The Great Singapore Penis Panic and the Future of American Mass Hysteria

The Great Singapore Penis Panic and the Future of American Mass Hysteria - Scott Mendelson

In October and November of 1967, four hundred sixty-nine people (including fifteen women) were treated for a malady known to traditional Chinese medicine as koro - the shrinking of the penis into the abdominal cavity, resulting in death. 


Dr. Scott D. Mendelson has written what reminds me of nothing so much as a lengthy term paper on the subject. 


I skimmed approximately 30% of this book. It's extremely unusual for me to do any skimming at all; I'm one of those people who has to read EVERY WORD. If I don't like it enough to read it, I simply abandon a book and move on. This time, I was interested enough in the subject matter to continue reading.

The details of the actual epidemic of koro are related in their entirety at least three times. Chapters cover disparate subjects with no narrative connection. The manuscript is poorly edited and contains enough typos and mechanical errors to be actively distracting. Book design is clunky and awkward, including bibliographical citations at the end of each chapter. The actual information presented, however, is interesting and well-researched. An excellent early chapter covers the basic tenants of traditional Chinese medicine, and a later chapter covers "culture bound syndromes" of various cultures, including America. The book does not otherwise discuss the US.


Due specifically to the lack of narrative flow and the excess of tangential information, this book is only recommended to those particularly interested in psychiatry or, er, penises.


Three stars, because I am interested in psychiatry and penises. Otherwise, two stars.


What Went Well:

  • well researched
  • historical context extensively covered


Even Better If:

  • professionally edited
  • rewritten as a narrative as opposed to a collection of facts
  • cut to half the current length