Noah Brand talks about the difficult task of accepting one’s own genitals.
This post is a response to Carlo Alcos’s post “Let’s Talk About Penises, Shall We?“
When I was a connoisseuse of slugs
I would part the ivy leaves, and look for the
naked jelly of those gold bodies,
translucent strangers glistening along the
stones, slowly, their gelatinous bodies
at my mercy. Made mostly of water, they would shrivel
to nothing if they were sprinkled with salt,
but I was not interested in that. What I liked
was to draw aside the ivy, breathe the
odor of the wall, and stand there in silence
until the slug forgot I was there
and sent its antennae up out of its
head, the glimmering umber horns
rising like telescopes, until finally the
sensitive knobs would pop out the
ends, delicate and intimate. Years later,
when I first saw a naked man,
I gasped with pleasure to see that quiet
mystery reenacted, the slow
elegant being coming out of hiding and
gleaming in the dark air, eager and so
trusting you could weep.
Reading Carlo Alcos’s recent piece on penises struck home for me, because like most men, I’ve always been aware of the issue of penises and their size, but there’s never been a way to have a mature conversation about it.
A while back, a lover told me “You have a beautiful cock.” I was stunned speechless; nobody’d ever told me that. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe her, it was that it had simply never occurred to me that there could be such a thing as a beautiful cock. I felt appreciated in a way I never had before.
The fact is, for most men, our dicks are more of a source of insecurity than anything. The sheer prevalence of dick jokes in our culture speaks to the deep uneasiness we feel around the subject; we laugh at it in an attempt to rob it of its power, because so many of us think our penises are somehow inadequate or wrong or weird. And it’s nonsense.
What changed my outlook was a site I discovered a little while back, a place called ErectionPhotos.com (NSFW link, if that’s not obvious), a non-pornographic site that’s just a gallery of pictures of real penises. Unenhanced, unretouched, all sizes, all shapes, just anonymous men of all types and ages being shockingly vulnerable by letting us see their genitals.
The miracle of it, particularly browsing their soft-hard gallery, of the same gents in a flaccid and an erect state, is what a range of normal there is. Looking these pictures of normal penises, you realize how much is normal. Most guys come in pretty close to average size on one side or the other, with some outliers on both the big and small side. They have different angles, different shapes, different coloration, but they’re all normal. They’re all okay.
For me, at least, looking through those photos, I felt decades-old insecurities loosen their grip. It gave me a context to put myself into, a path to accepting my penis as normal. If all these guys had made peace with their bodies to the extent that they could place their johnsons on public display, even anonymously, then why couldn’t I make the same peace?
I have come to believe that part of accepting our nature as men is accepting our own penises, without insecurity, without giggling, without shame. I don’t imagine we can get beyond our weird hang-ups about the subject in one leap, but we can begin by placing them in context, neither putting too much importance on them or denying they’re even there.
Oh, and ladies: try telling a man he has a beautiful cock. If my own experience is anything to go by, you’ll make his day.