8 Asians

My 8Asians New Years resolution was to “continue to look for body parts on Asian Americans that I can objectify.” A friend on Facebook commented that she didn’t think I could find another body part to write about (since I’ve already written about Asian vaginas, breasts, penises, and butts). But she gives me too little credit. There are lots more body parts I can still write about!

Today, I want to discuss the male testicle. Specifically, do Asians have the smallest ones? I admit that I have not seen a lot of testicles. Pretty much only my own. So I’m by no means a testes expert. My “research” was confined to mostly what I could find on the Internet.

This has been the most challenging body part related article yet because there are a lot more scientific (and pseudo-scientific) websites I had to wade through. Some of which, I admit, probably went over my head. It should be noted that I am not a scientist, an anthropologist, an anatomists, or have any degree that would give me any expertise on the subject. But rather, I am just a layperson trying to make sense of all the information as best as I can.

The first place I went to is Yahoo! Answers because someone out there has probably asked the same question. I was not disappointed:

Which race has the largest testicles? My theory is that white men’s testicles are the largest, which explains why they also produce the most sperm. Any opinions?

The best answer (chosen by Voters) was:

Well, I am white and my ballroom is always full. However, I don’t really know about anyone else, perhaps you ought to do a study or a poll on it.

I think they were trying to be funny. They failed. But what interests me was one of the other answers:

That is false… I’m sorry but every race and person Is difference and yeah lol u wud say mexicans or African American lol not Asians there so small lol

I’m not 100% sure I understand what this person is trying to say (because the two statements seem contradictory) but what I take out of it is that he/she believes Asians have small testes. Apparently, that is the stereotype. Until I started looking into this, I didn’t realize it was a stereotype. Moreover, I didn’t realize having large testes was even desirable. Personally, I’ve never looked at my own and said, “Gee, I wish they were bigger.” But apparently a lot of people equate “manliness” with size of testes – which is just silly to me.

So what do other sites say about whether there is a correlation between race and testicle size? Surprisingly, there are a lot websites weighing in on this. Some of them are overtly racist and most are sketchy. There are far too many to try to link to. But here are a sampling of some of the more “interesting” ones (at least to me):

“Although measurements of testis size by orchidometry in living subjects are difficult to standardize, they suggest smaller testes in Japanese and Korean men than in Caucasians. Weighing at autopsy is more accurate and showed that the size was twofold lower in two Chinese samples compared with a Danish sample. Differences in body size make only a slight contribution to these values.” (Diamond, JM (1986) Variation in human testis size. Nature (London) 320: 488) [note: larger African testes supports promiscuous origins hypothesis, yet if African testosterone levels are higher, it refutes inverse relationship between sperm and T production] (Library of Excerpts: Sexual Organs and Heterochronic Theory)

Race differences in testicle size have also been measured (Asians = 9 grams, Europeans = 21 g). This is not just because Europeans have a slightly larger body size. The difference is too large. A 1989 article in Nature, the leading British science magazine, said that the difference in testicle size could mean that Whites make two times as many sperm per day as do Orientals. So far, we have no information on the relative size of Blacks. (Race, Evolution, and Behavior: A Life History Perspective. 2nd Special Abridged Edition.  Written by Professor J. Philippe Rushton University of Western Ontario.)

According to an article published in Nature, Japanese and Chinese men’s testicles tend to be smaller than those of Caucasian men, on average. The authors of the study concluded that “differences in body size make only a slight contribution to these values.” Other researches have confirmed these general trends, finding average combined testes weights of 24 grams for Asians, 29 to 33 grams for Caucasians, and 50 grams for Africans. Researches found “marked differences among samples, adult male Danes have testes that are more than twice the size of their Chinese equivalents, for example.” This range is far beyond what average racial differences in body size would predict Various estimates conclude that Cauacsians produce about twice the number of spermatozoa per day than Chinese (185-235 X 10 to the 6 power compared with 84 X 10 to the 6 power) (Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality By Christopher Ryan, Cacilda Jethå, Page 241)

Even the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (which I didn’t know existed until I read this report) admits that race could play a factor:

Although ethnic and racial origin may influence testicular size, approximate ranges are as follows:

  • Prepubertal testes are between 3 and 4 mL in volume and less than 2 cm long
  • Peripubertal testes are between 4 and 15 mL in volume and more than 2 cm long
  • Adult testes are usually between 20 and 30 mL in volume and from 4.5 to 6.5 cm long by 2.8 to 3.3 cm wide

—2002 UPDATE)

It should be noted that AACE uses the word “may” and they give ranges — which implies that it is not as clear cut as some of the others would have you believe.

No one is sure why exactly there are racial differences in testes (if they do indeed exist):

Short (1984) reported variation in human testis size in different races and commented on the absence of information concerning the anatomical reasons for this variation. (Dimensions and allometry of testes, epididymides and spermatozoa in the domestic dog (Canis familiaris by P. F. Woodall and I. P. Johnstone. Department of Veterinary Anatomy, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland 4067, Australia)

But there are lots of people who have hypotheses as to why it could be. Here is a sampling of some of them:

In these species large testis size correlates with, and was probably selected by, two factors: high copulatory frequency; and high probability that a female will mate with several males during one ovulatory cycle. (ref. 3) However, evidence that these factors vary between human populations is lacking. An explicit test revealed no relation between testis size and copulatory frequency in Korean men. (ref. 4) (Nature. 1986 Apr 10-16; 320(6062):488-9. Ethnic differences: Variation in human testis size. By Jared M. Diamond)

“More convincing vestiges of a sexual selective history in which females mated polyandrously can be found in the human male. Perhaps the clearest such vestige is testis size (Short, 1977). Men’s testes are substantially larger, relative to body size, than those of gorillas, a species in which males are polygynous but females mate monogamously so that “sperm competition” within the female reproductive tract is absent. (goes on to talk of chimpanzees) (Wilson, M., Daly, M. (1992) The man who mistook his wife for a chattel: The Adapted Mind; (Barkow, J.H. & Cosmides, L. & Tooby, J. eds.), Oxford Univ. Press, New York. p. 299) (Library of Excerpts: Sexual Organs and Heterochronic Theory)

In the Feb. 9 issue of Nature, Oxford University zoologists Paul Harvey and Robert May asked a related question: “Why does testes size vary among species?” They review evidence from a variety of animal species in which all the polygamous animals have proportionally bigger testes, more sperm and more active sperm than monogamous ones. Why? In essence, the British scientists argue that having more sperm increases the likelihood that a promiscuous female will become pregnant by that particular male. Thus, evolution produced for larger testes in non-monogamous species. Does the same principle apply in humans? “We think it likely that testes size differences among human races have been adaptive in their own right — different responses to different mating behavior,” the two scientists write. They make reference to a study of the testes sizes of some Chinese and some Danes. The Danes’ testes, even when body size differences are taken into consideration, are twice the size of the Chinese subjects’.

The evolutionary explanation lor the difference appears to be Rushtonian. “It could be that for generations the Chinese lived in a society that was sexually secure, while over the same time the Danes lived in a rape-and-pillage and violence kind of society,” Prof. May suggested in an interview. None of this should suggest that even a preponderance of scientists agree with Prof. Rushton, or that he has not been highly selective, plain wrong and less than critical in interpreting much of his data. On the other hand, “If it were not for the social implications of the work, Rushton would not be portrayed as far out as he has been by others,” Jerrison said. The Globe & Mail, September 1990. (#1 The Case Of Philippe Rushton)

Needless to say, all these hypotheses are controversial and that there are probably a lot of factors that contribute to the variation in human testes size.

Still, some of the reluctance to connect culturally sanctioned behavior with genital anatomy is as much due to the difficulty of finding reliable historical information about true rates of female promiscuity as to the emotionally charged nature of the material itself. Furthermore, diet and environmental factors would have to be factored in before arriving at any solid conclusion regarding the relationship between sexual monogamy and genital anatomy. For example, many Asian diets include large quantities of soy products, while many Western people consume large quantities of beef, both having been shown to cause rapid generational reduction in testicular volume and spermatogenesis. Given the controversial nature of such research, and the complexities of eliminating so many variable, perhaps it’s not surprising that this is an area few researches are eager to enter. (Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality By Christopher Ryan, Cacilda Jethå, Page 241-242)

But wait, everything should be taken with a grain of salt. In a response to one of the more famous articles on the subject (the original article was written by Professor J. Philippe Rushton of the University of Western Ontario — quoted above), this writer take issue with the basic assumptions of people who make the argument that there is a correlation between race and testes size:

Professor Rushton’s public pronouncements have been even more grand and disturbing than the news reports indicated. He begins with the scientifically questionable assumption (based on current scientific evidence) that humanity can be divided into three discrete races: whites, blacks and Orientals. According to Prof. Rushton, these races form a genetically based hierarchy in which blacks rank as the least intelligent, least altruistic, least nurturant as parents, most licentious, most criminal and most given to multiple births (“litters,” in his terms). The races also differ physiologically and anatomically; the blacks are said to have the smallest brains and the largest genitalia of the three. In short, Prof. Rushton and his associates see blacks as the most animalistic of the human races, while Orientals represent the most highly evolved. He claims that his theory is based on the findings of evolutionary biology, behavioral genetics, sociobiology and ethology. (#1 The Case Of Philippe Rushton)

There seems to be so much “proof” that there is a correlation. However, I’m going to go back to my standard response whenever people say that “Asian people have the smallest…” or “African American people have the…” is that people are different and should be looked as individuals. Besides, I bet you’ll find a wide range of testicle sizes in all races. Some are going to be big and some are going to be small. In the end, let’s not lose sight of the fact that it only takes one little sperm to impregnate someone and both a big or a small testicle will do the job.

I admit all this talk of testes made me a little self-conscious. Click on this link if you’re interested in measuring your own.

Finally, I’d like to end this on a positive not. There is some evidence that testicles are getting “progressively smaller with younger cohorts.” So my dear fellow readers, when we are old we can tell our grandchildren, “my testicles are bigger than yours.”

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