It Turns Out Condom Size Has Kind of Been All Wrong

The idea was to make them long enough for almost everyone, and men could roll the excess
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 22, 2017 8:08 AM CDT
Revolutionizing the Condom Is Trickier Than You Think
The minimum standard condom length was 6.69 inches, the idea being that it would fit most men and any excess could be rolled up.   (Getty Images)

Consider these two numbers: 5.57 inches and 6.69. The first is the average erect penile length, according to a study of 1,661 American men. The latter is the minimum length that standard condoms have been required to be. If that seems like a disconnect, well, it is, and change is coming—though not without some difficulty. In a look at the condom industry, the New York Times explains that revolution is challenging in large part because of the Food and Drug Administration. It classifies condoms as medical devices, which means any new product has to go through pricey clinical trials to gain approval. Case in point: The Gates Foundation gave Mark McGlothlin $100,000 to pursue his idea of making condoms from things like cow tendon, but he's far short of the $2 million he says the trials would cost.

And the makeup of the tests themselves have been problematic. One is called the "hang-and-squeeze," and it's much like it sounds like: A condom is filled with water and then squeezed to look for leakage. But make a condom for the 5.57-inch—or less—man, and filling it with the required water volume doesn't work. The FDA and two standards organizations have started to acknowledge the limitations and tweak the requirements and tests, and that's opened the door for Boston-based Global Protection Corp. to begin selling condoms that come in 60 sizes. Per a press release, 28 of those sizes are larger than the length, width, or both of the "leading XL condom," while 27 are smaller than the typical one. (This study found a slightly different average penile length.)

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