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Thailand Wants Its Teens to Stop Buying Baggy Condoms

Last Friday Thailand's Ministry of Public Health claimed that sexually transmitted infections are rising due in part to a supposed epidemic of teens buying oversized condoms, which slip off while they're doin' it.

Photo via Flickr user Jeremiah Roth

Last Friday, in a customary pre-Valentine's Day sexual health warning, Thailand's Ministry of Public Health claimed that sexually transmitted infections are rising nationally due in part to a supposed epidemic of teens buying oversized condoms, which slip off while they're doin' it.

"[The rise in STIs in Thai teens] is due to the fact that only 43 percent [of them] use condoms," said Ministry spokesman Somchaichote Piyawatchwela in a statement translated by AFP. "And also because they choose condoms that are too big for their actual sizes and they're afraid they will be mocked for being to small."

Over the last decade, STIs among Thai teens have demonstrably increased, from 7.3 per 100,000 in 2005 to 34.5 per 100,000 in 2015 according to the Thai Bureau of Epidemiology. The nation also suffers from a high teenage birthrate, with 47 completed pregnancies per 1,000 girls. In this atmosphere, Thai officials look at Valentine's Day as an especially dangerous time because, according to the Thai Culture Ministry's Moral Promotion Center, they believe up to 83 percent of local teens plan on having sex on the holiday—which is either wildly aspirational on the part of Thai teens, overestimating on the part of the government, or proof that the nation has game.

Yet the Ministry of Public Health apparently provided no data on how common oversized rubber slippage was or how much of the rise in STIs was attributable to teens' baggy condoms. Rather than issuing definitive guidelines on sizing, officials merely advised Thai teens to keep it in their pants and eat a nice dinner or take a trip to a Buddhist temple. This suggests that Thailand may have less of an issue with loose fitted-teens than with limited and stigmatized sexual education.

Slippage is a real problem in the world, with anecdotal reports of colleges taking extra-large raincoats out of health centers after a spate of them showing up lost inside girls' vaginal canals.

"If a condom is too big it can slip off, and that can decrease its effectiveness," Planned Parenthood told Jezebel in 2010. "And conversely if it's too tight, it's likely to break. It's true that sizing is important."

But while they manage to accommodate a wide variety of schlongs, condom sizes don't actually vary all that much. Most mass-market love gloves range from 6.8 to 9.25 inches long and 2 to 2.1 inches wide, small-to-XXL. Even a Trojan Magnum is only about half an inch longer and a tenth of an inch wider than other cum catchers, while a LifeStyles Kyng is about the size of a standard Trojan. This variation doesn't pose much trouble for the 50 percent of Americans whose dicks are 5 to 6 inches long, or even the 90 percent who range from 4 to 6.5. Custom sizes ranging from 3 to 9.9 inches long and 1.6 to 2.7 inches wide tend to serve the far extremes.

So even though it's not uncommon for Americans, teens or not, to buy extra-large French ticklers we really don't need (from 2001 to 2010 Trojan Magnum sales ballooned to 18.8 percent of the US condom market), we don't see a whole lot of slippage. The International Planned Parenthood Foundation claims that just 2 percent of reported baby baggie usages end in a break from a pecker poncho being too small (yes, even regular condoms can fit over a whole leg, but the friction of sex can doom a snug fit) or a slip from one being too loose. Granted that's not really scientific or comprehensive reporting, but there seems to be some consensus in the world of sexual health that you're only at risk of slippage or breakage if you're on either extreme end of girth or length.

That said, there are regions where the average penis tends to be substantially smaller (or larger) than the international averages used to produce condoms. In 2006, a two-year study by the Indian Council of Medical Research, measuring the wood of over a thousand Indian men from across social strata and geographic regions, found that 60 percent of them had thrill drills one to two inches shorter than condom maker averages, resulting in a 20 percent slip or tear rate.

"Smaller condoms are on sale in India [for these people to avoid slippage]," ICMR Dr. Chander Puri told the BBC in 2006. "But there is a lack of awareness that different sizes are available. There is anxiety [about] talking about the issue. And normally one feels shy to go to a chemist's shop and ask for a smaller condom size."

There's no similar scientific and rigorous study on beef bayonet sizes in Thailand. However, one aggregation of self-reported sizes suggests that, by their own accounting, the average Thai man's tallywhacker is 3.7 inches long and 1.4 inches wide when erect—so on the low side of low. This makes it possible that slippage could be a problem if Thai teens insist on using XL scumbags.

Yet just last year Thai governmental health officials reported that they were planning to order wider johnnys to accommodate what they believe is an increasing average flesh flute size amongst national youths, growing taller and heavier now, compared to elder generations. This makes it far less likely—although still possible—that endemic slippage is a particularly severe problem amongst now allegedly comparatively more engorged Thai teenagers.

The case for oversized dick sacks as a leading factor in Thailand's skyrocketing teenage STI rates is tenuous at best. It definitely ought to take a back seat to that whole only 43 percent of Thai teens use condoms issue raised in the pre-V-Day address. Survey data released this January actually suggests that knowledge about rubber usage is dropping and levels of embarrassment rising nationwide. The whole sizing issue looks like a red herring compared to those numbers.

This lack of sexual know-how is a little odd, given the many sexual health programs in Thailand. Led by Condom King Mechai Viravaidya, a Thai citizen and world leader in prophylactic awareness, the country hands out wood wraps on the street, has farmers paint them onto livestock, and gets monks to bless them to make conservative folks comfortable with them. One of the world's largest condom producers, Thailand's even created a condom museum to promote awareness, comfort, and confidence in prophylactic usage. This year alone, the Thai government will allocate $1.95 million to distribute 43 million free jimmy hats to its 67 million citizens.

The continued lack of knowledge and usage probably has something to do with the counterintuitive social stigma government and community leaders still place on sex and protection. The condom museum that was meant to promote usage, for instance, is located in a small city north of Bangkok, in the bowls of the Ministry of Health, and requires special permission to access it. And the state's free condom programs tend to focus on stemming HIV transmission by sex workers rather than getting salami slings into the hands of teens.

If the state wants to solve small condom stigma and resultant slippage, it could just follow Puri's 2006 recommendation to India and create vending machines in accessible venues, so no one has to know what you buy. The idea's actually been floated in Thailand, but rejected for abstinence-only messages like the one put out by the Moral Protection Center this Valentine's Day.

If the self-reports on Thai penis sizes are to be believed, it's probably true that slippage is a little more common there. But to call it a major cause of STI transmission is to sidestep a whole host of issues about more general social and sexual stigmas. Thai teens would be better served by a little more real talk from health officials than by any effort to get super-small condoms onto the shelves next year, especially if it's just accompanied by an unsupported no-sex message.

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