We probed the limits of nature's smuggle pocket.
Image: Kitron Neuschatz
This week, a Canadian named Lester Lawrence was sentenced to 30 months in prison for stealing more than $165,000 in gold pucks from the mint where he worked. Based on circumstantial evidence like vaseline and latex gloves in his locker, it seems that Lawrence managed to evade the metal detectors by putting the pucks inside his rectum, according to Judge Doody (can't make this stuff up).
The scenario: Now your friend wants to know what he can store up there in a pinch. After all, the rectum has long been a favorite hiding spot for smugglers. It's spacious, it's not immediately obvious to law enforcement, and putting things there isn't altogether unpleasant, if the recreational enthusiasts are to be believed.
The facts: The rectum is the end of the large intestine, the area just after the colon and before the sphincter. The ass's antechamber, if you will. When it's not being used to store whatever your hands can't quite hold, you can probably guess what it's intermittently filled with. It's coated with muscles that the body uses to hold in gas or feces until they are ready to be expelled.
Medical web sites will tell you that the rectum is 6-8 inches long and 2.5 inches at its widest point. But that's misleading: The rectum is designed to hold varying amounts of fecal matter, so the tissue is stretchy.
Emergency room doctors can give us a ballpark idea of how spacious that cavity can be. A doctor writing under the pen name Mona Moore wrote that doctors have retrieved a "12-inch long and 8-inch wide salami" from a patient's rectum, among other surprisingly large objects such as bedposts, doorknobs, glass bottles, aluminum tubes, and a 20-inch-long live eel.
Scientists have tried to assess just how roomy the rectum can get, ostensibly not because of what they do in their time off but rather to understand the conditions that can lead to incontinence. To understand the volume and pressure situations, they use imaging techniques like ultrasounds or CT scans, and inserting a balloon into the rectum and inflating it. But these techniques don't take into account things like rectal-wall thickness and variations in the mechanics of different facets of the tissue, so the results vary too much among patients to give a solid estimate, according to one 2007 study.
What will likely happen if he attempts to use his mobile mini-storage: Your friend could purposely stretch his rectum. But this, like all the best things in life, requires practice. Basically you just introduce gradually larger objects, kind of like gauging your ears. It's probably safest to do so with specialized products. Once you start, there's no upper limit to just how big the rectum can stretch, determined one Popular Science writer.
The worst that could happen: Let your klepto friend know that stretching also comes with risks. With stretching, the signals to defecate will become weaker, which can lead to accidents and leakage, an expert told Popular Science. Push the rectum too far, or introduce too much pressure into the rectal cavity, and you can perforate the tissue. Surgery is usually required to fix that; worst case is scenario is septic shock and death.
The, ah, bottom line: Suffice it to say that, without proper investigation, no one knows quite how large his or her own rectum is. If you are an average-sized adult who has yet to explore this particular part of your own body, it's probably a bit closer to that baseline found in medical textbooks. But if you have utilized this handy chamber before, there's really no telling how spacious it can get.