Men's taint-size correlated with fertility

According to a study in Environmental Health Perspectives, the size of a man's "anogenital distance" (or, more colloquially, "taint") is a good predictor of fertility:
"It's non-invasive and anybody can do it, and it's not sensitive to the kinds of things that sperm count is sensitive to, like stress or whether you have a cold or whether it's hot out," Swan said in a telephone interview.

"If somebody's got a short AGD, particularly if they have problems conceiving, I would say get to the infertility doctor, because the chances are good that something is wrong."

To reach their conclusions, researchers measured the AGDs of 126 men born in or after 1988, a small but statistically significant sample, Swan said.

Key genital measurement linked to male fertility (via @GreatDismal)

(Image: Phallic Parsnip3311, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from fireflies604's photostream)


  1. I would have thought you needed a larger sample size across different segments of the population or your study could be easily biased and then be tainted.

    1. Never heard it that way – I stand corrected, but! I still think it works better w/ 2 innies rather than 1 innie, 1 (2?) outies.

      1. In a review for a bicycle seat, a woman referred to her taint as her “Brunswick”, because on a bowling ball Brunswick is written between the holes.

  2. Technically speaking, I’m not sure men can have a taint (could be wrong). Cory – you do know the origin of the word, yes?

  3. I have NEVER heard of any use of the word ‘taint’ in this instance.

    To say “more colloquially” really must mean, “Where I come from this is a common word” – taint used that way in Australia, I can tell you now!


  4. Never mind the name, who noticed this phenomenon and decided to go about taking all these measurements in the first place? Not exactly a job I’d sign up for.

    1. Actually, they were just following on the heels of some other scientists who had similar but even sketchier previous studies:

      But previous studies, published in 2005 and 2008, looked at the possible link between mothers who were exposed to chemicals called phthalates during pregnancy and the AGD of their infant and toddler sons.

  5. Based on this (rather bizarre) study, is the pictured parsnip especially fertile or shooting blanks?

    1. I don’t think it matters, since I can’t imagine that thing being successful in getting anywhere near a fertile female version.

  6. My Canadian wife thinks the use of “taint” in this way sounds odd, but it sounds perfectly normal to my American ears. Taint is used in this manner near the beginning of Zack and Miri Make a Porno, and I believe its also made an appearance in 30 Rock (just to name a couple). I can’t even imagine life without this word. Its just always been the word I used for that part of the body. The odder thing is the cultural difference for the definition of chode. In her part of Canada, its entirely synonymous with taint, but where I come from, it means something entirely different.

    1. The Daily Show has gotten plenty of amusing mileage out of taint references in recent years as well.

    2. Interesting that you “can’t even imagine life without this word”! I mean, how often do you actually talk about this area of the body?!

      I personally have never needed to discuss this part of the body in any kind of context, and I can’t imagine ever needing to, except perhaps with a doctor in which case we probably wouldn’t use the word “taint”. You’ll note I am now discussing this part of the body, despite saying I’ve never had to, and this is an important thing to keep in mind for later in my comment.

      It’s not that I’m ignorant of the word – I’ve heard it in movies and on tv and so on too – but words like this seem to be invented as jokes, and are only really used in the context of a joke. I appreciate a dirty joke as much as anyone, but dirty jokes using made-up words always rub me the wrong way (heh heh).

      Same with “chode”; I know the word but don’t know what it’s supposed to refer to. Even if I did I’m pretty sure I’d never have occasion to actually use the word, and I personally don’t usually make dirty jokes so that’s out too.

      On a less dirty note, I feel the same way about the indentation above the upper lip. Knowing what this is called, or knowing the made-up slang terms for it, is completely pointless. I remember a teacher in elementary school going on and on about it for some reason, and I sat there thinking, who the heck cares what it’s called? Same thing, I’m never going to need to discuss that.

      In other words it’s trivial. I can appreciate trivia, certainly, and have large stores of trivia in my mind on other topics. But this type of trivia goes beyond being trivial, I think, especially when you’re using made-up words to describe these kinds of things.

      1. You clearly don’t write any gay sex stories. I personally dislike the word but I’ve seen others use it.

      2. Chode refers to a penis which is wider than it is long. Some folks confuse a chode with a taint. They are absolute cretins.

  7. Anybody think the link between phthalate exposure and taint size is the more interesting, headline worthy aspect of the story?

  8. In case anyone else has read this far and is still confused (as I was) from the linked article: anogenital distance is “distance, measured from the anus to the underside of the scrotum”.

  9. Great, now I have an overriding desire to know what the average AGD is. Y’know…for comparison purposes.

  10. Ah, so the AGD is a proxy measure for the decreased fertility also caused by phthalate exposure. Makes sense. Nasty phthalates. I saw some of the results of early research in mice. The trick is that low doses over time seem to be more problematic than single large doses… harder to test and fairly counterintuitive for anyone who’s used to the “poison” model of toxicity.

    Small samples can be statistically significant, if they’re good probability samples. You just get a larger standard error and it’s harder to find effects significant at the .05 (or whatever) level than it would be with a large sample.

  11. The slang term is the perineum, taint is the slang term in a small portion of the world, in polite company the area is not discussed at all.

    I think with the worry about feminizing chemicals in the environment (like BPA) this is a nice quick and dirty way of assessing uterine exposure. I am glad my sons had minimal exposure and this has been a comforting paper for me (yes I have wiped many male perianal regions in my years), it has been known to me for a number of years and indeed one can correlate this distance with many urogenital deformities in males and uterine exposure to androgen disruptors.

  12. Hm – the AGD meaning for the word taint ain’t listed in my dictionary.
    And it’s not in the Oxford dictionary either.

    taint |tānt|
    a trace of a bad or undesirable quality or substance : the taint of corruption that adhered to the regime.
    • a thing whose influence or effect is perceived as contaminating or undesirable : the taint that threatens to stain most of the company’s other partners.
    • an unpleasant smell : the lingering taint of creosote.
    verb [ trans. ] (often be tainted)
    contaminate or pollute (something) : the air was tainted by fumes from the cars. See note at pollute .
    • affect with a bad or undesirable quality : his administration was tainted by scandal.
    • [ intrans. ] archaic (of food or water) become contaminated or polluted.
    taintless |ˈteɪntl1s| adjective ( poetic/literary).
    ORIGIN Middle English (as a verb in the sense [convict, prove guilty] ): partly from Old French teint ‘tinged,’ based on Latin tingere ‘to dye, tinge’ ; partly a shortening of attaint .

    1. I am only a simple linguist, but it seems to me that the OED and you are not the exhaustive English Language authorities.

  13. The medical term is perinium, I believe, but I usually go with grundel. Home of the frumunda cheese.

  14. I guess now there’s something else men will lie about the size of.

    But we’ve already been adding the AGD to the general dimensions in that area for a while anyway.

  15. I see a lot of you discussing AGD and chemicals like BPA, but what if the correlation has more to do with something simpler, like temperature? If a man has a larger AGD, wouldn’t his scrotum hang further away (or down, rather?) from the body? That would decrease scrotum temp and keep the sperm healthy.

  16. I, too, am interested in the origin of this usage of the word “taint.” The first time I heard it used was on “The Daily Show” (by Rob Riggle, I believe). At that time I looked it up, but could find no authority for this usage. Did it originate with “The Daily Show?”

  17. Probably like many others, I had to check this out for myself. It turns out that it’s a little hard to decide an exact point where one of the ends of the measurement should lie (the other is fairly obvious), but I’ve happy to say that I’m very comfortably over the median length of 2″, under which the article says is the danger zone.

    @jrlogue: I first heard taint in college, seven or eight years ago now.

    @penguinchris: it sounds to me like you’d be very surprised at what some people talk about. I probably hear the word “taint” two or three times a month, and I seem to hang out mostly with young professionals and high school teachers.

  18. Oh come on. People were using “taint” to refer to the perineum well before The Daily Show and The Colbert Report had their running gag with it. It’s far more common than “grundel” or some of the other terms posted in this thread.

  19. I’m a bit of a word nerd, and I have known this definition of “taint” long before anyone mentioned it on this thing you call TV. As far as chode, or choda – as the Slavs on the Iron Range said: it hangs down in front of your taint.

  20. My first encounter with the word was its use in the UK TV series ‘Queer as Folk’, where it was so called because ‘it ain’t the balls and it ain’t the ass’. So it was in use easily as early as ’99 for the male perineum.

    When used in my area of the UK, it can refer to either male or female perineum, though I find it used more frequently to refer to the male. This may just be due to men in my culture more likely to speak about their genital zone in slangy terms, but that’s just a guess.

  21. I like to imagine the college students who signed up for an “AGD” measurement study, arriving at the study and finding out what, exactly, the scientists would be measuring.

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