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6/12/2008

Books

THE BIG SALUTE
Four hundred photos of supersized stiffies.

 

If you want a vivid picture of how our culture handles the penis, look at the guy wearing the Speedo.

He’ll be easy to spot – most guys wear trunks as shapeless as that name implies. A hundred women could be wearing swimsuits the size of stamps, but it’s the Speedo that will excite attention, especially if the wearer has any outstanding physical traits. We’re just more used to, and accepting of, women showing it all off.

Aesthetically, the penis often gets the stink eye.

That’s not only unfair – it’s dumb. The penis has an enormous fan base. Penises are beautiful – that’s why we design planes, skyscrapers and Twinkies in their image. They’re cheerful. Can you think of anything more optimistic than an erection?

And they are beloved. It’s crazy that “dick” is a pejorative term when so many of us, whether we have one or not, look upon the phallus with giddy fascination, fierce pride of ownership and/or big, big love.

This big, big love does not require a big, big cock to inspire it – we’re not blowing smoke up your skivvies when we say volume isn’t that important.

If, however, a wang as big as a party sub is right up your alley, boy, do the size queens at Taschen Books have something for you.

The Big Penis Book is a big book (an LP-sized hardcover, 384 pages) celebrating supersized stiffies and the photographers who immortalized them. It’s the follow-up to Taschen’s 2006 hit The Big Book of Breasts, also edited by Dian Hanson, and boasts more than 400 photos of some startlingly major tent poles, including rare pics of “the 13-and-only” John Holmes. Hanson, once dubbed “the most cerebral pornographer in America” by New York magazine, offers us not just the pictures, but also a fascinating history of penile aesthetics and erotic male nude photography.

The photographers have some intriguing insights and stories, like David Hurles, who gives a surprising treatise on his attraction to sociopaths; Lobo (aka Carlos Quiroz), who references his book Exhibition and its message that “the penis is the hidden face of the body, the real face of the body”; and Charles Hovland, who talks about some models wanting to have penis-reduction surgery: “‘Nobody wants me to fuck them,’ they’d say.”

Then there’s the tale of Herman Lynn Womack, “the 300-pound albino publisher” of several “physique” mags who was charged with obscenity in 1960. Womack pled insanity, homosexuality having been defined as a mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association. He kept publishing from a private room in a mental hospital, eventually got to take his case to the Supreme Court and in 1962 won a reversal of his obscenity conviction. The precedent set, Hanson writes, “prohibited courts from judging photos of men by different criteria than photos of women, even if those photos appealed to so-called ‘deviant’ tastes.”

She had me at “300-pound albino.”

You seldom get a book where the fact that it’s a good read is a bonus. The big wangs, however, are nestled within a lot of winning stories, plus once you get past cock shock and start actually looking at the photos, you get a sense of their varied beautiful, campy, artistic and sometimes bizarre aesthetics. The Big Penis Book will definitely be the life of your literary library; for the record, though, the rarity of the featured specimens is clearly noted. Hanson says that Alfred Kinsey found only 1.8 percent of his research subjects came in at 8 inches erect.

And when it comes to attraction, many of us would agree with Lobo: “The beauty of the penis is not exactly size. It’s shape, it’s texture, it’s color – there are a lot of factors” contributing to its magic.

Seriously, guys, it’s not the size of the penis, it’s the man behind it that really matters to us.

(Wait a second … is he gone? OK, gay men and straight girls … get the book and turn to page 232. Wish-list material? Or do you think it would be like trying to fit a dragon in a doghouse? Grab a cocktail. Let’s talk ….)

arts@orlandoweekly.com
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