The other day, I came across an article about something stupid Rush Limbaugh said. Apparently, an Italian study found that penis length has decreased by 10% in the last fifty years. The study, sensibly enough, stated that things like smoking, stress, pollution, and weight gain were responsible for the discrepancy. Of course, Limbaugh being Limbaugh, he couldn’t accept such an explanation. Instead he blames ‘feminazis’ (better known by sane people as ‘feminists’) for the shrinkage.
Rush Limbaugh’s statements have little to do with this article–they were so stupid I couldn’t help but share. However, the very real shrinkage cited in the study and its attendant anxiety is very relevant. Those, and of course the link at the bottom of the article. As long time readers know, I find the often baffling world of culture bound syndromes fascinating. Well, anxiety about genital size can result in a culturally bound syndrome called Koro Syndrome.
The disorder is typically confined to Southeast Asia, specifically Japan, China, and India. The word ‘koro’ is the Malay word for turtle, and it is often used as a euphemism for penises. Koro Syndrome is a disorder characterized by the delusional belief that a man’s genitals are retracting into his body, and that when it fully retracts he will die. No, I am not making this up. This is a very real psychological disorder that has been documented for thousands of years of China, and that is recognized by the psychiatric community.
Outbreaks of Koro can result in mass penis panics (never thought I’d be typing those particular words in sequence) where hundreds or possibly thousands of men become convinced that their penises are disappearing. Many go to extremes to halt the progress of the retraction. I read an account of one man who kept his little man tied to a string suspended from his ceiling every night for fifteen years before finally seeking psychiatric treatment. Some have (very devoted) friends or family members hold their member for them to keep it from disappearing (again, not making this up). Men have even died trying to prevent penis retraction. I’ll leave exactly how that happens to your imagination.
So, what the heck is going on? What could possibly make thousands of men think they’re George Costanza after a dip in the pool? Nobody really knows for certain. Likely as not it’s a variety of factors, like lack of proper sexual education, cultural factors, and in isolated cases mental illness. While Koro is mostly isolated to Southeast Asia, isolated cases have cropped up in the West as knowledge of the disorder has spread. In the West, however, it is limited to those who are mentally ill, whereas otherwise healthy men in China, Japan, and India can be afflicted with the disorder. Typically psychiatric medications can help sufferers see through the fog of delusion. While it might seem a ridiculous notion, Koro Syndrome brings very real suffering to many people. It is just one more example of how the human brain can go strangely and ridiculously off the rails.