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December 10, 2006

Super colossal

On one of the many days I was shirking my studies in law school, I sat in the lounge attached to the library, reading random magazines. One of the magazines I pulled out was Ms., which contained a short article suggesting that condoms should be made in different sizes, because, um, you know, men came in different sizes. Sensitive, as you would expect, to the male ego, this feminist recommended naming the new sizes the way olives were named: Jumbo, Colossal, and Super Colossal.

Fast forward about 25 years. A Reuters item this weekend has the following headline: "Speak up, sir...You need the extra small condoms?"

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Condoms designed to meet international size specifications are too big for many Indian men as their penises fall short of what manufacturers had anticipated, an Indian study has found.

The Indian Council of Medical Research, a leading state-run center, said its initial findings from a two-year study showed 60 percent of men in the financial capital Mumbai had penises about 2.4 cm (one inch) shorter than those condoms catered for.

For a further 30 percent, the difference was at least 5 cm (two inches). A poor fit meant the prophylactics often didn't do the job they were bought for, and led to some tearing or slipping off during use.
You won't be surprised to learn that this is a major news story reaching news outlets the world over. It's not just the fact that newspapers enjoy using the word "condom" in their stories, which you know they do. It's because, if half a billion Indian men got the short end of the stick, you personally just moved way up on the scale, relatively speaking.

The story is so widespread on the news that there's even a news report about this at a site named (and I'm not making this up) ""

Now, before you go snickering on to the next item, please be advised that news reports from India insist that this study was totally scientific:
Researchers surveyed about 1,400 men visiting family planning centres in cities such as Mumbai and Delhi as well as in rural areas, the Times of India reported in a story entitled "Indian men don't measure up."

The men were a cross-section of urban and rural dwellers ranging in age from 18 to 50.

The length and width of each erect penis was measured twice, and a digital photograph was taken, the newspaper reported.
The Beeb adds:

The two-year study was carried out by the Indian Council of Medical Research.

Over 1,200 volunteers from the length and breadth of the country had their penises measured precisely, down to the last millimetre.

The scientists even checked their sample was representative of India as a whole in terms of class, religion and urban and rural dwellers.
To reassure you that this study was scientific but not "hands on," if you catch my drift, I'm going to quote the lead researcher: "We had devised an automated system in which an image of the penis would be taken and the computer would interpret different dimensions," Sujoy Guha, who lead [sic] the study, told Times of India."

Understandably, officials are concerned that Indian men won't ask for the right size, and that the condom won't succeed in the function for which it was designed. As an Indian reproductive specialist explained, "Smaller condoms are on sale in India. But there is a lack of awareness that different sizes are available. There is anxiety talking about the issue. And normally one feels shy to go to a chemist's shop and ask for a smaller size condom."

Which leads me back to the Ms. magazine article. If condoms were named for size the way olives are, and if you were one of these Indian men, you could go to the "chemist" and order the "Jumbo" size, secure in the knowledge that you are a major hunk of manhood. And that whatever size those foreign beasts may have to wear, you at least are the master of your own domain.