"Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)
Elliott and the friends with whom he recorded in middle school in Texas (photo courtesy of Dan Pickering)
Hey, did you hear the one about the guy whose penis was so small he couldn’t find a condom to fit him? Well, what sounds like a tired joke is actually the premise of a smart Atlanic piece called “The Challenge of Marketing Small Condoms.” And while it may seem self-evident that most dudes aren’t lining up to buy a love glove that will brand their member tiny, the effects of this lack of appropriately sized condoms (or men with the confidence and self-awareness to buy them) are nothing to laugh about: As the post’s author, Menachem Kaiser notes, 45 percent of men own up to having worn an ill-fitting condom within the past three months. Since wearing the wrong size condom can lead to everything from slippage to breakage, it stands to reason that these guys are putting themselves and their partners at risk for pregnancy and STDs.
So, what to do about the small-condom shortage? We can’t really lay the blame on manufacturers if men won’t buy anything smaller than a “Regular.” And I don’t imagine that many people are fooled by the euphemisms like “Snugger Fit” and “Iron Grip.” As Kaiser points out, there are also disadvantages to making the change that a doctor at the Kinsey Institute recommends: “re-labeling small condoms as ‘large’, regular as ‘extra-large’ and so on.” Guys who aren’t aware of the change could end up buying a box of condoms that’s several sizes too small.
But you know? As part of the gender almost universally considered to be the most vain, I find it kind of amusing that we take it as a given that men shouldn’t have to come to terms with the penis nature gave them. Most women are, after all, notoriously self-conscious about their weight, yet I don’t see anyone suggesting that we change clothing sizes from small, medium and large to itty bitty, teeny tiny and small. What big ladies and men with small penises share, of course, is society’s knee-jerk derision. So perhaps what needs to change, if we really want our protection to protect us, isn’t whether we call a condom “small” or “large” so much as our own harsh judgments about guys’ penis size.
Judy Berman is a writer and editor in Brooklyn. She is a regular contributor to Salon's Broadsheet.More Judy Berman.
Heatmiser publicity shot (L-R: Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson, Neil Gust, Elliott Smith) (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott and JJ Gonson (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
"Stray" 7-inch, Cavity Search Records (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott's Hampshire College ID photo, 1987
Elliott with "Le Domino," the guitar he used on "Roman Candle" (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Full "Roman Candle" record cover (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott goofing off in Portland (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Heatmiser (L-R: Elliott Smith, Neil Gust, Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson)(courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
The Greenhouse Sleeve -- Cassette sleeve from Murder of Crows release, 1988, with first appearance of Condor Avenue (photo courtesy of Glynnis Fawkes)