Sunday, March 08, 2015

What matters more


My March 8, 2015 column.
The results of a study conducted by King’s College in London, which were released last week, raised quite a number of interesting reactions.  There were those who snipped at the study itself, wondering what the whole fuss was about.  There were those who were genuinely surprised at the results of the study while quite a number picked on the methodology used and, consequently, the integrity of the overall findings.  As can be expected when people discuss sexual issues and private parts, there was much snickering, chortling and giggling.  One could almost see people giving each other high fives, or blushing, or raising eyebrows.
The study was supposed to be a definitive dissertation on penile size.  The researchers measured 15,000 men who volunteered for the study.  The scientific rationale for the study was about using “graphs to examine discrepancy between what a man believes to be their position on the graph and their actual position” and to “benefit men with body dysmorphic disorder.”  Stripped of the scientific jargon, the study was basically meant to reassure men – at least the majority - that they have nothing to worry about, the global norm of about 3.6 inches when flaccid and 5.15 inches when erected, is significantly less than what many wrongly think as the ideal.
In this context, the results of the study do achieve some relevance.  Whether we admit it or not, machismo and the whole gamut of issues around male ego do have serious implications on social behavior.  There are many social and cultural stereotypes around gender and sexual behavior, particularly in a country such as the Philippines where men are brought up amid social pressures that aim to define their identity and place in society.  For instance, most boys in this country are conditioned to think that they are entitled to certain sexual liberties, or to have bragging rights, depending on the size of their genitals.  I have met certain men who think women should worship them and that other men should view them with envy because they claim to have been blessed in that department.
As someone who fancies himself as a behavior specialist and who teaches psychology to college students, I do know for a fact (and I think my friend Margie Holmes will support me on this) that many men are insecure about the size of their penis.  It doesn’t help of course that media projection on the matter is quite exaggerated; no thanks to porn movies, the misplaced bravado of certain male archetypes, and yes, advertising – think Calvin Klein and Bench ads.
Thanks to the study, we now know that only about 2% of men fall short or exceed the average.  In other words, we should now redefine what is normal.  Additionally, it is enlightening to note that according to the study, there is no relationship between foot size, race, color and penile size.  That should hopefully stop people from making generalizations.  I used to work with the US Peace Corps in the Philippines and it always floored me that Filipinos, particularly in the rural areas, tended to make snide remarks about color and race and what’s in between an American volunteer legs.  For example, a female friend of mine who had a black American for a boyfriend always got teased about whether she knew what she was getting into – the latter said with a lot of giggling and winking.
It’s really about time we have discussion about what really comprises one’s identity as a man.  A woman friend of mine told me that size only matters in the absence of many other factors – for example, being considerate of the welfare and needs of others, an endearing personality, and let’s face it, other physical features.  In her own words, an extra inch or two will never make up for laziness in bed, or for that matter, the total absence of other redeeming qualities.

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