Update 28 June 2018: Professor Walker announced that the study has been discontinued because the overwhelming public response will likely skew the reliability of participant responses. Existing submissions have been stored in her research database; any images sent in have been destroyed.
If you want to share a particularly interesting photo or video, get advice, or start a conversation – be it friendly or trolling – with strangers on the Internet, Reddit is the place to go. If you want strangers to send you pictures of their penises, Reddit is also a pretty good place to go.
At least, that’s what Alicia Walker, an associate professor of sociology at Missouri State University, is willing to bet.
Last week, Walker’s research team created a post on the subreddit r/smalldickproblems calling for participants in her study on self-esteem and penis size.
They ask anyone interested in volunteering to complete an online survey – which includes a section to upload measurement photographs – and/or schedule a phone or email interview, depending on what you’re comfortable with. The post explains that photographic submissions should be anonymous (no faces please), accompanied by measurements of both erect and flaccid length and girth, and, for the purposes of verification, stick to the 'bone press method'.
This means that the pictures should be taken next to a ruler that has been pushed down into the fat pad at the base of the penis shaft until it hits the pubic bone.
"I realize a lot of folks have been upset about the request for photos, but let me explain: the photographic evidence serves only to verify that the reported measurements are in fact valid and that the participant used the Bone Press method to measure themselves, as this is the standard in penis size research," Walker told IFLScience via email.
"Once the validity is verified, those photos are destroyed. And the photos are only used in the survey."
The interview, her post notes, will enable them to gather responses that are more expansive and open than a questionnaire allows, and provides an option for men who want to share their experiences without sharing photographs.
Walker – whose research focuses on sexuality, gender, and relationships – initiated the study to shed light on how penis size affects many aspects of a man’s life, from emotional wellbeing to sexual activity to overall health.
"Penis size is a source of much fascination in U.S. culture," Walker said. "While there is much public discourse attempting to quell men’s concerns about penis size (e.g. 'It’s not the size of the boat, it’s the motion of the ocean'), the small penis serves as comedic fodder in many films, television shows, jokes, and party stories. Many men carry secret—or not so secret—anxiety about their penis size."
"The more I spoke to folks during interviews and just casual conversation, the more I realized this was an issue."
After hearing conlficting opinions about the importance of size, she began asking people what they are drawn to in a partner. Many told her that what they were truly attracted to is confidence.
"So, I began to wonder if self-esteem is correlated with size in both directions, or simply for men who are smaller than average (or simply perceive themselves to be smaller than average). I decided to find out."
She and her team hope to explore men’s self-esteem, self-reported sexual competence, condom usage, size-related anxiety, and impressions of potential sexual partners’ size preferences."
If you are interested in contributing, Walker’s team welcomes submissions of cisgender and transgender men of all sexual orientation, but participants must be over the age of 22. And despite their posting on a subreddit focused on the woes of smaller sex organs, they are keen to hear from (and, we suppose, see) individuals of all sizes and shapes.