Human Nature

, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp 189–215 | Cite as

Male genital modification

A sexual selection interpretation
  • Raven Rowanchilde


By modifying the body in meaningful ways, human beings establish their identity and social status. Lip plugs, ear plugs, penis sheaths, cosmetics, ornaments, scarification, body piercings, and genital modifications encode and transmit messages about age, sex, social status, health, and attractiveness from one individual to another. Through sociocultural sexual selection, male genital modification plays an important role as a sociosexual signal in both male competition and female mate choice. The reliability of the signal correlates with the cost of acquiring the trait. Women use a variety of cues to assess male quality. Male genital modification is one way that some women assess their mates. Extreme male genital modifications not only honestly advertise status, sexual potency, and ability to provide sexual satisfaction, they may provide a reliable index of male-female cooperation through the male’s commitment to endure pain and risk.

Key words

Sexual selection Mate choice Sociosexual signals Sexual enhancement Honest signals Female orgasm Cooperation 


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Copyright information

© Walter de Gruyter, Inc. 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of TorontoMississaugaCanada

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