Penis size: whether it pops up in your spam folder or is compared to various fruit and veg in a glossy women’s mag, it turns out that it does matter after all.
Body image and low self-esteem has long been a problem associated with women, particularly teenage girls. Countless columns, studies and magazine specials have been dedicated to exploring the many body insecurities of women. Rarely do we think about body image issues relating to men.
Annabel Chan Feng Yi from the Victorian University has released a study conducted to explore male body image issues.
Dr Chan says she wanted to undertake study in this area because of the imbalance of data between the sexes.
“There isn’t much focus on men’s body image! There is an avalanche of research on body image and eating disorders, which are largely seen as ‘female issues’ which is so untrue. I wanted to be able to contribute to an understudied area.”
The findings from the study demonstrate that body self-image is not just a problem within the female demographic; many men suffer from poor self-esteem due to negative body image as well.
“The research demonstrates that societal pressures on body image are not unique to women,” said Dr Chan.
Dr Chan’s online survey of 738 men found common male insecurities to include weight, body image and penis size.
The biggest revelation from Dr Chan’s study is that men feel most insecure when they are around other men, coining the term ‘locker room syndrome.’ When asked why she thinks that the locker room, rather than the bedroom, is the place men feel most insecure about their size of their penis, she said it all had to do with competition.
“Competition appears and remains to be one of the biggest motivators of human behaviour,” Dr Chan said.
Former student at an all-boys’ boarding school, Casey*, 24, has been in his fair share of locker room situations. He says that most of the penis-related taunting is just playful banter.
“There is always the stupid debate about whether circumcised is better, but most of the time it just depends on what the majority of the guys are.”
Andrew*, one of Casey’s friends, grew up in a similar environment. He doesn’t think there were many body image problems in the schoolboys’ change rooms.
“You saw naked guys all the time… Most guys didn’t care, but you would get the odd fuckhead who put shit on the guys who developed later,” he said.
Speaking to men in their early twenties, it seems that, like women, they all have some form of body dissatisfaction.
“I am quite comfortable with my penis size, but I do get very self-conscious about my receding hairline and also that I don’t have a six-pack anymore,” was one man’s response.
Once you get past the jokes (are they all jokes or is this some expression of actual dissatisfaction?) about their penis size “being a real drag — literally”, most males will fess up to feeling less than happy about some part of their appearance.
“You just have to look at your spam folder to know that penis enhancement is a very well-known industry!” said Dr Chan.
With one plastic Sydney surgeon performing an average of 200 penis enlargement procedures a year, it seems that cosmetic genital surgery is not only becoming a trend among women.
“The [cosmetic surgery] trends are already there [for men] with butt and pec implants. Just less rampant and known than with females,” says Dr Chan.
Through cosmetic surgery, penis length can be improved by 5cm and width by 1–2cm. One website suggested that in this day and age, men don’t have to put up with their insecurities — they can have them permanently changed for good.
Andrew* underwent a circumcision at age 15. Whilst Casey* is convinced it was vanity based, Andrew* claims it was medically motivated.
“It had nothing to do with image, but practicality and health. [I] have never looked back. I can proudly argue both sides of the [circumcision] argument, [but] no doubt about it, being circumcised is always better [sic],” Andrew says.
Whilst the Victorian University study did not specifically look into circumcision status and body confidence, conversations like these suggest there are some men who are able to find a link between the two.
“There wasn’t enough scope in my study to include all aspects of penis satisfaction, so the impact of circumcised status wasn’t studied. However ,it was mentioned by participants in the comments together with satisfaction with the size and look of testicles,” said Dr Chan.
The study highlighted the difference in ideal body shapes for women and men, showing skinny or slim males to feel inferior to more muscular peers.
“Participants pointed out that the Drive for Muscularity Scale and Male Figure Rating Scale are both lacking in their abilities to measure body dissatisfaction relating to being underweight or overweight,” said Dr Chan.
This is an area of the study that Casey* was able to relate to. He says he would never wear football shorts or anything that showed his bare legs, due to being so skinny.
“Nobody feels that they’re being rude when they point out how skinny I am, but nobody would point out if I were fat,” explained Casey*.
Casey* attributes not playing social Rugby Union anymore to his size.
“I got sick of being put on the wing [not preferred/best position] at the start of each footy season. I would always be put in a lower team than I was qualified for. just because I was skinny,” said Casey*.
What result surprised Dr Chan the most? No one seemed to botch the numbers.
“I didn’t get a lot of inflated porn-style measurements in the data, given that it is self reported!”