cn: discussion of genitals, porn
PZ brought to my attention a “joke” where a comedian mocked the penis size of Asians. My emotional response to this joke is not offense, but rather concern and bemusement.
Concern, because this obsession with penis size sounds hazardous to your health. I would be very surprised if psychologists found that an obsession with penis size were not associated with mental health problems. It’s like if someone “jokingly” mocks another group for not getting smash drunk all the time.
Bemusement, because I knew in the abstract that many people care about penis size, but it still feels unreal. How does this cultural obsession even get transmitted between generations? It’s not a normal topic for kid’s television, or for conversations between parents and children. Are sex ed teachers directly telling kids about the importance of a good dick? Or maybe it mostly affects those souls so unfortunate as to enjoy “edgy” stand-up comics? Or maybe it comes from porn? Hmm, that last one might be the front runner.
As I was reflecting on this, I grew attached to the hypothesis that it’s mostly White people who care about penis size, and Asian people only care insofar as they’ve been affected by cultural imperialism and stereotyping. Of course, a hypothesis demands evidence, and this one is impossible to google. All I could find were think pieces talking about how racist the Asian stereotype is (no, duh).
Here’s the evidence I have, starting with the anecdotes. I’m half-Asian, and I have never cared about penis size. My husband, on the other hand, is white, and says that he has been affected by the cultural concern about penis size. Although, maybe this is a case of the allo guy caring, and the ace guy not giving a shit. Or maybe it’s just a me thing. Wow, anecdotes sure are useless!
Next, let’s talk about porn. As anyone who is familiar with illustrated gay porn knows, western illustrations have a tendency to depict men with monstrously sized penises. On the other hand, the bara genre from Japan, while it does have its own body shape preferences and distortions, does not include such a tendency. (The interested reader may find a copy of “Massive: Gay Japanese Manga And The Men Who Make It” for a cross-sectional sample of bara art.) And yes maybe that’s just a stylistic difference. But recall our theory that porn is not just an indicator of the problem, but a contributor to the problem.
For my final line of evidence, I did a more clever google search. Not that clever really, I just used Google Scholar. I found a paper titled “Challenging race-based stereotypes about gay and bisexual men’s sexual behavior and perceived penis size and size satisfaction“. It’s based on a thousand gay and bisexual men recruited from New York City. From the abstract:
…there were no significant differences [by race or ethnicity] with regard to satisfaction with penis size or lying to others about penis size.
Although it says there are no significant differences, the raw measured difference was about 10%, which tells you something about the study’s low statistical power. A thousand participants sounds like a lot, but when only 62 of them are Asian, it’s not so much anymore. One thing I found amusing is that Asian participants were significantly more likely to rate their penis size as “average” instead of “above average”, with the result that their perceived penis sizes resemble a real statistical distribution instead of penis Lake Wobegon.
In any case, the larger issue is that my hypothesis is unfalsifiable, at least by this kind of study. If Asian Americans were less concerned about penis size, I could say it confirms my hypothesis. If they were more concerned, I could say it’s because of stereotyping and cultural imperialism. To confirm/disconfirm my hypothesis, it might be best to look for historical or ethnographic work–at which point we may be reminded that there are many distinct Asian cultures, and that the combined Asian category is more of a western construction.
What I’m trying to say is, it’s a bad hypothesis. Not as bad as that joke though.
I hope the reader enjoyed the exercise in critical thinking about penises. Here are a few bonus facts I found:
-55% of heterosexual men are satisfied with their penis size. 85% of heterosexual women are satisfied with their partner’s penis size. (cite)
-Dissatisfaction with penis size is unrelated to penis size, and is more common among homosexual and bisexual men. (cite)
-Most men who seek penile enhancement have typical penis sizes. (cite)