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In one of the more intriguing bits of science we've seen lately, a couple of New York University researchers have done a brief study exploring whether Donald Trump's calculated expressions of machismo just might have attracted a lot of male voters who may actually be less than fully confident in their masculinity. Basically, the study looks at Google search trends for terms that might indicate worries about masculinity, and correlates that with areas of the country that went to Trump in 2016. Whatever larger studies may be generated from this seminal project, the researcher should prepare to get some very angry hate male mail from the Internet Flying Monkey Brigade, since Trump supporters are VERY MANLY, FUCK YOU, SHUT UP.


The researchers, NYU social psych prof Eric Knowles and psych PhD student Sarah DiMuccio, are happy to acknowledge their study is only "correlational" -- they find a statistical correlation, but haven't proven causality at all, and they say more work would need to be done to really prove any such link. Still, their "fragile masculinity hypothesis" isn't completely made up out of nothing -- they aren't pretending this is a fully-realized Science Fact, but they have some intriguing data.

The piece starts off with a reasonable enough set of background information:

Research shows that many men feel pressure to look and behave in stereotypically masculine ways — or risk losing their status as "real men." Masculine expectations are socialized from early childhood and can motivate men to embrace traditional male behaviors while avoiding even the hint of femininity. This unforgiving standard of maleness makes some men worry that they're falling short. These men are said to experience "fragile masculinity."

The political process provides a way that fragile men can reaffirm their masculinity. By supporting tough politicians and policies, men can reassure others (and themselves) of their own manliness. For example, sociologist Robb Willer has shown that men whose sense of masculinity was threatened increased their support for aggressive foreign policy.

Sounds good so far. And Trump sure has made aggression and toughness a key part of his persona, what with all the calls to send protesters away on a stretcher and the casual misogyny. So how on earth do you try to measure whether voters actually are actually worried about their masculinity? There's the problem, and as Knowles and DiMuccio note, you can't exactly expect guys who question their manhood to answer accurately if you ask "are you confident in your manliness, you big hunk?" And presumably a look at sales of huge 4X4 pickups would rely too much on stereotypes. (DO THAT ONE NEXT!)

Instead, noting that "Researchers have already used Google search patterns to estimate levels of racial prejudice in different parts of the country," the authors decided to see if searching the Googles for terms like "erectile dysfunction," "hair loss," "how to get girls," "penis enlargement," "penis size," "steroids," "testosterone" and "Viagra" might be a good measure of whether men were "concerned about living up to the ideals of manhood."

They even validated the list by sampling 300 men using an Amazon crowdsourcing platform called "Mechanical Turk" and asking them whether they'd ever searched the terms, or might. Sure enough, that sample group did turn up a correlation on a tool used to measure dick-size anxiety, so to speak:

We found that scoring high on a questionnaire measuring "masculine gender-role discrepancy stress" — concern that they aren't as manly as their male friends — was strongly associated with interest in these search topics. Although these men were not a representative sample of American men, their responses suggest that these search terms are a valid way to capture fragile masculinity.

That's a hell of a lot better than just making the list and then assuming anyone looking for boner pills is worried about whether he's satisfied with his hand size.

The upshot of the analysis? You guessed it: Areas with more search results on those terms tended to have voted Trump in 2016:

It's not a perfect correlation -- more dick worries in New Mexico than in Utah, but the former went to Hillary and the latter to Trump. Could be Mormon men just confirm their masculinity by having a bajillion kids. But how's this for a surprise: If this correlation is real, it's also something that's popped up only in the last election.

In contrast, fragile masculinity was not associated with support for Mitt Romney in 2012 or support for John McCain in 2008 — suggesting that the correlation of fragile masculinity and voting in presidential elections was distinctively stronger in 2016.

Also, similar patterns seem to exist for the 2018 midterms -- Republican-voting areas had a pronounced increase in searches for dick-embiggening or how to impress the ladies (no breakdown on whether they're those lonely Russian gals, tho). Again, oddly, no such correlation for the congressional votes in 2014, or even the congressional results from 2016, so it looks like maybe there really is some sort of Trump effect going on here.

Now, should we all assume this means we should start calling Trumpers a bunch of limpdicks? Of course, we will, but it's probably too soon to claim the science is definitive. It's just one study, and psychology studies have sometimes had a poor track record when it comes to being replicated -- research design is everything. As ever with the social sciences, more study is needed, and then some congressional committee will demand to know why anyone is studying stupid stuff anyway.

Still, makes you wonder why so many Trumpies are so intent on deriding their opponents as feminized soy-boy betas. Could be something to this!

And with this dick post, completed, you've guessed it: It's your OPEN THREAD!

[WaPo / NPR]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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