After all the hoohoo about vaginas lately, we thought we’d take a moment to talk about pee pees.
Let’s talk about penises for a moment. I know, I know. It’s not an especially appealing topic for most of us. So let’s ease into it. Before we really dig in, there are probably a few things you should understand about them. First of all, the old joke “Why is a man’s brain so small? So it will fit in his penis!” has considerable foundation in reality. Second, it’s important to understand that 90% of the male population’s behavior is in fact ruled by their penis. And third, in spite of the incredible amount of time men devote to tending to its needs, they seem rather loathe to actually talk about the thing in a serious fashion. In a way, this is probably a rational choice; there is perhaps no other part of the body that is of such limited utility, is so likely to be visually unappealing, and that in spite of its relatively meager dimensions, seems to have a profound impact on human civilization. Consider Napoleon, for instance. This whole issue of men being reluctant to talk about penises came up recently when this ghastly story of an infant in Brooklyn who died as a result of an archaic circumcision ritual called metzitzah b’peh made the rounds. The story (probably because of reason number three above) got scant media attention, and mostly seemed to be used as fodder for hyperbole-driven atheist blog posts and poorly-executed internet memes (language NSFW).
Amongst some people I know though, this tragic event stimulated some conversation about the whole circumcised vs. uncircumcised debate, and led us to an interesting set of theories about why men probably don’t like talking about that topic in particular. The first is the fundamentally brutal nature of the act; in spite of the fact that as teen males, my friends and I always heard the Rod Stewart song The First Cut Is The Deepest in a puerile and humorously different light than our girlfriends and laughed, the fact is, even pondering this procedure is a wince-inducing act for most men. It’s somewhat akin to thinking about the bamboo and fingernail torture methods used by the Viet Cong, or the more evolved methods used by the US military at Abu Ghraib. But once you get beyond that barrier, there’s another whole layer of things going on. Primary amongst those is the fact that until the last decade or so, if you were a male born in the states there was about an 80%-90% chance that you were circumcised. That meant that you could almost reasonably be excused for thinking ALL men were circumcised. You honestly didn’t think about it unless you spent enough time in locker rooms with foreigners, or used a common shower in a youth hostel on your college trip abroad.
The disturbing image and the blog post that started it all.
This has all of course changed, partly because of huge relocation of global populations, partly because of the backlash against circumcision that seemed to first gain traction in the 90′s, and partly because of the wide availability of pornography from almost every country on Earth that has video cameras. So these days, whether or not a man is circumcised has little to do with geolocation, unless the man lives in an area that is primarily populated by people of a religion that dictates the practice.
So this conversation amongst my friends touched on all those issues, but once it came down to specifically talking about the penises of people actually present, rather than hypothetical penises as a cultural phenomena, the tone shifted dramatically. While the women present were quite comfortable expressing their preferences for shod or unshod, making all sorts of tittering or groaning “eeeeyew” sounds as they shared their thoughts, the men remained relatively silent, if in fact they didn’t change the subject to the approaching college football season or recent Olympics events. Part of this is probably because, well, men aren’t particularly interested in anyone’s penis but their own. But I suspected there was something else afoot. Usually, when the topic of penises comes up, men WILL talk about them, at least in regards to the perfection or immense size of their own (or alternately, its tininess, in what one presumes is a clever lowering of expectations). They won’t actually have a USEFUL conversation, but they will at least banter and guffaw for a bit.
I knew that most of the men present knew if the other men were nipped or not, but observed that none of them would reveal their status until a woman of interest to them stated a preference, at which point they became quite forthcoming. So I threw down the gauntlet. No, I didn’t demand a show of, er…hands or anything, but I did ask if perhaps this reticence on the part of the men was based on limiting their possibilities for bagging a potential mate that didn’t already know. After considerable discussion in which the women expressed more open-mindedness than the first time around, the men admitted that yes, although it hadn’t occurred to them, that probably was an underlying motive for their silence on the topic. This led to one of the men finally saying “Alright goddamit, I’m NOT CIRCUMCISED. Big deal!“, which led to a few of the women letting down their charade and replying with a weird chorus of “eeeeeeyeews” and “bow chicka bow wows”.
At the end of it all, I realized I had learned two things:
1.) Like most straight men, I DON’T much care about anyone’s penis but my own.
2.) People are mind bogglingly immature in my social circle
If you happen to be interested in more penis talk, there seems to be plenty on the web. Like, did you know that advocates against the practice of circumcision are called intactivists? Or that there are databases of television references to circumcision, complete with charts and graphs? Don’t scoff; if nothing else, it reminded me of one of my favorite Simpsons episodes.
This space was to be occupied by a picture of a penis, but face it, no-one wants to look at one.