I've got 99 problems and a big dick is one: The history of the big dick Pt. IV
By Allison Danish, MPH
In the first three installations of this blog series, we talked about the evolutionary theories behind the development of large human penises, what penises have meant to people throughout history, and why we’re so preoccupied with them today. Now it’s time to chat about why the big penis hullabaloo is harmful—and not just for the reasons you’d think.
Self-esteem + masculinity
Big penises are lauded across the nation—nay, the world! But most penises aren’t all that big. According to this review, the average erect penis is 5.16” long, with less than 10% of the population above 6”.
Despite how rare a true “Baby’s Arm” is, a lot of men wish they were bigger. Like, almost half of the cis-men in this study. Which makes sense, because the big dick craze has gone so far that up to 91% of men think they’re below average. And just like the quest to be thinner or thicker or buffer, this has consequences.
Small penis anxiety (also known as small penis syndrome) is totally a thing—like, a medically-recognized phenomenon. A kind of body dysmorphia, it’s disruptive to a person’s sense of self, and can contribute to erectile dysfunction and lack of sexual satisfaction. Which explains why there are so many procedures and products out there to increase size—from penis pumps and stretchers to cartilage transplants and lipoinjections. Some people have even injected Vaseline into their own penises (please do not do this).
While there’s no problem with someone seeking out a procedure or a tool to help them feel more at home in their body, the societal pressure for genitals to look a certain way is harmful.
Beyond this, having penis size anxiety can feel emasculating. Why? We’ve long cultivated a belief that penises are a symbol of power and masculinity—and size has recently entered that equation as well with phrases like “he must be compensating for something” and "dick-measuring contest."
I propose a literal dick measuring contest 📏— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 10, 2023
And this is a problem because poking fun at small dicks for laughs is hurtful on an interpersonal level and also ultimately reinforces what kinds of masculinity we find acceptable. And only accepting narrow avenues of expressing masculinity is hurtful for everyone. In the words of bell hooks, “Changing how we talk about the penis is a powerful intervention that can challenge patriarchal thinking.”
Note: for a fascinating analysis of the group r/SmallDickProblems, check out this essay.
Racialization + fetishization
Beyond self-esteem and masculinity as a whole, society’s obsession with big penises is closely tied to race.
Ever since humans started separating groups of people into races in the 1600s (yes, it’s that recent), scholars (usually white dudes with too much time on their hands) have attributed traits—both physical and personality—to racial groups. Take Carl Linnaeus, the “Father of Taxonomy,” for instance. I’m just gonna pop this quote in here:
“Reflecting his belief in the Great Chain of Being, a concept that orders all forms of being in a hierarchy created by god , he classified Homo sapiens hierarchically into four groups: europaeus, americanus, asiaticus, and afer, color-coded as white, red, yellow, and black. Linnaeus placed the group he belonged to at the top of the hierarchy. He wrote that europaeus had flowing blonde hair and blue eyes and were vigorous, smart, inventive, and ruled by law. Using a quite different set of descriptors, he posited that americanus had thick straight black hair and were stubborn and ruled by custom; asiaticus were melancholic, greedy, and ruled by opinion; and at the bottom of his hierarchy, afer had kinky hair and were lazy, crafty, careless, and ruled by caprice.”
Um, yikes, Carl.
Assigning attributes to racial groups like this continued into Penis Land. Black men are thought to have large penises, accompanied by hypersexuality and aggression. On the other hand, Asian men are considered to have small penises, which of course means they’re more effeminate and passive. This is racist and isn’t supported by science—we don’t have sufficient data to make conclusions about race and penis size. And if a study supports the racial size difference nonsense, they’re probably using words like “Negroid” and “Mongoloid,” which is a red flag.
Anyhow, our preoccupation with big dicks and our assignment of these penises to Black men has led to the continued fetishization of Black men—for instance, people on dating sites stating they’re specifically looking for “BBC” (I’ll let you piece together what that stands for).
Ascribing specific sexual scripts or attributes to a racial group is reductionary and also, largely, baseless. We’re just perpetuating racist stereotypes when we say things like “I want to date a Black man because he’ll have a big penis” or “I want to date an Asian woman because she’ll be submissive.”
Having a big dick isn’t all it’s cracked up to be
While popular media suggests that having a big dick is the best and most desirable thing ever—it comes with its share of problems. r/BigDickProblems is a surprisingly tender subreddit where people with big penises share their woes—from hurting their partner during sex to having a penis that dips into the toilet bowl water while pooping.
In conclusion to one of the most wackadoodle blog series I’ve ever written… Humans are weird. We make meaning out of everything to make our place in the universe make sense. And we’ve spent a surprising amount of time ascribing meaning to penises—for better or for worse.
Now that you’ve gotten to the end of the big dick saga—why do you think we, as a culture, are obsessed with big penises?