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By David Futrelle
The Washington Post caused a bit of a stir on the internet today with an article by two academic researchers offering some rather intriguing evidence suggesting that many men turn to Trump because his blustery assertions of manhood help to reassure them about their own masculinity.
The researchers, Eric Knowles and Sarah DiMuccio at New York University, prove their point, at least in a rough way, by linking geographical patterns of Trump support with internet searches reflective of common male anxieties — from “hair loss,” and “how to get girls,” to “erectile dysfunction,” “penis enlargement,” “penis size,” and “Viagra.”
The researchers report “that support for Trump in the 2016 election was higher in areas that had more searches for topics such as ‘erectile dysfunction,'” even after controlling for an assortment of demographic factors.
In other words, male Trump supporters are more likely than male Trump opponents to be worried about their dicks. Literally and figuratively.
And this very much seems to be a Trump thing: The pattern didn’t hold for men who voted for John McCain in 2008 or Mitt Romney in 2012.
So do these sorts of internet searches really say anything about male fragility? Seems so. The researchers also conducted a survey of 300 men showing that interest in these sorts of subjects was indeed highest among men who
scor[ed] high on a questionnaire measuring “masculine gender-role discrepancy stress” — concern that they aren’t as manly as their male friends.
The researchers suggest, based on these findings, that “Trump appears to appeal” less to confidently masculine men than “to men who are secretly insecure about their manhood” and who take a certain vicarious pleasure in Trump’s macho posturings.
You can see this as well in the weird proliferation of “macho Trump” memes depicting the pudgy old dude as a musclebound he-man, as I pointed out in a post a couple of months ago.
Most of those reacting to the study on Twitter today tend to find it amusing, or obvious, or a mixture of the two. But Trump fans and Men’s Rights Activists (who are also mostly Trump fans) are crying foul.
In the Men’s Rights subreddit, the regulars are responding to the article with their typical reasoned, logical critiques — by which I mean insults and yelling from an assortment of people who clearly haven’t read what they’re yelling about.
“Hey Eric,” writes VoxVirilis, calling out one of the researchers by name.
It doesn’t matter how many feminist articles you write with Sarah, she isn’t going to sleep with you.
“Ah, projection,” writes boy_named_su
Men aren’t insecure about their penises, but women are about their vaginas, so they project
Men don’t vote for someone because they are insecure about some physical attribute, but I guess women must, so they project
Our old friend ThePigmanAgain has a somewhat confusing critique of the study’s methodology:
LOL! These are the same idiots who have a problem with Melania’s Christmas trees! No way am i bothering to read that crap.
Someone called paulkersey1999, meanwhile, goes with the classic No U response, declaring that “men who read the Washington post HAVE NO PENIS (or brain).”
I do so enjoy a spirited debate!
NOTE: Free internet points to anyone who can identify the song that inspired my photo caption above.
H/T to @DavidPeddicord on Twitter for pointing me to the WaPo piece!