Study: Evangelical Christianity Makes Men Super Insecure About Their Dicks
Last week, we met Trump prophet Jeff Jansen, who was on a jag about how incredibly manly Jesus was, going around whipping people all the time and what have you. He then used Macho Jesus as a cudgel to attack what he felt were Christian men who were not masculine enough. This was not too unusual. Evangelicals love to talk about manliness and how women are supposed to be subordinate to men and all that other crap.
Of course, if you ask me, religion is mostly a scam initially perpetrated by men who wanted some divine justification for oppressing women and then later wanted divine justification for oppressing various other groups, but people seem to disagree with me about that.
A recent study in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion suggests evangelical Christianity and its focus on masculinity and manliness may be making the men who practice it super insecure about the size of their dicks — which, in turn, may make them act like total dicks. As crappy as biological essentialism is, there is little question that some men have done some pretty shitty things and behaved in pretty shitty ways over the course of history as a result of their dick insecurity.
The study came to this conclusion by analyzing Google Trends in various states and comparing states with a lot of evangelicals in them to states with few evangelicals in them, and seeing that there were overall more searches for things like "male enhancement pills" and "penis enlargement" in the states with more evangelicals.
The abstract states:
Numerous studies document the connection between American evangelicalism and male insecurity stemming from essentialist, phallocentric conceptions of masculinity. Yet data have often been confined to individuals' responses in surveys or qualitative interviews. This limits our understanding because individuals may lie about the most personal sources of insecurity (even to themselves) and such data are difficult to aggregate to broader subcultural influences. Building on a moral communities' framework, in this research note we analyze Google Trends data and focus on the prevalence of explicit searches for "male enhancement" terms and phrases, simultaneously indicating (1) the internalization of a subculture that prioritizes essentialist, phallocentric standards of masculinity and (2) a privately felt failure to meet those standards. Even after accounting for a host of state‐level confounds, the preponderance of evangelicals in a state consistently predicts more Google searches for terms and phrases like "male enhancement," "ExtenZe," "penis pump," "penis enlargement," and others. We theorize that the largely patriarchal―and increasingly embattled and radicalized―evangelical subculture explicitly or implicitly promotes equating masculinity with physical strength and size, leaving men influenced by that subculture (whether evangelical or not) to seek solutions for their privately felt failure to measure up.
The whole study is actually very interesting, and not just a snarky "LOL, evangelical men are insecure about their dick size and that is why they are terrible to everybody" kind of thing. It examines the fact that, in evangelical Protestant culture, one's actual place in the church and level of authority is dependent on having a penis — in that people without penises are meant to be subordinate to those who have them.
[W]ithin complementarian evangelical statements and among many lay individuals, the most fundamental determinant of social status is neither character nor devotion, but the physical marker of God‐given masculine authority (the penis) and, nearly as important, the concomitant embodied performance of that masculine authority.
It also examines the emphasis in that culture of accusing men of being "wusses" or "pussified" or otherwise not living up to some sort of masculine ideal. Because it's not just that women are supposed to be subordinate and submissive, but that men are supposed to be dominant and controlling. It's not just that women are supposed to pop out 17 babies for Jesus, but that men are supposed to make that happen. Toxic masculinity hurts men too, as we say.
Making people feel bad about something they can't help is a crappy thing to do to people to begin with, but it also becomes a problem for the rest of us in that it creates a pretty serious toxic masculinity situation among those men, which in turn frequently leads to those men trying to oppress or abuse other groups of people they feel are a threat to their masculinity.
How could our findings point to an even greater problem than psychic insecurity leading one to buy "male enhancement pills?" Studies show that when men feel "masculine discrepancy stress" (distress arising from perceived failure to conform to socially prescribed masculine gender role norms), they are more likely to compensate in ways beyond private "self‐improvement," but potentially lashing out in toxic masculinity, including psychological, physical, and sexual abuse (Reidy et al. 2014). Thus, a subculture in which men not only elevate embodied measures of masculinity, but in which many men feel they are inadequate compared to the standard, is a subculture that may indirectly encourage abuse.
They get this shit at home and then they take that act on the road and use it to force their own misery-inducing ideas about gender and sexuality on the rest of us. They get angry at trans people and non-binary people for existing, they get angry at cis men who don't live up to what they've decided their masculine ideals are, they get mad at women and feminists and mothers for supposedly de-machoing all of the men somehow. And, to be entirely frank, dick insecurity is frequently at the root of various forms of racism and ethnocentrism.
The idea that the size or shape of our secondary sex characteristics has anything to do at all with our personal characteristics is hardly just an evangelical phenomenon, and it hardly just applies to men. Just ask Jessica Rabbit, a cartoon who famously said "I'm not bad, I'm just drawn that way." But it is clearly being taken to an extreme in this subculture, and it's not working out too well for anyone.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse