Cell Phone Pictures of My Penis I Have Taken
I had a camera for years, but it wasn’t until I got a cell phone that I started taking pictures of my penis. It should have been the opposite. Surely the camera with its depth of field, exposure settings, and color clarity would have been the better instrument to capture a portrait of my procreational widget. To have waited for a zoomless flip phone to take the photo in 240-by-320 pixel glory seems like a miscalculation in hindsight. If it seems that sometimes men are obsessed with doing favors for their sexual sonar towers, this seems like a most unfavorable thing to have done.
Anthony Weiner described his penis as surprisingly large in an email exchange with a woman he’d never met just before sending her photographic proof. This is the only issue ever at hand in penis pictures. To my knowledge no man has ever sent a woman a picture of his penis to prove that it’s more pink than purple. We can only speculate how the controversy surrounding Weiner’s exposure instincts would have gone if he’d just wanted women in various cities around the country to understand just how fully purple it was. You’d be surprised how purple.
This color-obsessed man would be a stranger, but we know a little something about a man who has expectations of others based on the size of his undercarriage. This man is not sharing a unique part of his body but announcing it as evidence of his performative superiority in the one act a man’s imagination can never escape from. A man can think about sex in the same way he can gaze on the ocean, infinitely the same and hypnotically in flux all at the same time. This way of thinking is the constant background noise that connects every meandering thought.
There seem to be two ways of rationalizing this incessant whooshing of one’s sex hormones. It can be either accepted as an intrinsic part of one’s nature that needs no further action, or else taken as a call to rattle one’s scabbard in an erotic quest of self-actualization. If one accepts the latter approach, it follows that a certain amount of saber admiration is appropriate. It’s rarely well enough, however, for a man to admire his own machinery without needing co-signage from a third party.
So then one doesn’t simply arrive at a moment of photographing one’s penis with a cell phone or web cam. One travels to that point by way of thought, experimentation, and reinforcement. “An erection isn’t a physiological act alone; it’s a narrative event,” Laura Kipnis wrote of Weiner’s scandalized unveiling. Thus forwarding a photograph of such a narrative event is an attempt to have the story taken up and continued, and there is no more erotic way to have a narrative reinforced than by relative strangers over the internet.
The first time I took a picture of my penis with a cell phone it was an act of curiosity, to see my sex organ without the warping tricks of mood and first-person perspective. Without a camera between me and it, I could no more evaluate the dimensions of my penis than I could the circumference of my waist band. With a picture I thought I could reasonably discern where in the big-small scale I fit and find some evidence for the insistent fear that I might be who people were referring to whenever “micro-penis” or “pencil dick” came up.
It seems obvious in hindsight, but having pictures of my penis disentangled from my larger self did little to answer these fears. I’d never looked at my penis and wondered if it was micro, but my fear was that other people would. Having a picture got me no closer to an understanding of how other people would react. It seemed to be both reasonably sized and confusingly inadequate, if such a thing is possible. This was the worst of all possible results. I could have bravely faced up to the challenges of leading a productive life while having a pencil dick, or I could have sailed proudly through society knowing I had a maestro’s wand. But what does one do in the middle ground? In either scenario my penis would have been extraordinary, but the picture seemed rather to confirm the fact that it was actually pretty boring–an erection without much of a narrative.
When I thought briefly–very briefly–about who I might send these pictures to for some independent corroboration I saw even more clearly how stupid the act would be. Even at maximum heft and with the most flattering of angles it would still have been an act of reductionism. Am I awesome because of my penis? Consider this as Exhibit A. It seems to me the opposite is true, that, irrespective of size and hue, one’s penis is awesome only in relation to the person it’s a part of.
“But who else is going to fuck me like that?” a friend once said of her lousy boyfriend who, nonetheless happened to have a large torpedo shaped member that slipped inside easily and then filled out dramatically the deeper it went. This question gives body to the root fear of all masculinity. That when confronted with physiological comparison we will have to demure, to decline. I won’t be able to fuck you like that. I can’t, and won’t ever be able to.
But the corollary of a man who has at least the right anatomy to make a case for being able to measure up to what another man has done–further lifted by an updraft of ego and career accomplishment, a YouTube legacy of grandstanding on liberal talking points in the lion’s den of Fox News–where might such a man find the border between land and ocean, penis and ego? Is there anyone who gets off on size more than this man?
In Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, the modern totem to male ambiguity toward coupling, Tereza falls asleep every night holding onto Tomas’s penis by instinct. Tomas is the author of the rule of three’s, a system of sexual encounter whereby he can have as much sex as he likes with one woman during a three week period and then never see her again, or else sleep with a woman no more than once every three weeks indefinitely. It’s a combination of dumb luck, pity, and love that causes Tomas to give up his bachelorhood for Tereza and she instinctually understands just what part of him is least connected to her and so holds onto it the tightest.
I have deleted all the photographs of my penis that I’ve taken over the years. They all appeared like intrusive endlines detached from their histories. The more I looked at them the less I remembered about why I had wanted to take them in the first place, the articulated sounds of thought inevitably overtaken by the dull, repeating roar of the ocean each time it fell into the shore.
*Image adapted by author via Incase
Why Did Weiner Do it? (via Slate)
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