The business of penis enlargements through traditional medicine is booming in Johannesburg and Nigerians are leading the way with penis size, followed by Vendas and Tsongas who are also "well-endowed".
That's according to respondents in a University of the Witswatersrand study that was presented at the university's Body Knowledge International Conference at the beginning of September.
However, according to Nigerians, it's their sexual performance, rather than the size of their penises, that make them sought-after partners by South African women.
One respondent said: "There's a saying in my country that you can put a small pepe [chilli pepper] in your mouth, but it can make you open your mouth for the next 30 or 40 minutes. Some penises are small, but what they do there is more than what the big one is doing."
We interviewed 65 men and women, and five sellers of penis enlargement products — three from Uganda, one from Tanzania and one from Kenya — who operate on the streets of Johannesburg. We wanted to find out how products are selling, whether people thought they worked, how much importance interviewees' attached to penis-size and how Johannesburg is responding to penis enlargement advertisements on lamp poles and dustbins.
Our findings revealed that such a penis enlargement could cost you anything between R200 and R1 500, depending on the "strength" of the "medication", which comes in the form of lotions, powders, oils and tablets.
None of our respondents seemed to care much about a "medium"- sized penis. Attention was on the extreme ends of the scale — big and small. But neither men nor women could give a numerical measurement of what constituted a big or a small penis.
Forty-two percent of the respondents were of the opinion that the "medicine" works, 7% were not sure, and just more than half (51%) were convinced the products don't work at all.
Only one person knew someone who had used these products with no result.
"How do men know their penises are small?"
Finding "users" to interview, however, proved futile, perhaps owing to the stigma associated with having a small penis.
Asked whether they thought there were people in need of penis enlargements, almost all the respondents said yes and described such people as having small penises or failing to satisfy their sexual partners, or both.
How do men know their penises are small? According to male respondents they compare their penises with others at urinals, in showers or anywhere else where they get a chance to glance at other men and conclude that they are not as well-endowed.
Some said women often volunteer this information, especially when a relationship is coming to an end.
When they were asked to speculate about under what conditions a man would look for an intervention such as a penis enlargement, almost all male respondents cited desperation to please a woman and thereby have a stable relationship.
Stopping women from ukudelela — taking men for granted or looking down upon them (sexually) by not "feeling" the man — was also given as a reason.
Female respondents did not seem to be bothered about the penis enlargement posters.
On the other hand, men's responses ranged from fascination to worry, indignation and anger.
Some South African men said the posters were the work of foreigners and they hated the posters because they were indecent and made the city dirty.
The penis enlargement business is "good"
Sellers of penis enlargement services said business was "okay" and "good". One said he had bought the car we were driving around in during our interview with profits from his business.
Sellers believed their products were effective except, as one pointed out, on men who had been "ruined by Men's Clinic" injections and tablets.
One said the effect of his medicine was immediate whereas the other four sellers gave answers ranging from a few days to some months.
Three of the sellers offered a money-back guarantee in the event of customer dissatisfaction.
Clients included all nationalities. There is a delivery service for those who request it.
The ubiquitous presence of penis enlargement adverts puts the spotlight on the male body, focusing on an organ widely regarded as the very seat of manhood.
By suggesting a need to enlarge the penis, the posters bring up thoughts of male vulnerability, as seen through the fact that most of the posters advertise penis enlargement alongside finding a "lost lover".
It was not surprising to us that certain key attitudes and thoughts associated with penis size and successful manhood emerged during this study. South African men were of the opinion that "foreigners" are "crazy" about South African women because they find them "more beautiful than women from their countries" and some foreigners sexually impress South African women (with their big penises) to get South African "papers".
Foreign men insisted South African women were after them because of their sexual stamina and ability to provide companionship.
Most men agreed that, when it came to penis size, Nigerians were in the lead. However, most Nigerian respondents cited sexual stamina, "care" and material comforts as reasons why women are drawn to them.
Some women said they were tempted to try "big" ones and that "big" was not the preserve of Nigerians – Vendas and Tsongas were said to not do badly with size either.
Female respondents said small penises were "like a teaspoon in a big coffee mug" or "as small as my little finger".
Some were more expressive, saying: "Yes, there is small. You ignore it when it's not erect and think 'it's coming' [growing bigger as it becomes erect] and then it grows and you're like no … where's the rest of it?"
Another respondent commented: "A friend once told me she had a boyfriend with a small penis. When it gets in and she coughs, then it's out. She left him."
Big "like a shovel"
All men agreed that there was a big size. Some described it as "like a shovel", "like this" (showing a forearm and wrists) or "like that of a donkey".
Men with big penises were feared because they could moshela other men (irretrievably spoil or damage their women). A few women said they had had sex with Nigerians, but some said that big penises can be painful during sex.
So, what makes Nigerian men perform so well? A wholesome diet of "Nigerian food" as opposed to a Southern African diet that often kills the libido, according to Nigerian respondents.
Three things to avoid, some Nigerian men said, are too much sugar, fat and alcohol, all of which can "kill" a penis.
One Zimbabwean remarked: "If South African men are giving you hell, you can take it out by pleasing their women."
Although most men believe that "bigger is better", Nigerians focused on their sexual stamina and the way they take care of women. In this case, care meant love and financial support.
According to Nigerians, they were not stealing anyone's women — the women were choosing them. Why? Because they strongly suggest that sex, love and money go together.
It would seem that manhood is not, for the most part, about the size of a man's penis, but what he does with it and what he offers in exchange.
Thabisani Ndlovu is the deputy director of the International Human Rights Exchange Programme at the University of the Witwatersrand and Maxwell Kadenge is a lecturer in linguistics at the same university.
[This story was originally published on 27 September 2013]
Have something to say? Tweet or Facebook us on @Bhekisisa_MG
[From our archives] The boys who lost their manhood
This doctor returned to his home town to live, love and heal.
Work at a non-profit media house? Then you know your job is not just reporting anymore.
Until now, the national and provincial health departments have not been able to say where services are provided. Here's how we found them.
Bhekisisa means "to scrutinise" in Zulu
In South Africa, Zulu patients who would like to be thoroughly assessed by a doctor, would ask the physician to "bhekisisa" them.