US conservative bloggers and news outlets are all abuzz over the latest non-scandal that nonetheless makes for great headlines. Or, as Fox News put it, "NIH-Backed Study Examined Effects of Penis Size in Gay Community."
Here’s the thing: that headline is technically accurate. The National Institutes of Health did provide money to an agency that gave a few thousand dollars to a post-doctoral researcher who was investigating how penis size affects sexual behaviour and attitudes of men who have sex with men for a 2009 report. Among the report’s not-very-shocking findings were that men with larger penises tend to be more happy and sexually confident than men with smaller penises and that "penis size was positively related to satisfaction with size and inversely related to lying about penis size."
The report also finds that men with larger penises were more likely to be tops, while men with smaller penises were more likely to be bottoms, which, wait… what?
At this point, I’d just like to ask what penis measurement was used? Was it just length? Does girth play a role? Or did the researcher use the more complicated but reportedly more accurate TMI index?
The Fox News report does eventually establish that the study received only a small grant from an organization tied to the NIH to collate and analyze data already collected. Unfortunately, it gives most of the article over to a spokesperson from the Traditional Values Coalition, who alleges that the NIH gave between $900,000 and $9.4 million over 10 years to measure gay men’s cocks. The whole article is framed as an example of the sort of waste that conservatives believe is endemic in government (which they never seem to be able to find) amid the 11th-hour negotiations on the US federal budget.
By the way, among its other activities, TVC also lobbies against “the homosexual agenda.” It is also the source of the amazing "NIH: After Dark" graphic above.
While the conservatives overplay their hand here by confusing their numbers, it’s hard not to sympathize with their belief that this study was wasteful. Even if the results weren’t pretty obvious, what would the usefulness of the data be? Can you imagine the public health campaigns?
"Feeling down, homo? Consider getting a bigger penis."
"Mothers, talk to your huge-donged gay sons about safer sex. (Sons with average to below-average dongs need not worry.)"