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Penis-Size Study Professor Reveals How Abuse Led Her to Cancel Research

Thursday Jul 12, 2018

Alicia M. Walker PhD, the Missouri State University professor who had to cancel her study on penis size and self-esteem partly because of media coverage, has spoken out about the controversy.

"You don't know me, but you likely know of me. I'm the female professor who dared to run a self-esteem study requesting photographic evidence confirming correct method and measure of penis size," she writes on the website The Society Pages.

She explains how the website The College Fix posted "a misleading story written by a college freshman" about the study. Within 24-hours it went viral.

"Most just ran the original story-headline and all-without confirming its claims," Walker writes. "One source even added in some new, provocative inaccuracies, claiming I wanted my students to send me 'dick pics.' Minimum age to participate was 22 years old, and I did no local or university recruitment. However, even the accurate coverage chose headlines suggesting I wanted 'dick pics' 'sent' to me; so men across the country sent me selfies via email. (The study requested pictures showing a specific method of measure submitted only through the survey portal.) Other people jumped to assumptions about my motives and purposes without even reading any of my previous work or learning much about the actual study."

The next day her email was flooded, some 500+ a day.

"Most of the emails were supportive and from wanna-be participants. However, many messages were hate mail. Each hater sent multiple emails. The first message came from a Michigan man (he went to my academia.edu page, which provided his location)-he opened his email by calling me a 'feral whore.' He sent 30 emails in total, each with similarly abusive language. He called me a 'fat pig,' or some variation, in most of those emails. He even claimed that I was 'so fat only N--s would' have sex with me. The racism of misogyny was common."

Wallker complained to University IT security, who sent her instructions as to how to block the emails, which then went into junk mail that she opened every day in search of legitimate study participants.

"All of the men who sent abusive emails swore to contact Missouri State University administrators and state legislators to demand they fire me. I'm a sex researcher, and accustomed to upset with my work. However, the level of vitriol from each hater far exceeded my previous experiences," she continues.

She also refused abusive phone calls. A common theme amongst emails and phone calls was misogyny.

"Although haters were generally unique in their responses, a common frustration among those sending hate was that I am a woman. Many literally wrote, 'How dare you, a female professor, run a study like this.' Keep in mind, these pictures were clinical pictures, think medical textbook not titillating Playgirl images. When I responded with, 'Why would you feel differently if I were a man?' I got no response. Another shared trait: they were all upset that I would suggest smaller men might feel badly about themselves, and assumed my purpose was to prove that correlation."

As for why she wanted to do the study, she writes:

"There is ample data demonstrating that for many men who perceive their penises are small, self-esteem is indeed an issue. How our bodies look and how we see them impacts how we feel about ourselves, and this is an important social and psychological issue. My study could have contributed to this existing body of knowledge that takes men's bodies and feelings seriously, and it could have perhaps helped to shift methodology for penis size studies. Yet I had to cancel the study a week and a half into recruitment because we live in a world where the idea of a woman looking at 'dick pics' is just too upsetting for people to permit. Important work about men and masculinity had to be shut down because of massive media misrepresentation and widespread sexist attitudes. That's a loss for us all. I'll go on with other studies."

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