It was difficult to determine the right cover for this special issue. The purpose of the issue was to encourage new ways of thinking about the phallus, and the aim was to find an image that did just this—ask people to wonder what the image is telling us. What does it represent? What is the story? It is perhaps ironic that the image we found most appealing is a device designed to prevent a penis from functioning. In the late nineteenth century, masturbation was believed to cause mental illness, and solo ejaculation was considered a form of sexual dysfunction, and this is one example of many, often brutal, devices created to physically prevent erections and masturbation. Sitting over modern blue jeans, however, the image is erotic and evokes BDSM or kink culture. The old and the new, repression and eroticism, are one and the same.
Andrea Waling and Jennifer Power
Guillaume Dustan and the Poetics of Materialization
French writer Guillaume Dustan sparked rampant controversy in the 1990s and early 2000s because of his views on barebacking—practicing unprotected sex—as an irresistible prohibition and a duty to his serostatus. In Oeuvres I, a collection of three novels, all published between 1996 and 1998, Dustan explores his seropositivity through a text engorged with pleasure, sadomasochism, and desire. I contend that, in the encounter with the phallic text, the reader engages in an act of linguistic barebacking, taking in the author’s raw language as it becomes a site for erotic power and reproductive seropositivity. I will consider the seropositive text as a body that resists the latex, that cruises an unidentified reader, and that unapologetically penetrates them with the erotic qualities of its language.
Frank G. Karioris, J. Daniel Elam, Rupali Francesca Samuel, Marco Wan, Alvin K. Wong, and Danish Sheikh
The Journal of Bodies, Sexualities, and Masculinities is honored to present this book forum on Danish Sheikh’s recent collection Love and Reparation: A Theatrical Response to the Section 377 Litigation in India (2021). The book is a pair of plays or performance pieces that each, in their own way, address the worlds created in the interstice between law and the lives of queer people.
An Exploratory Study
Spermarche (first penile ejaculation) is a physiological event that many boys experience as part of the onset of puberty. However, there is little qualitative research on how they themselves experience and interpret it. Based on interviews with 26 Taiwanese men, experiences of spermarche occurred due to: (1) sexual behavior; (2) nocturnal emission; (3) naïve self-exploration; and (4) masturbation were identified and examined. Findings reveal that ejaculation was experienced as a complex and dynamic process with diverse emotions which were entangled. In addition, it was understood not just as a biological phenomenon, but there are broader social, cultural and medical discourses that shape how these men feel and reflect on their first ejaculation experience. In the end, the contribution of this study to the research field of spermarche is suggested.
New Understandings of the Phallus
Andrea Waling and Jennifer Power
This special issue brings together interdisciplinary work exploring the relationship between bodies, masculinity, and the penis or phallus. The symbolism, significance, and meaning of the phallus or penis has varied historically and across disciplines. In the psychoanalytic tradition, “the subject…can only assume its identity through the adoption of a sexed identity, and the subject can only take up a sexed identity with reference to the phallus, for ‘the phallus is the privileged signifier’” (Segal 2007: 85). Jacques Lacan’s work has inspired feminist critiques of “phallocentrism” in high and popular cultural texts since the 1970s (Segal 2007). Elizabeth Stephens (2007) describes the ancient Greek ideal of small penises as indexing self-control and rationality, while the Romans celebrated virility and power, which they associated with a large penis. Other scholarship has explored the racialization of penis size, such as the stereotype of Black men as possessing large penises, indexing hypersexuality and often depicted in racist terms as representing aggression or lack of civility (Lehman 2006).
This article focuses on the place of phallus/penis in the practice of brahmacharya, the Hindu concept of celibacy. Contrary to the supposed irrelevance in the ascetic sphere, the article argues how brahmacharya seeks to embody the potent concept of the phallus. In following the ontological turn, this article seeks to move away from the notion of phallus as only a representation or a symbol; to rethink the concept in its relation to penis in order to argue for an embodied idea of phallus and the theoretical possibilities it garners in the sphere of asceticism. Engaging into an ethnographic study in the “ascetic” spaces of bayam samitis (traditional gyms) and akharas (place of wrestling), the article seeks to understand the phallus through the everyday bodily practices of brahmacharya in an attempt to argue how men’s efforts to embody the phallus is aspired for and constantly undermined in these austere everyday practices.
While visual eroticism is an accepted theme in cinema, the penis is still the last frontier of representation onscreen, either covered from the gaze of viewers or coated in phallic status in its rare representations. This article explores a rupture with the mythic penile representations in cinema within the recurrent scenes of full-frontal male nudity in Steve McQueen’s Shame (2011). Through generating a space between the corporeal penis and the abstract phallus, Shame foregrounds the untold vulnerability and volatility inherent in the supposed rigid heterosexual position of male sexuality. The research highlights such a shift in the phallic visuals of male nudity and its implications for a possible alteration in the significance and function of the penis.
Authenticity, the Alt-Self, and New Understandings of the Phallus
Chris Ashford and Gareth Longstaff
Law arguably shapes contemporary culture and phallic politics. In England and Wales, like much of the Global North, the second half of the twentieth century and early twenty-first century saw a general shift from a criminal legal framework that understood sexuality as sexual acts to a civil law framework that seeks to privilege institutions - notably marriage - and lifestyle as signifiers of sexuality. This article contributes to legal and cultural understandings of the phallus, specifically the “raw dick,” as key to understanding the self-representational spaces of “authentic” and “alt” selves on social media. It situates the “raw dick” as the locus of this cultural, legal, and social exchange in which the legal outlaw of male phallic desire has been incorporated into queer citizenship. We argue that the aesthetics of the alt-self provides us with new and important ways to understand the phallus and its relationship to sex and sexuality.
Trajectories of Young Gay Men in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
Wendell Ferrari and Marcos Nascimento
This paper seeks to analyze the affective-sexual trajectories of young gay men in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Based on qualitative research with 15 young, urban, low-income gay men aged between 19 and 24, carried out in 2019, this article shows the learning of masculinity and its consequences on the men's sex lives. As a result, we argue that these young men have been brought up for the exaltation of heterosexuality and being a real man since boyhood; that the pedagogies of masculinity produce hierarchies among gay masculinities; and that the connection with other social markers, such as race, social class, religion, sexual preferences related to being active or passive, and gender expressions, upholds the notion of hegemonic masculinity. Regarding those who escape this pattern, these young men reveal several vulnerabilities and multiple violent acts during their trajectories.
Black Girls as Creators, Subjects, and Witnesses
Erin M. Stephens and Jamaica Gilmer
The bus was full of excited chatter as it pulled up in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (known universally as The Met) on Fifth Avenue on a cold morning in January. Thirteen girls, along with invited loved ones, had traveled for nine-and-a-half hours from Durham, NC, to view their art displayed in the exhibit, “Pens, Lens, and Soul: The Story of The Beautiful Project” (hereafter, “Pens, Lens, and Soul”). First, the girls filed off the bus to take a photograph on the steps of The Met. As their family and friends waited to disembark, they laughed and shivered while posing for numerous photographs and videos on the cold steps. As they stood at the bottom of the steps of the grand prestigious museum, the impressiveness of their accomplishment was just beginning to dawn on many of them. As she walked around the exhibit one of the artists would comment, “I feel surprised because I didn't realize it was this big of a thing and I was here and it's a thing, it's a big thing … we are capable of doing anything.”