The male LCD

By Lawrence Bailey

When Freud introduced the notion of “penis envy,” he aimed it at the wrong gender.

Men are far more phallic-centric than women could ever be as their lives tend to orbit, for better or for worse, around that piece of flesh and spongy tissue of variable length. And it is precisely that "variable length" that is at the root of many penis-related psychological problems.

While the female pre-occupation with breast size is well-documented and can be quantified by examining increasing numbers of breast augmentation surgery, the male obsession with penis size is a much less documented battle.

Every 13-year-old boy is convinced he has the smallest penis in the world. The more he talks about it and how big it is, the more concerned he is. By the time that young boy becomes a young man he has hopefully worked out his size issues because there’s no way he’s having a heart to heart with his boys about it over beer. If he hasn’t figured it out, there are a lot of coping mechanisms he can employ.

Widely regarded as the most prevalent of these is reckless sexual promiscuity. In a man’s late teen years and early twenties, the drive to sleep with as many women as possible is often a drive to validate himself and reinforce his waning sense of worth and importance. Promiscuity is a way for a man to establish that he is attractive, desirable and in possession of a penis of adequate to immaculate size. It is ultimately not an effective remedy for these problems, but the false sense of security it instils can last well into middle age. Once a man reaches middle-age however, these problems manifest themselves in new and exciting ways.

Jokes about architects building tall buildings as some means of compensation aside, some of the most evident examples of general sentiments of inadequacy go hand-in-hand with the famed mid-life crisis. Fast cars, young women, big houses and irrational behaviour seem foreign to the 40 to 50-year-old man, his family and his friends. If only they could all remember what he lived for in his early years. Many psychologists see the mid-life crisis as an attempt to recapture one’s youth and, as that youth could well have been an attempt to overcome feelings of sexual inadequacy, some studies have concluded that there are unresolved issues-many of them revolving around that oh-so-male epicenter.

It’s an unfortunate circumstance that while afternoon talk shows and evening newscasts pore over the tragedy of 14-year-old girls being consumed by feelings of physical inadequacy, a blind eye is turned to the 14-year-old boys who go to sleep every night worrying silently about the same thing. The stereotype of the stoic, macho man coupled with the bigger is always better idea is enough to crush the confidence and self-worth of a pubescent male–not the most stable of creatures at the best of times. This kind of early childhood damage can, and often does, linger for a lifetime. Well, at least until a 50-year-old with a failed marriage, a car he can’t afford and a mountain of debt finally hits rock bottom and starts seeing a shrink five times a week.

To think, so much of this could be remedied if only society could foster some kind of openness about the penis and rid itself of the destructive genital taboos.

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