A professor at Missouri State University has halted a study on the relationship between penis size and self-esteem following an enormous public response she says has compromised the reliability of her research.
Sociologist Alice Walker gained national attention earlier this week after several news outlets reported she was soliciting photos of penises for her research. Walker’s study requested photos of 3,600 penises of men aged 22 and older. The participants were also supposed to measure their penis and answer questions. One question asked participants if they believed their penis size was above average, average, or below average.
While the study was focussed on the relationship between penis size and self-esteem, the photos were solicited to ensure participants were measuring accurately. Walker launched the study on June 18, and reportedly received a few hundred images by June 26.
Walker told the Springfield News-Leader she was soliciting photos through an online portal, hospitals, and nightclubs—all outside of the southwest Missouri area, so that no friends or colleagues felt pressured to participate. “We are not recruiting locally. I don’t want there to be anything dicey,” Walker told the outlet. “You don’t want there to be anything awkward.”
At the time, Missouri State University told the News-Leader Walker’s study was “a legitimate area of research and she is conforming to all of the guidelines of participant security.”
The professor explained the significance of the study to the New York Post. “I’ve spoken to men who have been suicidal because of their anxiety and unhappiness with their size or perceived size,” Walker told the newspaper. “We need to be talking about men’s body dysmorphia, and the way our society worships size and the way that worship impacts men.”
But two days after those statements were published, Walker announced she would end the study. “I made this decision voluntarily,” Walker said in a university press release. “I continue to believe the relationship between penis size and self-esteem is an important site of scientific inquiry, but the public reaction to the project threatens the reliability of the survey responses. The reliability of the study as a whole has been compromised.”
According to the university, all the submitted penis photos were stored in a “secure research database” and have now been destroyed.
Before canceling the study, Walker did share some preliminary anecdotal observations with the Springfield News-Leader. “I can’t tell you how many people submit measurements and believe they are average but they are above average.”
She said most studies show that the average length is 5 inches to 5.6 inches.