Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Penis: A Cultural Anxiety

Penis size is something I think most men think about as some point in their lives.  Just because some dude looks at your junk at the urinal, or at the gym, doesn’t necessarily mean he wants what he’s seeing.  He’s probably just sizing you up.  I think it is something culturally engrained into guys, especially here in America where bigger is better.   Therefore, we tend to give special recognition to those people with the biggest cocks.  Or tits.  Or ass.  If you don’t believe me, just Google Jon Hamm or Beyonce.  With all this emphasis on size, it’s no wonder girls are self-conscious about their bodies, or why I never showered in gym class.

Culture influences every aspect of our sexuality.  That’s why you never see people walking on leashes down the street in form-fitting latex, or why that couple making out on the park bench doesn’t just get it over with already.  It has been engrained into us what is and is not socially acceptable to do with our genitals—even in the privacy of our own homes.  Remember anti-sodomy laws?  With all these rules and regulations telling us how to perform sexually, no wonder certain cultures have developed anxiety disorders around that most erogenous of zones.

In 1967, an epidemic of sorts hit Singapore.  Men were rushing to hospitals by the handfuls, holding their cocks with anything they could find—fingers, rubber bands, chopsticks—begging for help.  A rumor had swept the country that tainted meat caused a condition known as suk-yeong, or koro.  Koro is an anxiety disorder common to southern and eastern Asia in which the victims worry obsessively about what they consider “sexual access,” and are often consumed with thoughts that their penises are shrinking (Kring, 183; Yap, 2; Mun, 640).  Similarly, a condition in China known as shenkui is characterized by intense anxiety and even physical pain over the loss of semen, or yang (Kring, 183).  Can you imagine being so scared of losing your man seed that you abstain from anything that may cause you to spill your load? 

Of course, conditions like koro and shenkui are becoming increasingly rare as cultural and sexual attitudes shift.  Today, China still holds its country by the short and curlies.  Despite being one of the world’s leading manufacturers of sex toys, pornography is banned, and there are strict laws concerning the distribution and advertisement of condoms.  Studies have shown, however, that a westernized shift is occurring in China’s sexual attitudes.  According to an article on Huffington Post, more than 70% of Chinese men and women claim to have had premarital sex, compared to 40% in 1994 and 15% in 1989 (Huffington Post).  This is a huge leap!  It shows that Chinese men aren’t just sitting around waiting for their dicks to fall off anymore, but are finally defining their own sexuality on their terms.  And who knows?  Maybe one day porn will be legal in China, and men will feel comfortable releasing their yang in the comforts of their own homes, without the stigma of feeling they’re letting their culture down.

Until next time… 

Kring, Ann.  Abnormal Psychology, 12th Edition.  Wiley, 2012.  Print.

Yap, P. M.  “Koro—A Culture-bound Depersonalization Syndrome”.  BJPsych.  The British
Journal of Psychiatry, 1965.  Web.

Mun, Chong Tong.  “Epidemic Koro in Singapore”.  NCBI.  British Medical Journal, 9 March
1968.  Web.

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