Phallic insecurity tends to be greater in regions of the United States that have a higher proportion of evangelical Christians, according to new research published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. The findings suggest that America’s evangelical subculture perpetuates insecurities about penis size.
For their study, the researchers compared the popularity of Google searches for “male enhancement”, “make penis bigger”, and similar phrases to the adherence rate for evangelical Protestants in each state. They found that as the proportion of evangelicals in a state increased, the relative frequency of Google searches for these “male enhancement” terms also increased.
This relationship held even after controlling for several state-level factors, such as gender, political ideology, age, percentage married of each state population, percentage black, and education.
“Though there have been dissenting voices and countermovements within mainstream evangelicalism, writings of prominent evangelical thought leaders have for decades relied on phallic symbolism and even explicit phallic references to either valorize physical strength or, more often in the negative, castigate Christian men for their lack of ‘manliness,’” the researchers wrote in their study.
The researchers drew on data from Google Trends, the 2010 Religious Congregations and Membership Study, Pew Research Center’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, and the U.S. Census.
One advantage of using Google data is that it avoids a common pitfall of self-reported measures: Many men are unlikely to provide honest responses about how often they search for “make penis bigger.” But the lack of individual-level data also prevented the researchers from demonstrating that evangelical men are themselves more likely to suffer from phallic insecurity than non-evangelical Christians. Instead, the researchers argued that evangelical subculture affects the surrounding community.
“To the extent that a subculture promoting unattainable, phallocentric masculinity (which we argue is likely stronger among evangelicals) pervades the entire community, more men will internalize that ideal and look for remedies to address this privately felt need,” they explained.
“Indeed, even if some of these searches were performed by women in these states, that would provide additional support for the idea that such a subculture of phallocentric masculinity has so pervaded the region that even women feel the need to remedy their male partner’s or spouse’s perceived physical shortcomings.”
The researchers behind the current study have also found that states with a higher percentage of evangelical Protestants or biblical literalists tended to have a higher proportion of Google searches for “porn” from January 1, 2011, to July 31, 2016. “This underscores the importance of accounting for religion as a group-level phenomenon and not solely as an individual trait. These findings suggest religion really does matter at the group-level,” explained co-author Andrew L. Whitehead to PsyPost.
The new study, “Linking Evangelical Subculture and Phallically Insecure Masculinity Using Google Searches for Male Enhancement“, was authored by Samuel L. Perry and Andrew L. Whitehead.