There are a lot of cliches about manhood and what men do when they feel insecure about their manhood. But according to a new and yet-unpublished study, at least one may have some truth to it. As it turns out, men who think they have smaller penises are really more likely to buy sports cars
Why men buy sports cars
Cars are pretty useful things. They take you from one place to another, they're generally reliable, and they last years or even decades. If you start with cheap cars and go up in price, you generally get a better car. But at some point, the link between quality and price starts to fade away. Take sports cars, for instance.
Sports cars are notoriously expensive. Their maintenance costs a lot, they use up a lot of fuel, and in the vast majority of cases, it's hard to truly make use of what they offer. Men buy almost 90% of sports cars; why do they do it?
There are two main hypotheses. The first, which traces its origins to Darwin in the 1870s, is sex. Darwin didn't know much about sports cars, but he knew that male animals sometimes like to flaunt their assets to woo and attract potential mates. In this line, a sports car would be like a peacock's tail: you show off and you're more likely to get a potential mate. This idea is backed by more recent science, which shows that men who think more about short-term dating tend to want more luxury goods. It also seems to work: one impactful study found that a sports car can really make a man more attractive.
The second hypothesis is self-esteem. Both men and women seek luxurious goods when they feel low self-esteem -- it's the proverbial "filling the void in your heart" with luxury products.
Finding a link between sports car and penises, however, is very challenging. Men are notoriously unreliable when it comes to self-reporting, and you can't really go and ask people in sports cars to measure their penis. Even if you did, it would still be very correlational. So instead, three researchers from the University College London did something different.
They tricked men.
Daniel C. Richardson, Joseph T. Devlin, and John S. Hogan devised a quirky experiment. They recruited 200 male participants and lied to them about the average penis size.
"We manipulated males’ subjective feelings of their penis size by presenting them with false information about the average male size. In our experiment, participants were given random facts, and then asked to say how much they would like to have various products," the researchers write in the study.
The participants were split into two groups: the first group was led to believe that the average penis size was smaller, while in the second, they were led to believe that it was bigger than it actually is.
"In the small penis condition, they were told that the average size was 18cm, larger than the true average. We reasoned that this would make the average male feel that they are relatively poorly endowed, compared to the large penis condition, in which we told them that the average size of other penises was 10cm. They then rated the desirability of a sports car," the researchers continue.
The study showed that when male participants felt like they had a relatively small penis, their desire for a sports car increased.
The results raise intriguing questions, the researchers conclude. Does perceived penis size have a particular link to sports cars, or does it relate to other luxury items as well? Is it a self-esteem problem, or is it more about finding mates?
"If we manipulated other equally strong factors – men’s beliefs about their intelligence or wealth perhaps - we would find a similar effect on product ratings?" the researchers quip.
The researchers also make a remark about the luxury automotive industry, noting that the industry may be unwilling to acknowledge the link.
"While demand for their product might be motivated by feelings of genital inadequacy, this is a feeling shared by many of their customers," the researchers conclude.