Journalist Lhendup Bhutia set out to investigate why. And what's more, how do you measure all those erections? Love Matters asked him about the story of Indian penis size.
It was an old article that mentioned how Bombay’s researchers were having a difficult time trying to find participants. Some of my colleagues at work pointed out that what would really be of interest is to find out how the study was conducted in the first place. Imagine people willingly visiting the centre and offering themselves for measurement!
LM: The man in charge of the Indian study, Dr RS Sharma, developed a penis-measuring kit. There were two paper strips, one to wind round the penis to measure its girth, and the other to measure its length. He sent his kit off to colleagues around the country.
The study ended up taking a lot longer than expected – five years. Why did it take so long?
LB: Because they had trouble finding and convincing people to take part in the study! There were seven centres in all to take into account the country’s various ethnicities and each centre had to send the measurements of at least 200 participants.
When the researchers did find willing participants, on most occasions either they couldn’t get their stallions fired up or, when they did, the organ just collapsed at the slightest touch.
LM: In Mumbai the volunteers were offered porn magazines to help them get an erection. They were also told they could bring their wives along to help out. Did anyone come along with a partner?
LB: Yes, indeed some did. There was a mix – some who brought along their partners, some who required visual stimuli, and some who didn’t need anything at all.
LM: Chandigarh won the race to measure 200 penises – Dr SK Singh managed to do 220 in just six months. What was his secret of success?
LB: Dr SK Singh is quite a jovial and affable fellow. Perhaps his personality put the individuals at ease!
He’d mostly ask relatives and friends of patients who visited the hospital where he worked, but only after building a good rapport with them. He also lured them by telling them that by participating in the study, they would also be guaranteed a free medical examination.
LM: After all this trouble, nothing has been done with the information. Condom makers haven’t been issued with guidelines. The findings weren’t published in any journal. What does the Government say about it?
LB: Well, nothing really. Currently, it is nothing more than a file on some shelf. I was told by some researchers that the study was sent to the Union Ministry, but nothing came of it because it is now currently not on their priority list.
LM: You talked to the doctor who made the penis measurements in Mumbai – the average penises there were between 4.5 and 4.9 inches in length and around 4.3 inches in circumference. But Dr Sharma, the man in charge of the overall study, wouldn’t talk to you about it. Why not?
LB: I can only guess. He might not want to be vocal on an issue that might show the government in poor light. Even my interviews with him were granted after considerable coaxing and cajoling.
LM: Is the government trying to bury the truth about Indian penis size? Why isn’t it acting on the study?
LB: I think – and this is only a guess – it's just not so important to them. One researcher at one of the centres suggested this to me too. That like many other government files, this too is languishing somewhere.
Mumbai-based journalist Lhendup Bhutia wrote an article on the penis size study for the Open magazine.