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Health journalism is probably about the only beat where you can legitimately ask all sorts of questions about sex without them coming off as salacious or sleazy.

And yes, I’ve done a few sex-related stories in my time on the health beat, all in the name of education and awareness (seriously!).

While this particular article was on a fairly serious issue that is probably not as well known as it should be – sexual dysfunction caused by uncontrolled high blood sugar levels – I was certainly amused, bemused and much educated on the side during the interview with a well-known consultant clinical andrologist.

The interview was conducted at the consultant’s clinic, which – like many doctors’ offices – had various educational material and props strewn around it.

The first prop that caught my eye, as it was sitting on the table right in front of me, was the one showing the four grades of erection.

Without hesitation (hey, it’s my duty to be educated about all health-related matters), I reached out and felt each of the plasticine buttons representing the different grades, which ranged from large but not hard to completely hard and fully rigid (And yes, dear future husband, I do remember how hard, or not, each grade is).

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The consultant may have been amused, or impressed, by my lack of shyness, as he showed me what appeared to be a huge necklace of oval-shaped objects.

The smooth ovoids were in ascending (or descending, depending on your perspective) order of size.

This, he told me, was an orchidometer, a medical device used to measure the volume of the testicles.

I thought the largest one was big enough, but he told me that there are actually orchidometers with a couple of even larger extra ovoids typically used for men of Middle Eastern origin.

Malaysian men, depending on ethnicity, tend to range around the middle of the spectrum.

As an experienced and sought-after expert in men’s sexual health and infertility, the consultant had lots of anecdotes to share during our interview.

Most of them were off-topic, and thus, did not end up in the final article. However, there was one particular anecdote that stood out for me.

It is one of those tales that is both tragic and funny, and sadly, reflects a lot about our society’s still–old-fashioned perception of manliness and fertility.

A couple had come to see the consultant as they had been unable to conceive despite being married for years.

It was expected that the wife would be the one undergoing all the necessary fertility tests, as it was assumed – unspoken – that she was the one with the problem.

However, the consultant gently insisted that both the husband and wife should be tested.

The husband, a well-built macho man, grumblingly acquiesced, certain it was a waste of his time and money as the problem could not possibly be his.

When the test results came back, it turned out that it was indeed he who was infertile, and unfortunately, his condition was not one that could be treated or reversed. This was a man who would never be able to sire his own children.

Sex, orchidometer, sexual dysfunction, fertility, infertility, testicular size, health journalism, Star2.com

The consultant showing the normal sizes for Asian male testicles with an orchidometer in a filepic.

To put it mildly, the husband did not take the news well.

He eventually stormed out of the consultant’s clinic with his wife and vowed never to come back to see the doctor again.

So, it was much to the consultant’s surprise that about a year or two later, he received a phone call from the husband.

The man had called to gleefully inform him that he and his wife had had a baby, and to crow about the huge mistake the doctor had made.

In disbelief – for the test results had been unmistakable – the consultant pulled up the couple’s records and reviewed them.

He even asked his fellow consultants to review the case to see if he could possibly have made a mistake. All were agreed that he had been accurate in his assessment.

Unsettled, but unable to see how to further pursue the matter, the consultant let it go.

But a year or so later, when the husband called to announce baby number two, the consultant was determined to get to the bottom of the matter, so he called and tactfully  asked the wife how exactly she had conceived her children.

At the consultant’s persistence, she tearfully admitted that she had resorted to sleeping with another man in order to have the children her husband so wanted.

In recounting this story to me, he did not reveal any information about the couple other than what has been told here. It was truly one of those “don’t know whether to laugh or cry” stories.

From The Vault is a fortnightly series that takes readers behind the scenes of memorable interviews and assignments our journalists have experienced.

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