SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - Alicia Walker is used to the snickers, the juvenile puns and raunchy jokes. But she is not fooling around with her latest research project.
The assistant professor of sociology at Missouri State University launched a study this month that explores how the size of a man's penis affects the rest of his life. And she's documenting the work with pictures.
"The kind of work I do is not for everybody," she said.
Walker said the project looks at how penis size - and, as importantly, a man's perception of his penis size - affects overall health, sexual activity, condom usage, self image, social interaction and mental health.
"So far I'm hearing a lot of anxiety and a lot of low self-esteem related to size," she said.
As part of the study, Walker hopes at least 3,600 men will fill out an online survey and upload photos of their genitalia. The participants must be age 22 or older.
"These are not sexy pictures," she said. "These are clinical pictures."
She said photos are necessary to ensure men carefully follow the instructions when measuring their flaccid and erect penis.
Walker, with the help of a student who plans to enter the medical field, is soliciting men through an online portal, at hospitals and nightclubs.
"We are not recruiting locally. I don't want there to be anything dicey," she said, adding that she didn't want colleagues, friends and neighbors to feel pressure to participate. "You don't want there to be anything awkward."
Walker, hired by Missouri State in 2016, said a man's size can change his self-image and trigger depression and body dysmorphic disorder. "It's serious. Some of them actually attempted suicide."
Feelings of inadequacy are not helped by the prevalence of jokes regarding penis size.
"Penis size, in general, is the source of a lot of curiosity in American culture," she said.
Missouri State confirmed Walker was conducting the study, which is expected to wrap up this summer, and issued a statement: "Academic freedom is a core component of a liberal arts university. As such, faculty members have broad discretion in their research choices. When students, staff and/or faculty conduct research at Missouri State University that involves human participants, they are required to submit an application to the Institutional Review Board."
The university stated Walker met the board's threshold for a research project. "It is a legitimate area of research and she is conforming to all of the guidelines of participant security."
Missouri State added the study is not funded by the university or any governmental institute.
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