On the biomedicalisation of the penis: the commodification of function and aesthetics

Flowers, Paul; Langdridge, Darren; Gough, Brendan and Holliday, Ruth (2013). On the biomedicalisation of the penis: the commodification of function and aesthetics. International Journal of Men's Health, 12(2) pp. 121–137.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.3149/jmh.1202.121


This paper explores contemporary understandings and representations of the penis. It presents an overview of recent trends which re-frame long-standing penile anxieties within a new hybrid world of health and aesthetics. It explores these apparent changes through the lens of biomedicalisation. By focusing on constructions of masculinities in crisis, changes in the representability of the penis and the effects of Viagra, it suggests that contemporary penile pathologies and anxieties are being constructed and commodified. In the past medical discourse has focused primarily upon the ‘traditional’ functionality of the penis, more recently it has focussed upon pharmaceutical innovations such as Viagra. However, we suggest that now there appears to be the emergence of a new penile discourse, a penile aesthetic that focuses upon penile appearance as much as function. This shift has been facilitated by the Internet, the deregulation of pornography and changes in sexual mores.

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