and in turn, strengthen your orgasm.

And, of course, eating well and taking care of your body can help you feel comfortable in your own skin—which can mean lowered inhibitions (and more pleasure) in the bedroom. “Valuing your body and what it can do for you, rather than it’s appearance, leads to self acceptance,” says Armul. “And that leads to sexual confidence and satisfaction.”

Rom-Coms Aren't Just Unrealistic, They Can Actually Be Bad For You

We get it: Rom-coms are never realistic. But isn’t a little harmless fantasy the whole point of watching them? Well, they might not actually be so harmless, according to a new study from the University of Michigan.

It’s pretty easy to recognize that the behavior we often see from men in the movies is so not the behavior we actually see from them in real life (still holding out for our grand gestures over here…). But this latest piece of research examines the ways in which those all too common I-will-never-stop-loving-you-and-will-never-give-up-until-I-win-you-back plot lines are actually skewing the types of behavior we deem “normal.” (Is Your Guy Normal When It Comes to Sex?)

The researchers specifically looked at media portrayals of “persistent pursuit” and the ensuing beliefs about stalking. They asked women to watch six films, which all portrayed some sort of “love conquers all” behavior from male characters. Some of the films, like There’s Something About Mary, portrayed this behavior in a sweet, comedic way (Ben Stiller enduring hilarious humiliation to win over Cameron Diaz? Awww…), while others, like Sleeping with the Enemy, portrayed the behavior in a more negative, realistic way (Julia Roberts being stalked by her abusive husband who refuses to let her go? Ahhh!). They found that the women who watched the rom-coms that displayed aggressive male behavior in a positive light were more likely to view such behavior as acceptable.

The problem is in the real world, it’s totally not acceptable. The researchers worry that all the positive portrayals of aggressive, relentless behavior might make us more likely to buy into “the stalker myth,” which causes us to take serious incidents or threatening behavior less seriously when it happens in real life. (Find out what every woman needs to know about self-defense.)

“[Such movies] can encourage women to discount their instincts,” study author Julia R. Lippman told Canada’s Global News. “This is a problem because research shows that instincts can serve as powerful cues to help keep us safe. At the core, all these films are trading in the ‘love conquers all’ myth. Even though, of course, it doesn’t.”

Sure, we may swoon when Kiera Knightly’s admirer shows up at her door with his “to me you are perfect” cue cards, but if your husband’s best friend came calling with grand gestures of love IRL? So. Not. Okay. Just make sure you know the difference.

8 Surprising Things Affecting Your Sex Life

When you hit the sheets, sex is really about logistics—what goes where, what feels good (and chemistry, of course). But what you do before—not foreplay, we mean way before—and after sex can have just as much, if not more of an effect on your performance. In fact, it can even determine whether or not you’ll actually do the deed (see these 5 Common Libido-Crushers to Avoid). Science has uncovered a number of non-sexual reasons behind whether you’re having more intense, satisfying sex or couldn’t be less interested in getting naked. And only one of the reasons we rounded up happens in the bedroom. Educate yourself now to guarantee a better time in the bedroom (then try these 5 Moves to Orgasm Tonight).

What You’re Watching on Date Night
8 Surprising Things Affecting Your Sex Life

As much as you may love cueing up the latest Nicholas Sparks movie (and there’s a new one!) to get in the mood, your chick flick picks could be killing his sex drive. Seriously—scientists found that men were least likely to want sex after being subjected to romantic conditions (in this case, a scene showing Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet’s first kiss in Titanic, plus a romantic clip from Indecent Proposal), according to a study published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior. The researchers concluded that while women get more turned on by romantic scenes, men are fine with more explicit stimuli, like porn. (Here’s How to Watch Porn Together.)

How Many Guy Friends You Have
8 Surprising Things Affecting Your Sex Life

It’s always about competition with men, right? In fact, even perceived competition can make your sex life hotter, says a study published in the Journal of Comparative Psychology. Researchers polled 393 heterosexual men in long-term, committed relationships, and had them rate their partner’s appearance, how many male friends and co-workers they thought she had, how attractive they believed other men found her, and how often they had sex with her. Turns out, the women with more guy friends and coworkers had more sex with their partners. Apparently, that threat of a little competition makes us more desirable to our man. 

Your Birth Control
8 Surprising Things Affecting Your Sex Life

You know the pill affects a lot more than whether you get pregnant or not—but did you know it can be your libido’s version of beer goggles? Hormonal birth control can actually determine who you’re attracted to, according to a U.K. study. Scientists not only found that women who went on or off hormonal birth control while in a relationship experienced a decrease in sexual satisfaction, but also that women who met their future husbands while on hormonal birth control but went off of it after getting married became became less satisfied with their marriages (especially if their husband wasn’t conventionally “hot”). (Get filled in on more of the Most Common Side Effects of Birth Control.)

The Type of Guy You’re Dating
8 Surprising Things Affecting Your Sex Life

Everyone has a type that turns them on: tall, skinny, surfer, whatever. But science has proven there are a few characteristics in a man that can actually make your orgasms stronger. (Have You Ever Really Had an Orgasm?) Per a recent study published in the journal Evolutionary Pyschology, the frequency and intensity of your orgasms is related to your partner’s family income (it should be high), his self-confidence (this should also be high), how funny you find him (the better the sense of humor…), and how attractive he is (broad shoulders are key here). And, if your friends think your partner is really hot, that also means your probably more satisfied in bed. Science says so!

Whether Your Brain Is Wired For It
8 Surprising Things Affecting Your Sex Life

If you find yourself craving sex all the time (or never), it could have less to do with your libido than your brain. Some people, according to research published in UCLA’s Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience journal, are just wired for it. Researchers showed 225 psychology students a variety of photos that included couples kissing, having sex or doing something totally G-rated; the people whose brain activity reacted to more of the pictures were the same ones who had had more sexual partners. Basically, those people’s brains are more sensitive to sexual cues than others, making it easier for them to get aroused (which leads them to seek out more sexual partners). (In the mood? Try 4 Ways to Have More Sex—Tonight!)

What You Do Post-Sex
8 Surprising Things Affecting Your Sex Life

Some people crave a spoon sesh after sex, others are loathe to loll around. Guess who’s more sexually satisfied? The cuddlers, says a study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. Scientists observed the behavior of 335 participants after they got it in, and found that those who spent more time showing affection reported high sexual satisfaction. (The average time, in case you were wondering, was 15 minutes.) In fact, the duration of post-sex affection ranked higher than the length of foreplay and the actual sex. Snuggle away! (PS: Find out How Your Sleep Style Affects Your Relationship.)

Your Fast Food Habit
8 Surprising Things Affecting Your Sex Life

You know better than to indulge in fast food too often, and here’s another reason not to: it can kill your sex drive. In a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, researchers questioned 360 pregnant women in their 20s and 30s about their sex life during the months before they conceived. They also took urine samples, measuring the level of phthalates—a group of chemicals found in fast food, processed items, and nonorganic produce that has been linked to a lower libido—in each sample. Women with the highest level of phthalates in their urine were two-and-a-half times more likely to report a stalled sex drive. (Hungry? Eat these 25 Superfoods for Better Sex instead.)

How Much Yoga You’re Doing
8 Surprising Things Affecting Your Sex Life

Obviously, there are a lot of benefits to yoga (and not just that it ups your bendiness in bed). A study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine says it can specifically enhance sexual function and satisfaction in women. Researchers had 40 women at a yoga program in India fill out a standard sexual-function questionnaire at the beginning and end of the 12-week program. At the end, they found improvements in desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, pain, and overall satisfaction. (Find out why else Yogis Are Better in Bed.)

Single Girl's Guide to Valentine's Day

Who says Valentine’s Day is for couples? Forget cupid this year and indulge in these solo pursuits, compliments of SHAPE staffers and Facebook fans. Whether you’re a V-Day cynic or just “between boyfriends,” we have a fun Valentine’s Day idea for you that doesn’t involve raw cookie dough or burning your ex’s picture—not that we’re against that if it makes you happy!

Play matchmaker. One Valentine’s Day I went to a party where only singles were invited. Every girl had to bring a single guy and every guy had to bring a single girl. There was a lot of matchmaking going on!
—Alice Oglethorpe, Senior Lifestyle Editor

ENTERTAINING TIPS: Holiday party ideas

Enjoy some puppy love. This Valentine’s Day I’m going to volunteer at a dog shelter and lap up all the puppy love they want to give me.
—Valerie Leo, Facebook post

Give and get. I make my friends and family Valentine’s Day goodie bags. Then I buy myself a pair of Nike shoes from their Nike Valentine’s Day women’s collection!
—Mary L. Sarkissian , Facebook post

Sigh with relief. On Valentine’s Day I am grateful that I’m single! When you’re in a relationship, there is just too much pressure to have the most magical night ever. When you’re single there is no pressure at all, and usually it will be better than you expect.
—Heidi Irene Hinkka, Facebook post

Dig in. This year, Valentine’s Day is on a Monday night and I’m in between boyfriends, so I’ll probably hang out with two guys who love my thighs—Ben & Jerry’s.
—Kimberly Daly, SHAPE Staff Writer

HEALTHY SNACKS: Low calorie (guilt free) chocolate desserts

Go back in time. One Valentine’s Day I went to a dinner theater with a group of friends—girls and guys. It was set in the prohibition era, and at the end they re-enacted the St. Valentine’s Day massacre in Chicago. Sounds gross, but it was so much fun.
—Lisa Brickson, Midwest Advertising Director

Rev your engine. One Valentine’s Day I went to a Supercross race…nothing says stag like motorcycle racing.
—Anjelica Keeblar Rae, Facebook post

Get the word out. I celebrate ‘Singles Awareness Day’.
—Wendy Maurer, Facebook post

Take a trip. My favorite single-girl Valentine’s Day was when I went to Las Vegas with a bunch of friends. My theory is if you go away with other single people over Valentine’s Day, there’s less focus on couples and more focus on FUN!
—Jessica McCourt, Account Director

SPA RESORTS: 7 spots you must visit

Appreciate what you’ve got. I get Valentine’s Day flowers from my dad and cards from my friends—because it’s all about love in every relationship, right?
—Mallory Crevling, Editorial Assistant

Roll with it. Be thankful for those that have found the one. It’s all good!
—Brighty Kelley, Facebook post

Don’t sweat it, or do. I take it out on the treadmill!
—BrandiLynn Smith, Faebook post

Buy a bouquet. Every year I treat myself to roses.
—Pamela Hagedorn, Facebook post

Shout it out. One year, inspired by a hilarious episode of Scrubs (Turk’s proposal to Carla, to be exact. Watch it here), a group of girlfriends and I bought sparklers and ran down Commonwealth Avenue shouting, “Honk for love!” Turn’s out there’s a lot of love on the streets of Boston.
—Karen Borsari, Assistant Web Editor

Are you a single girl with exciting Valentine’s Day ideas? Leave a comment and share the love below.

More Valentine’s Day Ideas:
Pretty Intimates: Sexy (and Comfortable) Lingerie
Is Your Sex Life Normal?