That glorious space between the genitals and the butthole is, as most of us know, called the taint. “The perineum,” if you’re fancy. “Gooch,” if you’re feeling frisky. As I’ve written in the past, the taint consists of two compartments of muscle with a triangular sheet of dense, fibromuscular tissue in between. The muscle and the nerves of the region are essential to our bodily integrity, providing stability and support in everything from giving birth to maintaining an erection. But it isn’t just the taint itself that matters — it’s the size of the thing.
I know, I know: The last thing any of us need is another body part to be size-conscious about. But for all intents and purposes, you really shouldn’t be. Odds are you’ll probably never end up in a taint-measuring contest (if one exists please send me a press pass), and even if you do, there’s nothing you can do about it, anyway. The most you can do is measure it — this’ll tell you your “anogenital distance,” or AGD.
Most commonly, AGD refers to the size of the space between the anus and scrotum. Much of the research on it focuses on people assigned male at birth, though the term can refer to the distance between the anus and the vaginal opening, too. Wikipedia also claims it can refer to the distance between the anus and the clitoris, but the photos used on the Wiki look like they’re straight out of a porno, so the whole thing seems suspiciously horny, if you ask me.
Anyway, men tend to have longer AGDs than women. According to a 2011 study in Environmental Health Perspectives, the median AGD men is 52 millimeters, or around two inches. This is where measurements start to matter: Per the study, men with an AGD shorter than the median were seven times more likely to be considered “sub-fertile.” More specifically, they were likely to have a much lower sperm count — around 50 percent less than the average.
Other studies have found a correlation between a mother’s exposure to phthalates (a chemical in plastics) and a shorter-than-average AGD in infants. “Male infants exposed to higher levels of the more anti-androgenic phthalates during early pregnancy have several changes to their genitals that are measurable after birth, including shorter AGD and small penile width,” study author and environmental and reproductive epidemiologist Shanna Swan tells me. “These are correlated; boys with shorter AGD have a smaller penis size.” Swan neglected to say specifically how much smaller we’re talking about here, and there haven’t been any studies to confirm whether this correlation holds into adulthood, but, y’know, still doesn’t sound great.
What about AGD in those assigned female at birth? A 2018 study published in the Journal of Menopausal Medicine suggests that AGD could actually decrease with age or hormonal fluctuations. The study involved measuring the AGD of women both before and after menopause, and researchers found that post-menopausal women had an AGD around 12 millimeters shorter than women who had not yet undergone menopause.
The study also measured participants’ vaginal health index for elasticity, fluid volume, pH, epithelial integrity and moisture, as well as their self-reported female sexual function index for arousal, sexual satisfaction, pain during sex and other factors. The gap between pre- and post-menopausal women in these categories almost perfectly mirrored that of AGD, suggesting that maybe there’s a correlation between lower AGDs and reduced vaginal health and sexual function. This is potentially due to how menopause impacts skin elasticity, cardiovascular function and genital tissue.
Conversely, though, there are also studies that show that women exposed to fewer androgens in the womb have smaller AGDs, and that this reduced exposure correlates with women being more likely to orgasm through intercourse alone. It’s not just AGD that appears to play a role in women’s sexual function, either — the distance between the clit and the vaginal opening is also being studied as a predictor of orgasmic function. As some studies have found, the closer the clit is to the vaginal opening, the more likely a person is to orgasm from vaginal penetration alone.
Again, there’s not really anything we can do about our AGD or the distance between the clit and vaginal opening, so it’s best not to worry about any of this regardless of gender (it’s not like you can permanently stretch your taint to increase your AGD, for example). I probably shouldn’t have even told you about AGDs at all. But I rarely pass up the opportunity to give some press to the gooch, so it had to be done.
Try to carry on as you were.