An artist’s entranced paintings of male nudes and her tender essay on the penis’s strange invisibility in a phallocratic culture.
My mother hated my father’s genitals. She never wanted to see them and even in his underwear she found his body obscene. She yelled at him if she saw him naked in the bathroom, he had to cover up as soon as he came out of the shower. He later told me it was the same, even in private. She would just bear him – let him “do what he had to do”, but she did not want to see anything. In forty years of marriage, she never looked at that sex that penetrated her and had given her three children. More than finding it obscene, she thought it was ugly, stupid, ridiculous. In her mind it was a sort of blunder of nature, a necessary evil, the wrong button sewn on a couture dress. She has never given it a look, nor a hand, and not a single kiss, of course. My father had to prepare it alone, enter alone, conclude alone. In short: make love alone.
Fortunately for me, I did not inherit this thinking, nor was I handed this education in other ways. As far back as I can remember, I always loved to look at men’s sexual parts. At first, out of curiosity, then for excitement, but also for the aesthetic emotions they aroused in me. In all my relationships, I spent a significant amount of my loving time contemplating, flattering, cajoling my partner’s penis. Unlike other parts of the body, I think that penis is always beautiful. Perhaps because it is always true. Far from the intentions of its owner, it can not seem misplaced, awkward, hypocritical, pretentious. It is a kind of pure biological and emotional truth. Erect or resting, there is always something infinitely touching about it. Men’s sex is their proudest and most fragile part, the lyrical paraphrase of their personality, the last sentence at the bottom of a poem which makes it come into existence.
The most difficult truth of the male sex is its visibility. Whatever its status, you can not retract it, it stands there, it hangs, it exceeds. In animals, it fades into bristles and quadrupial recesses.
But the standing position, if you ask my opinion, was created to make the body a display. Of the naked man, one sees only this: look, here is my sex. And behind the sex, the softest outgrowth of all, the testicles’ pocket, the divine balls, the maddening valseuses. That this joyous team is so exposed, and that for thousands of years, we have turned our eyes from it, is completely absurd. I ask only one thing: that you behold men’s personal jewels as you behold flowers.
As for the erection? When addressed to one who it desires, and one who desires it, it is, simply, paradise on earth. It should be photographed, drawn, filmed, written, sung, sculpted… Why do we never see it (except in pornography, which constitutes the dark side of this prohibition) We live in a society which is considered phallocratic (and it is), but where can you see an actual phallus? Nowhere, nothing, nada, the phallus as a penis, as a tender, human thing, not an invincible symbol, has no place. The ancient Greeks would show it, the Asian, the Africans … But we, the so called “Moderns”?
I dream of a society where women make choices and where men are spread naked across magazines … But we are far from this free dream. Already a simple penis at rest, soft and harmless, is more difficult to find than a four-leaf clover. As for the erection, forget about it. Cinema rejects the erection like the plague, fearing it will be considered X-rated, consigned to the shameful dungeon of supposedly sick sexuality. Even Chippendale strippers and others who play the card of sexual arousal, stop at the edge of their string: you can eroticize my body, yes, from the soles of my feet to the biker cap, but not to my morning and evening glory! A strange and disconnected world, where women must rev up to everything except the central motif? Where men absorb the idea that the erection is both an embarrassment, a crime and the lack of it a failure?
An un-remarked on taboo, the erection is an unhappy erection, shivering, disoriented, and finally perverse: there is nothing between the repressed and the pornographic. Women are outraged by principle, men embarrassed without knowing why, and we must find ways of making love despite sex.
I draw these images, of men’s bodies and beauties and by implication, the beauty of sex. I make these drawings as a way of feeling love and making love and showing love.
Who is comfortable with the erection (at any stage) and the moment of rest, is at ease with life. Without this, maybe we should never start a philosophy course.
Elisa Brune is a writer and journalist with a doctorate in science. She is also the author of The Secret of Women: A Journey to the Heart of Female Orgasm and Pleasure, among other books.