Cultural Encyclopedia
Of the Penis
Michael Kimmel, Christine Milrod,
And Amanda Kennedy, Editors

Rowman & Littlefield)
Don't bother to get worked up about this one. It's very academic; in fact, so academic that I managed to go off into Wolkenkuckucksheim not once, not twice ... but thrice: one for each of the three editors.

Here there are essays from almost 100 contributors, including one named Bimbi, another named Alter, and others named Leek, Wilde, Tougher. And a double header: Tuck Ngun.

All these names, I submit, offer a subtle echo-chamber tongue-in-the-cheek counter-point to a stunning dullard of a book. Or is that just my leaky, bimbi mind?

For in these 250 pages, we have 150 or so articles many of which are in the please-spare-me category. Like, "Masturbation" (no more masturbation highlights and tips, please). Or "Penis Envy" (we call it "Freud's Frippery!") Or "Chastity Belt" (nice photograph though and an up-to-date see-thru thick plastic complex, complete with sturdy protective overhang). "HIV/AIDS" (no-no-no! makes us weep). And, at last: "Smegma" (phew! must we?)

Doing my journalistic investigative duties, I dipped in to a few of these sections to see if there were tidbits of new, significant and relevant information. For instance, I knew that "Scandals," once linked to the word "penis," could never go wrong, right? Think of Anthony Weiner, Vance McAllister, and Eric Massa who, in case you've forgotten him, was a U.S. Representative from New York. He admitted groping and tickling multiple male staffers. According to Wikipedia, he stated to Fox News, not only did I grope [a staffer], I tickled him until he couldn't breathe.

Under the section "Jockstrap," we learn that they were patented by one C. F. Bennett in 1897 for the Bike Web Company. They are worn supposedly to keep men's bag-of-tricks from jockeying around too much during active sports. My steady claims that with a jockstrap this jumping around can turn gratifying, an enforced bundling of the pleasure parts as I am bouncing down the street with you. There's my own bundle of fun up here; his sags down there below.

In the chapter "Penis Piercing," we learn that this custom comes to us from the ancient Greeks and Romans, was usually reserved for male slaves of the wealthy. It involves a piercing with a fibula, may have been created to produce another torture for the indentured and the dispossessed. You might see it as spit-in-the-soup kind of anti-sex machine. With this tiny pointed dagger stuck in the head of your weenie, erections become more painful the longer they last. It's known as infibulation and is still practiced widely in Asia where it bears the name Apadravya.

"Eunuchs." The making of eunuchs evolved in early Christianity, a gift of the Catholic. Castration was recommended to holy men in Matthew 19:12 because it was "Christ's identification of the category of those who made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven."

We also spent some time with the chapters that had novel titles, at least strange to our ears:
  • Papal Testicles: Centuries ago, the Mother Church would not accept would-be priests that had problems with their testes. There was a required review of candidates' physical bodies seated on a structure known as the "dung chair." Those acolytes with obvious "genital impairments and those incapable of male potency" were excluded from clerical status.

  • Frenulum is a small bit of skin binding the penis to the foreskin which, as a child grows, slowly separates on its own, revealing the most sensitive parts of what they used to lovingly call "the organ of generation." During circumcision, the frenulum is amputated and the exposed artery often is slashed by mistake. This "is the most common source of hemorrhaging" with the ever-present consequence of a painful death. Welcome to manhood, young chaps.

  • Chippendales. Male striptease that come to us thirty-five years ago via the Los Angeles nightclub scene. The mere waiting of tables evolved into a full-blown stage show with "elaborate routines and a full cast of professional dancers, singers and cast of characters." The clothing was to be slowly removed during the performance with much loud music, dimming of lights, and much noisy ooh-ing and ahh-ing.

  • Meatotomy. The enlarging of the hole in the head of the penis, mainly performed in formal 19th Century Jewish ceremony. After circumcision, due to the unfortunate closing of the site of emission --- which occurred in 5% to 20% of the cases --- a special instrument was inserted to widen the exhaust pipe.

  • Ookie-Cookie. Let's let sleeping dogs lie on this one, especially since it involves juveniles in those weird rites of compare and contrast, snide laughter and vicious sneers. The "goat" gets to eat he knows not what. Welcome, young chaps, to the disgusting frolics of puberty.

In a rather vigorous chapter on architecture, we are told of some buildings that bring to mind images of the shaft and the meatus. In Hindu, Khmer, and Malian cultures, there were "traditions of monumental phallic sculpture on public buildings."

Here, critic Richard Williams has managed to dig up over twenty-five examples from the 19th to 21st Century. Several are included here, but by my lights, the squat number up there above, a water tower in Ypsilanti, Michigan, should win hands down . It was built in 1890, and proves, I think, that our grandparents were of a more prurient frame of mind in their public works than you and I could ever think possible.

§   §   §

There is a section marked "Jokes" but if you pick up this one for laughs, I suspect you'd be better off watching reruns of Debbie Does Dallas or digging up some of your own online dirty joke apps. Mike Lloyd, chairman of the "Joke" department in this volume gives us nary a rib-tickler. We get in its place a typical PhD thesis-style laugh-killer: "Jokes about the penis can span the full range from lighthearted to witty to ridiculous, but still have serious import." O stop it, Mike.

Under "Idioms and Nicknames," Mark Morton offers up thirty examples, of which I found a few moderately risible: "Elmer Pudd," "rumple foreskin," "crumpet trumpet" and one, that takes us all the way back to Shakespeare --- Mercutio's "poperin pear," a Renaissance wedding night bawdy line that just doesn't make it in translation.

I'd like to suggest that if they ever plan to do a second edition of Cultural Encyclopedia of the Penis, I'd like to offer the editors a couple of boffs to keep us poor reviewers from drifting off. I'd like, for instance, for him to include two of my lewd, coarse favorites from a half-a-century ago. They tickled me back then, they tickle me now.

  • Did you hear about the guy who worked in an elephant circumcision factory? He got $50 a week plus enormous tips.

  • Man and woman on their honeymoon. He disrobing, she watching.

    She: "Oh look at that pee-pee."

    He looking down at her, smiling: "Why, darling. That's not a pee-pee. That's a penis."

    She: "Listen, buddy. I've seen a lot of penises in my life and that's a pee-pee."

--- Lolita Lark
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