Tag Archives: penis size

Dick Size Wars in a New Context?

Debbie says:

Laurie and I are contemplating a serious post on masculinity within the next week, but meanwhile, I found

this completely irresistible:

A researcher in Finland has uncovered a strong negative correlation between average penis size of the men in a country and that country’s economic growth between 1960 and 1985. Yes, that’s right: if the men have smaller dicks, the country is doing better.

chart of penis sizes and economic growth measures

If you don’t know how to read charts like this one (called “scatterplots”), the dots represent average penis sizes in various countries (we’ll get to what data he used) and the line represents an average for all the dots on one vertical line. So as the penis sizes go up from left to right, the economic growth measures go down, which is why the line moves downward from left to right. If the correlation was “positive,” meaning that larger penis sizes linked to greater economic growth, the line would move up from left to right.

The first thing any statistics course will teach you is that correlation is not causation. I might be able to draw a correlation between number of households in my city (Oakland) who have chickens in their back yard and number of rainstorms this year, and even if I got a clearcut measure like this one, it wouldn’t mean that chickens cause or prevent rain. So the whole thing is pretty silly from the start. This is how the Freakonomics guys do their work, and why it doesn’t mean much.

That being said, it isn’t quite junk science. The research was done by Tatu Westling at the University of Helsinki. My first concern was that the whole thing was just a joke, which it doesn’t appear to be. My second concern was that he had measurements on two or three penises per country (each dot on the chart is a country, so I could see that he was claiming to represent a lot of countries). It turns out that he used a well-known and reputable data set (though I have no idea why that data set includes penis size) that covers 121 countries. His economic data also looks respectable to me.

Westling obviously has a sense of humor. The paper is worth reading for lines like “”the statistical endurance of the male organ is also found very formidable” and “Taken at face value the findings suggest that the “male organ hypothesis” presented here is quite penetrating an argument.” Not to mention the paper’s last line: “It does seem like the ‘private sector’ deserves more credit for economic development than is typically acknowledged.” He makes some not-very-convincing attempts to come up with potential reasons for his findings–but since it’s almost certainly a coincidental correlation, they feel like window-dressing, not a serious attempt to draw conclusions.

For myself, I’m just charmed by the idea of men all over the world whipping out their dicks and worrying about whether or not they’re too big. It would certainly be more amusing (and possibly more fruitful) than the dick-size wars going on in Washington and Brussels right now.

Airport Screening, Privacy, and Penis Size

Debbie says:

Until today, all the conversations I had heard about the full-body scanners being used in airports were about invasion of women’s privacy. (Do I have to say I think that’s an important issue? I think that’s an extremely important issue.)

But this story points out a disturbing variation.

full body scan photographs

Screener Rolando Negrin’s private body parts were observed by his Transportation Security Administration colleagues conducting training on the airport’s full-body imaging machines.

Months of [daily ribbing about the size of Negrin’s genitalia] culminated on Tuesday night, when Negrin attacked a co-worker in an employee parking lot, according to an arrest report.

Negrin “stated he could not take the jokes any more and lost his mind,” said the report.

Let’s take this story apart:

First of all, in the process of training on the machines, TSA workers, in effect, see each other naked. Being seen naked by strangers when you come through the screeners is bad enough, but being seen by the people you work with every day is even worse. People have all kinds of reasons to keep their “private parts” private from their co-workers. (See this post for just one take on work and genital privacy.) I’m betting that the TSA provides little or no trainings on the complications of opportunities to see co-workers naked; anyone want to take the other side of that bet?

Second, they not only see each other naked, they (in this case at least) know exactly who they are seeing. If all the rest of the exposure is completely inevitable (which I do not believe), it should still be possible to do full-body screenings of all the identified men in a work group and then show those screens in a randomized order to all the identified men, and similarly with all the women. But clearly, no one bothered to do that here.

Third, the harassment. While I can’t defend Negrin’s attack, I can’t defend what was done to him either. I want to know why he was subjected to “months” of mocking. This speaks to an environment in which he didn’t feel safe going to his supervisor; in fact, the supervisor may have been among the harassers. It also speaks to an environment in which no one stood up for him, or told his co-workers to shut their mouths.

Finally, the meat: first, there is nothing whatsoever wrong with having a small penis, and no man should ever be teased about it, let alone repeatedly and viciously. Sometimes, a small penis can be evidence of an intersexual condition or other medical condition, but most often it’s just small. What’s more, flaccid penis size has very little to do with erect penis size, so whatever the harassers saw doesn’t even have the implications they were mocking.

I respect and defend the TSA’s zero-tolerance policy for assault. At the same time, I stand very strongly for better ways for victims to protect themselves from concerted vicious campaigns. I stand for everyone’s right to physical and genital privacy, our rights to managerial protection from asshole co-workers. This is yet another case of a nasty systemic problem treated as if it was the individual’s problem. Negrin may be guilty, but he’s not guilty in a vacuum.

Found via Arthur D. Hlavaty.