They call our penises lǎowài kuà xià qī yīngcùn (老外胯下7英寸). Literally, this means something to the effect of “the seven inches below a foreigner’s crotch.”
The proportions of the non-Asian foreign male in China are perhaps, well, blown out of proportion. But this seems to provoke way more curiosity than insecurity, and if you hang out with the men here long enough the question will inevitably be put forth: “Do you have a big penis?”
It is always a dude who asks this question, and only the dudes seem interested in the response. If asked in a bar, this question has the power to attract a crowd — of men. I don’t know where this legend comes from — perhaps from Hollywood movies and porno, perhaps there is a more historic basis — but the over-inflated reputations that Caucasian and African men have here are difficult for most to measure up to.
Admittedly, it is tricky to field a direct question about the largeness of your junk. The unequivocal best response is an astute “No.” Just say no and be done with it. Though very few men are prepared to proclaim this — especially when confirming the contrary is going to get them a good deal of erotic attention. But, be warned, if you answer this question in the affirmative be prepared to prove your claim, as there is a good chance that the next question will be an unabashed, “Can we see?”
I’ve been asked this question before, and I’ve tried out various responses, so I knew what to say when I became the center of intrigue and inquiry in a bar one night in Jiangsu Taizhou:
“Yes, I do,” I answered proudly, “but not as big as that guy over there.”
I pointed to a foreign guy across the bar who had just arrived in China. It worked. The curious men lost all interest in my smaller than largest sized member and descended upon the unsuspecting fellow. They asked him outright if it was true. Taken off guard, he said that it was. They asked him to whip it out. He was terrified. They continued asking. He squirmed. The bartender made a few playful grabs towards the target area (he was pretty drunk). A group of onlookers gathered.
“But Cody showed us his,” the bartender pleaded, perhaps thinking it normal fare for foreigners to produce their penises for inspection on cue just because he’d gotten one to do so.
Whenever any foreigner goes to China they know that they are going to be in for an inter-cultural experience, but I don’t think this poor laowai was expecting this when he signed on to his teaching job. Inquisitions over penis size, well, that’s just not in any “What to expect in China” travel manual.
Welcome to The Middle Kingdom.
Better you than me.
The bartender was not letting the matter go. He took it way beyond simple curiosity and humor. At one point he offered a free drink in exchange for the peep show.
“Chinese man,” the bartender then spoke in English, “penis like this.” He grabbed his pinky finger. “American man, penis like this.” He grabbed his thumb and lowered his voice a couple of octaves for emphasis.
It was a scene directly out of a South Park episode. I would have figured it to be a funny coincidence but I’ve heard the same exact routine before: in 2006, in Hangzhou. Some Chinese dudes really say things like that.
They sometimes also do more than ask. Recently, another expat in Taizhou was accosted by a fisherman under a bridge. They had some small talk and then the fisherman asked him how much he weighed. A normal question. But after the laowai responded the guy got behind him tried to find out for himself. Though weight was not what this fisherman was interested in gauging. As he attempted his lift he used the laowai’s junk as a handle.
So what was happening in that bar, while not necessarily common, was not completely out of the ordinary. On some occasions back in my early days of China travel I was not as prepared for these inquiries, and I found myself in the same uber-awkward situation as the hapless protagonist that I’d sacrificed for my own entertainment.
The requests for full frontal exposure continued unabated. What started out as sort of amusing soon became overtly annoying and more than a touch disturbing. Finally, the laowai had enough. He grabbed me by the shoulder and nervously whispered in my ear the dreaded phrase: “I’m a grower not a shower.”
“You gotta get out of here!”
This legend of debatable accuracy is about the only thing us male laowai have going for us here in China. Otherwise, we’d just be a bunch of big nosed, hairy barbarians.