Skip to main content
The Web    CNN.com      Powered by
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
SERVICES
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
SEARCH
Web CNN.com
powered by Yahoo!
Technology

Spam e-mail plays on men's deepest fear: size


Story Tools

QUICKVOTE
Have you been fooled into opening spam?
Often
Occasionally
Never
VIEW RESULTS
YOUR E-MAIL ALERTS
Spam
Herbal Supplements
Human Sexuality
Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

NEW YORK (Reuters) -- For many American office workers, the day begins with deleting spam. These days, a lot of electronic junk mail hits below the belt by seeking to profit from many men's deepest fear -- that their penises are too small.

From the vague "Expand your horizons" to the blunt "Want to increase your penis size?," the hard sell of penis-enlargement products plays on men's insecurity, experts say.

Virtually anyone with an e-mail address is bombarded daily with messages touting penis pills, herbal supplements and the latest rage, penis patches, all with the same inflated promise that they will enlarge a man's sexual organ.

Herbal supplements marketed as "penis pills," which contain ingredients ranging from soy protein and damiana leaf to ginkgo biloba and ginseng root, and dermal applications like the "penis patch," claim to be capable of lengthening men's penises by up to 4 inches in as many months.

But no peer-reviewed studies comparing men who used the products to a placebo group have ever been conducted. Since the products have disclaimers stating they are not intended to treat medical problems, they fall outside of the regulatory process. The Federal Trade Commission says there is no evidence the products have any effect.

Primal obsession

Psychiatrists say the marketers sending out such messages are hoping to take advantage of a primal obsession.

"The penis is a primary symbol of male sexuality and dominance," said Dr. Frank Muscarella, a clinical and evolutionary psychiatrist at Barry University in Miami Shores, Florida.

Muscarella, co-author of "Psychological Perspectives on Human Sexuality," said the size of a man's penis "is indicative of masculinity, prowess and dominance."

"On a psychological level, men buy into that. And even if they don't, advertising does," he added, citing a recent truck billboard that showed a sexy cowboy crouching with a pickup between his legs.

Muscarella said men tend to focus on the more "concrete" aspects of sexual attributes like shape, form and size. He likened it to the male attraction to, and often obsession with, women's breasts.

Global problem

An obsession with penis size is not a uniquely American phenomenon, said Virginia Sadock, a psychiatrist at New York University Medical Center.

"This is not limited to the United States by any means," Sadock said, noting that in Japan there is a condition known as "koro," in which a man suffers from delusions that his penis is actually shrinking back into his stomach.

And Muscarella said that the French are known for trading rumors about men with small penises, often accompanied by jokes and derision.

At the heart of the problem, Sadock said, is that since men don't see many penises other than their own, they have little basis for comparison.

The exception, she said, is pornography, which gay men view more that straight men. And comparing one's penis size to a porn star's could lead even a well-endowed man to feel inadequate.

So perhaps it's not surprising that New York's gay community self-help arena has expanded beyond problems such as alcoholism and overeating to the affliction of a small penis.

"What is Small, Anyway," is the working name of a support group in Greenwich Village, which acts as a safe haven for gay men who have small penises, or feel as though they do.

Big is king

Participants complain about a gay community in which men brag about being bigger than they are and a country where big is king. Like at other support groups, most in this group are grateful just to be in a room together with people trying to confront the same problem.

A slim man with reddish hair said at a recent meeting he is made to feel he doesn't measure up. "In our community the idea of what's average [size] is very distorted," he said.

Purveyors of the products insist they have received over 90 million orders but are notoriously hard to track down or even identify, and typically they refuse to speak with reporters when found.

According to Wired magazine, some 6,000 people ordered pills from Goringly.biz through the Amazing Internet Products Web site over a four-week period, spending on average $100 each for two bottles. Wired traced the ownership of AIP to a 19-year-old New Hampshire chess whiz, Braden Bournival, who shied away from a reporter for the magazine who approached him at a chess tournament last summer.

Relief from the barrage of spam may yet be in sight however after Congress passed a law aimed at sharply restricting unsolicited e-mail ads.



Copyright 2004 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Story Tools
Subscribe to Time for $1.99 cover
Top Stories
Burgers, lattes and CD burners
Top Stories
CNN/Money: Security alert issued for 40 million credit cards
Search JobsMORE OPTIONS


 

International Edition
CNN TV CNN International Headline News Transcripts Advertise With Us About Us
SEARCH
   The Web    CNN.com     
Powered by
© 2005 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser.
CNN.com does not endorse external sites.
 Premium content icon Denotes premium content.
Add RSS headlines.