12:36 p.m. April 30, 2013

Clearly, We Need To Talk About Penises

"Hey, did you hear that science proved women only like big dicks?" This authoritative assertion that women prefer the meatier sausages has been rattling around the internet for weeks now.

At first, I ignored it, rolling my eyes at the conspicuous overreach of such a claim. I read the paper in question and moved on. But after flinching through headlines like "Penis Size Study Shows Women Find Men With Big Genitals More Attractive", "Get The Perfect Penis", "It’s Official: Penis Size Does Matter", and "Science Proves Women Like Men With Bigger Penises", and after listening to people in the grocery store talk about the scientific proof of schlong-preference, I could be quiet no longer.

Two things are very clear to me: we need to talk about penises and I need to teach the world how to read a damn journal paper. Also, I am pretty much always looking for an excuse to ask the Internet what it thinks about wangs, so this story is a win-win.

Has it really been scientifically proven that women love to get impaled on anaconda schlongs? Let’s navigate the wang-sized paper in true scientific fashion: Let’s read it. And only after reading and assessing the entirety, will we - independently, and without hysteria! – adjudicate. Because I am fucking tired of linkbait science reporting and poorly constructed assumptions that bastardize perfectly good scientific research.

Before we begin, a word about academia. Scientific papers all follow a basic setup: abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion, and literature cited. Knowing this setup is important because it helps you know when to read (abstract, intro, discussion), when to skip ahead (methods), and when to cry (results). That said, journalists and students should keep an eye on the methods section; just because they wrote their methods down doesn’t mean the methods are sound, so vigilance is required. For example, if the sample size is four undergrads, it’s time to get out the bullshit bullhorn.

Without further ado, let us begin our journey into the wilds of penis research. The darling of this news cycle is the study, Penis size interacts with body shape and height to influence male attractiveness, which was published this month in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, or PNAS. Please take a moment to appreciate the subtle humor of a penis study appearing in PNAS. Proceed

First up is the abstract. This is the section of the paper where the authors do their best to outline the entirety of the work in a short and snappy blurb. It includes the main reason for the study, a peek into their methods, preliminary results, and an abbreviated conclusion. I fucking love abstracts because I have the attention-span of a six-year old; they pack a lot of info into a tiny space and have the added bonus of outlining the whole damn paper, so you know what’s coming and can stay engaged. It’s the journal article version of the movie trailer. Having said that, I cannot help myself.

"In a world where some species experience post-copulatory sexual selection pressure on male genitals, there is the possibility that some ladies might make their boom-boom choices based on how dude junk looks before its sticky, post-coitus shrivel. Back in the naked days of humanity, a man’s ‘hood would be out and proud for all to see - ladies, you know what I’m talkin’ about."

(Cut to naked hairy people, strutting around a campfire, volcanic eruptions in the background.)

"In a world full of men, is it possible that ladies are the reason for the wang dangle? Can science find out what women really want? Is a tall man with a nice build really better off than a short man with a third leg?

COMING SOON TO A THEATER NEAR YOU: LADIES CHOICE."

Except, unlike movie trailers, abstracts give the end away. I am not going to do that. Rather, I am going to sustain the titillation by moving systematically through the wiener study, leaving the scientific climax for the results section. For penis!

The Introduction is a bit like a black hole of science related to the study. It’s the why of the matter. Everything the authors need to justify and contextualize their work gets crammed into a concisely written, well-referenced section. Usually you need a baseline comprehension of jargon in the related field to read one of these beasts, but thankfully this one is pretty straightforward. Here’s what you need to know about Penis Science.

  • Humans stand up and have nonretractable penises; in the pre-clothing era, there was a lot of wang out.
  • Compared to other primates, humans have massive dongs.
  • Lots of cultures are pretty cock-obsessed.
  • The verdict is out on lady preference: some studies find that length matters, some that girth matters, and some that penis size is essentially irrelevant.
  • There hasn’t been a good, hard look taken at female preference in flaccid penises.
  • Do females have a preference for bigger flaccid penises?
  • How do height, shoulder-to-hip ratio, and flaccid penis size affect attractiveness?
  • We propose a method for finding out!

That brings us to the Materials and Methods section, the how of the scientific paper. Here’s the fast and dirty run-down: the authors went to the trouble of coming up with rotatable, computer-generated figures of naked men, each of whom had a different combination of height, shoulder-to-hip ratio, and flaccid penis size.

Seven types of each variable meant that they created a whopping 343 models! The heterosexual women, 105 of them, all Australian, with an average age of 26, were then tasked with viewing a 53-dude subset of the models and rating their attractiveness as a sexual partner on a scale of 1-7. The ladies were not told which traits were varied on the models, as not to key them into what was being studied (that would fuck up the data because then they wouldn’t be impartial observers.) The meat of the Materials and Methods section is incredibly detailed so that anyone could repeat it with minimal variance. Seriously, controlling for variables and making everything standard and repeatable is a big fucking requirement. If you can’t repeat the experiment, it’s not Science!

So what did the study’s authors find? They didn’t find that women prefer to be pounded by a huge monster cock, as that’s not what the study’s authors were testing for. They didn’t find that women wanted their lovers to have giant, throbbing erections that block out the sun, because they weren’t looking for that either. Despite what mainstream linkbait will have you believe, this study was looking at the flaccid penis and the relationship of its size to attractiveness and body size. Here’s what they found.

First and foremost, they found that the most important factor in determining sexual attractiveness was shoulder-to-hip ratio. Broad shoulders and slim hips were far and away the biggest deal in the naked-CGI-man department. However, height and flaccid penis size were also correlated with attractiveness, though less so than having beefcake shoulders that narrow dramatically. How much less? The model found that 79.6% of variation in attractiveness was due to shoulder-to-hip ratio. So seriously, guys, the flip-flop of your flesh snake is really not that big a deal to Australian women looking at grey, hairless computer models.

Okay, that’s great, but we are here to talk about penises. Penis size, like the other two variables, showed diminishing returns in the attractiveness department the bigger they got. Average sized penises were more attractive than small ones, but once you hit a certain length in the size department, around three inches, it really didn’t matter how much bigger you were. Essentially, schlammydongs weren’t that much better off than penises that were just on the large side of average.

Also, it seemed proportionality was key to having a sexy dick, with penis size having a stronger effect on attractiveness in tall men. After controlling for shoulder-to-hip ratio, a larger penis made tall men seem much more attractive than their shorter counterparts. Basically, the penis needs to be proportional or better, and tall men get more mileage out of a large, flaccid penis than short men with a large, flaccid penis. Or, it could just be that height is just too important in determining sexual attractiveness to be compensated for by a fat dangler.

Speaking of girth, it should be noted that the penises in the study were scaled proportionally, making length the only variable. There were no thick-and-shorties or long-and-skinnies. Maybe the girth study comes next?

Perhaps the most interesting part of this study isn’t the wang data, but rather the analysis of how women related to the penises. The researchers found that female height was positively correlated with the linear effect of height on male attractiveness; in English, the tall chicks preferred tall dudes. Also, women who were heavy for their height showed a larger effect of penis size on their attractiveness ratings. The authors found no effect of menstrual cycle (though they did not track to see where in the fertility cycle participants were) and no effect of hormonal contraception. I haven’t seen this stuff splashed around in the media, but I suppose it’s not as flashy as Science Proves Women Love Giant Cocks!

Additionally, the study tracked the amount of time it took each participant to respond to each figure. Models that were taller, had a broader shoulder-to-hip ratio, and possessed larger penises were associated with longer response times. The nice, sexually attractive traits got the women to slow down and enjoy the view. Shocking, I know.

But back to penises. For everyone out there who’s been waiting with bated breath for the quantitative portion of the flaccid penis adjudication, here you go: using the trends in the data, namely the mathematically calculated rate of diminishing returns with regard to penis size, the authors predict that the ideal flaccid penis would be in the 12.8 to 14.2 centimeter range. That’s around five to five and a half inches.

Okay, so yes, the study found a heterosexual female preference for larger sized flaccid penises, but what does that mean? Enter the Discussion section! Remember, this study actively sought to explore and discuss the possibility of flaccid penis length being sexually selected for during the nudity era. Verdict? Maybe!

While they did demonstrate that women prefer a larger flaccid dong, the mechanisms of said preference remain unknown. Is it cultural conditioning or an innate aesthetic preference? Who knows! Are the women remembering past lovers and making genital judgments based on previous experience? Perhaps! The bottom line is that female preference for a large floppy package could have influenced the evolutionary path of the human male genitalia.

I realize that a headline shouting out that women’s attraction to broad-shouldered men who are tall and have proportional flaccid penises may have influenced the size of human genitalia today isn’t quite the linkbait of "SCIENCE PROVES WOMEN LOVE COCKZILLA", but fuck linkbait.

I will say that one major beef I have with this study, or rather, the reporting of its results, is that it in no way shape or form accounts for the grower/shower phenomenon. Of the categories of flaccid penis, these are two worth mentioning. Growers are relatively small when flaccid, only to bloom into something large when erect, while show-ers are big and floppy when flaccid, only to shrug to attention when turgid. I thought this was a phenomenon everyone was well familiar with, as it’s a basic fact of human anatomy that you can’t judge an erection by a limp dick, but talking to people about this proved otherwise. Personally, the largest dicks I’ve been involved with were pretty insignificant when flaccid.

Now that we’ve gotten the rigorous scientific inquiry out of the way, here’s some anecdotal data. My thoughts on big penises are as follows.

Enormous penises are like Mount Everest. To wreck Sir Edmund Hillary's words, you do that shit purely because it’s there. I’m a disgustingly competitive person with a masochistic streak to match, so in the presence of an organ masher, my first thought is typically the slut version of the thrill of the conquest. Much like running a marathon or mastering some other inane feat, fitting a monster schlong inside my proportionally petite orifices becomes a task to be mastered. I am going to do it because life has presented me with a challenge and I am an overachiever and winning is a drug.

(In case you were wondering, yes, I was banned from playing family board games growing up.)

I don’t particularly enjoy having my entire uterus displaced and rocked up over my pubic bone, but I do enjoy the utter control I can exert over my body in the name of taking big dick. I get off on the sheer unlikelihood of shoving that beast inside me; with me, the appeal of a monster wang is all mental. I would never want to see a lion in the wild but if I did, I’d be pretty fucking excited and scared. Same applies to big dicks. Seriously, not to beat that metaphor to death but, fucking a giant cock is just like exercising: I loathe it while it’s happening but I love that I did it. Also, I’m probably a sick fuck.

But that’s just my take on the matter, one speck of a data point floating in a sea of people with penis opinions. The PNAS paper whetted my appetite for penis analysis and, turgid with curiosity, my veins straining under the pressure of unfulfilled inquiry, it became painfully clear that there was only one way forward to release. I needed more data.

So I asked the Internet about wieners.

I ventured into the murky depths of internet opinions in part to gather information and explore, but also to provide some contrast to the scientific endeavor upon which I have just reported. The penis study? That shit was science. The experimental design. The controls. The care taken to make the process as unbiased as possible. The repeatability. The statistical analysis. The math, my god, the math!

What I did was investigation. I asked questions. Specifically, I asked a few questions to a lot of people. I didn’t care who responded, I came up with my queries based on nothing but sheer curiosity, and there was no statistical rigor threaded throughout my search for truth. And now, without filter or peer-review, without care being taken to explore the parameters of experimental design, I am now faced with the joy of fumbling through a surprising shit ton of data.

It’s important to note that there’s nothing random about the people I polled to talk about penises. Everyone who responded is either connected to me on social media or connected to someone who is. This skews the results, as people who follow me are used to my incessant tweets about how well I’ve been assfucked and how much I smell of semen. Now, to balance that a bit I put out the call for the wang survey on facebook where I am little more than a vanilla presence who only occasionally says filthy things to friendly acquaintances. But there is still an essential me-ness to the data set, which inherently fucks with the randomization and speaks to the kind of people willing to answer my call for dick chat.

With that out of the way, I present the preliminary findings of the NSFWCORP Penis Survey.

Out of a sample size of 403 respondents - 300 men and 103 women - two trends became immediately clear. The first: many men have serious, specific thoughts about what constitutes a perfect wiener. Seriously, you guys are a bunch of goddamn size queens. And second: lots of women tend to operate in this happy, nebulous space of having some size preferences, but really not giving too much of a shit so long as the penis’s owner knows how to work the damn thing. Seriously, out of all of the men and women polled thus far, a whopping 78% report that the last penis they interacted with was just great and they wouldn’t change a thing, with 7% noting that the last penis they played with was either too big or too thick. That means that thus far, 85% of respondents feel that their last penis party was either perfect, fine, or too fucking big. Meanwhile, 42% of men want a larger or thicker penis. Ahem.

But I’m only just getting started. My internet cock talk data set is a living, breathing puddle of seminal goo from which I shall extract truth and extrapolate responsibly. Tune in next week for the full results and analysis of the NSFWCORP Penis Survey!