‘Penis’, a small segment from Robert Horrocks’ book Masculinity in Crisis, delves into the relationship between men and their ‘rhythm sticks’, emphasising the need for self-acceptance and pride. Big-headed or big-shafted, curved or straight, men we’ve seen them all. And, with about 40% of the male population with penises that don’t always function the way they should, it’s about time someone gave the little-man a lot of praise.
“The penis is the source of a man’s greatest vulnerability, and his greatest feeling of power. It is a place from where he expresses love, hate, fear, tenderness, contempt, friendship, disgust, and also a place where he can become completely expressionless, without feeling. It is used as a battering ram against women; as a weapon of revenge; as an expression of love and adoration; it is also a little boy’s willy, a dick, a shlong, the python, prick, rhythm stick, ding-a-ling.
It can be anything. We might say: the penis is the man. One cannot talk about penises separate from their owners, just as we cannot talk about ‘sexuality’ in abstract, or talk about ‘sexual problems’ separate from the problems that people have in relationships.
So men feel about their penises as they feel about themselves: proud, shy, afraid, disgusted, ignorant, loving, hating, angry – the whole gamut of human feeling is potentially found between a man and his penis.
Sexually a penis enables a man to penetrate deeply into a woman (or a man) and caress her (him) there. Thus the penis in this respect is bound up with relating to others: it is a means of contact. But as a baby or a boy, the male finds the penis as a source of comfort for himself, maybe a substitute for the breast, something he can manipulate at will. He discovers masturbation, which again can mean so many things to different men- comfort, company, desolation, lust, fear, love.
Thus the penis is, as it were, poised between narcissism and altruism. It can be used to relate to oneself, or to others. Quite often these two directions get confused, and one hears a woman angrily accuse a man of masturbating inside her during sex. So one can go through the motions of relating sexually but in fact remain completely in a world of one’s own. In that world, the penis may loom large as a kind of fantasy friend, or lover, or mother or father.
The penis is also concerned with performance. It gets erect, remains erect during sexual intercourse and then subsides. But what anxiety is aroused in men about this! The erection becomes a fetish, that measures one’s manhood, virility, athleticism, or whatever. How afraid many men are not to have an erection, when in fact that often signifies something emotionally important: I don’t want to make love, I don’t want to relate to you, I feel afraid, I feel childlike, and so on.
‘Keep your pecker up’ men say to each other – reflecting the desperate need to keen the damn thing erect. Never mind if you feel depressed or sad or lonely, or bored or angry or uninterested – keep the flag flying, make the python do its tricks, hoist the top-sail, expand the gland- what a mythology surrounds penis performance! Mae West celebrated and mocked it in her famous gibe: ‘Is that a six-gun in your pocket, or are you just pleased to see me?’”.
Roger Horrocks Penis (162 – 166).
There is something majestic about the penis; a mix of adoration, fear and fascination that accompanies it. Indeed, Roger Horrocks recounts his own phallic experiences. From school P.E days where he and his comrades were forced to swim naked, where they’d spend the full hour comparing the circumcised with the uncircumcised (which ‘ding-a-ling’ was superior?)…to discovering a freckle on the foreskin of his penis and deciding there and then it was cancer: Embrace death now and enjoy masturbation whilst the penis is still there?
The penis is “a trail blazing-experience”, a source of ready-made comfort. Though, the difficulty comes from claiming the grandeur of the penis; the fear that this in itself is sexist. Ludicrous as it might be because the act of sex is inherently at its best when enjoyed by both the man and woman. A so-called ‘animal beauty’, a power that our civilisation unrightfully shuns. After all, the penis is inescapably animal, primitive. Think with your head all day and wake up early morning and it’s hard. I bet you’re unable to think your way out of that one!
Men today need to reclaim this sense of beauty and power about the penis. Accept the animal qualities within us. Freud says we all yearn for the sheer animal side of being alive, so let’s reclaim it.