Feds pay for study of gay men’s penis sizes

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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The National Institutes of Health (NIH) subsidized a study attempting to find out if a gay man’s penis size has any correlation with his sexual health.

The research, titled “The Association between Penis Size and Sexual Health among Men Who Have Sex with Men,” began in 2006 and surveyed 1,065 gay men. Among its key findings: Those gay men who felt they had small or inadequate penis sizes were more likely to become “bottoms,” or anal receptive, while gay men with larger penises were more likely to identify themselves as “tops,” or anal insertive.

Another discovery from the research: men with smaller penises were more likely to be psychologically troubled than those with larger genitalia. The goal of the study was to understand the “real individual-level consequences of living in a penis-centered society.”

The researchers at Hunter College Center for HIV/AIDS Educational Studies Training (CHEST) got taxpayer money as part of an NIH grant that went to Public Health Solutions and the National Development and Research Institutes, Inc. (NDRI).

NDRI has received taxpayer money since 1985 for “behavioral science research on drug abuse, AIDS and crime.” NIH records show that NDRI has received more than $15 million since 2000.

The gay men penis-size study falls under the NDRI’s drug abuse, AIDS and crime research category. In 2006, the year the organization started funding the penis-size research, it received $899,769 in taxpayer money. (Woman tries to sell three-day-old infant to Taco Bell customer)

Grant records indicate that NIH funds NDRI wth taxpayer dollars in order to “prepare behavioral scientists, especially from minority backgrounds, for careers in drug abuse research and allied fields” — a goal accomplished by “recruiting and appointing promising scientists, half from minority backgrounds, for traineeships,” giving them “advanced training in substantive topics and theory, research methods and practices, and the ethical conduct of research,” and by ”mentoring and advising trainees.”

“We’ve got nameless, faceless bureaucrats who thought this was a good use of taxpayer money,” says Andrea Lafferty, president of the Traditional Values Coalition, which surfaced the penis-size study. “But, at the end of the day, it was the NIH directors who signed off on it. These nameless, faceless bureacrats seem to think the American taxpayers are a limitless ATM machine.”

This study isn’t the only questionable behavioral science research that Lafferty’s organization found by digging through NIH grant records. (SNL alum says Obama is ‘basically Hitler’)

At the University of Wisconsin at Madison, researchers are attempting to use video games to break “bias” against women and minorities in the so-called “STEMM” hard-science fields (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine).

The study, which received just under $2 million in 2010 stimulus package money and is likely to receive similar amounts each year through 2013 (according to NIH grant documents), aims to teach faculty about their “implicit stereotype-based biases” against minorities and women by developing a video game. According to the researchers, the video game will teach faculty members to “recognize and self-correct” those biases, even if they’re “unintentional.”

Lafferty hopes these newly discovered controversial studies are enough to get NIH behavioral science funding onto the debt ceiling negotiation table for potential cuts. She’s not opposed to “hard science” research funding, but is against “the abuse of taxpayer dollars when it comes to these wacky behavioral sciences.”

“Our point is all of this should be on the table,” Lafferty said. “We’re broke as a nation. If liberals want to fund this, they can do it from their own coffers.”

She points to early June promises from President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden that they would eliminate government waste and make government more efficient. “Targeting waste and making government more efficient have been a priority for my administration since day one. But as we work to tackle the budget deficit, we need to step up our game,” Obama said then. “No amount of waste is acceptable — not when it’s your money; not at a time when so many families are already cutting back.”

Biden went a step further than Obama, saying the administration would “hunt” down wasteful spending. “For too long the federal government has allowed billions of taxpayer dollars to be wasted on inefficiencies,” Biden said. “Over the last two years, we have been slashing waste across government and today we are putting Washington on notice: the President and I are committed to changing the way government works and we are stepping up the hunt for misspent dollars.”

An NIH spokesperson told TheDC the government didn’t approve the study and taxpayer funding didn’t directly cover costs for the actual research. NIH funding could only be used, the spokesperson said, for the chief researcher Dr. Christian Grov’s “expenses” like his “stipends, tuition and fees.”*

“The National Institutes of Health did not fund or approve the research described in the paper,” a spokesperson for NIH said. “This study was funded by the Hunter College Center for HIV/AIDS Educational Studies and Training. Dr. Christian Grov was supported as a postdoctoral research fellow at the time the research was conducted by a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)-funded training grant, which focuses on preparing behavioral scientists, especially racial/ethnic minorities, to conduct research in the areas of drug abuse, HIV/AIDS, and crime.”

*This story has been updated to reflect a response from NIH.

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Matthew Boyle