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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in phallus

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Actually, Just a Shower

Ah, the hazards of being pagan.

My friend is decrying overgrown vegetables. As by far the best cook in our group of guys, he's earned the right to opine.

“Best rule of thumb,” he says, “is never to eat a zucchini bigger than your own dick.” This gets him a laugh.

I ask the obvious question.

“Hard or soft?"

The two of us have known one another for years. We've been to lots of skyclad rituals together.

He grins.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Jesus with a Boner

Check out Peter Paul Rubens' 1615 (?) painting Christ Risen.

Note the prominent morning boner.

The Renaissance was the time when Pagan Antiquity saved the Christian West from itself. (Even dead and buried, those old pagans still have the power to impart new life.) Inspired by the nude gods of the Ancient World, Christian art suddenly took on a fleshy quality that it had never theretofore known.

(Some critics would see a betrayal of Christian message in the implied eroticism of this artistic en-flesh-ment. Since embodiment—incarnation—lies at the very heart of the Christian story, to this sympathetic pagan at least this would seem an invalid critique; but perhaps the inherent contradiction lies in Christianity itself.)

Since the Resurrection is never narrated in the gospels, it took a long time for it to be depicted in art; before the Middle Ages, artists tended to treat the Resurrection by allusion rather than direct depiction.

As an artistic problem, it's an interesting one. How do you show a dead person coming back to life?

What Rubens has done here—logically enough, really—is to show it as a waking from sleep. Still wrapped in his grave sheet, Jesus is just sitting up in bed. As for the morning boner, well, that's just male physiology, and kudos to Rubens for having the testicular fortitude to show it.

But, of course, the waking erection is more than that. It implies a virility more appropriate, one might think, to the fertility gods of antiquity, to the Green Men of the world (in whose honor we speak of “wood”) than to the “pale Galilean” of so much Christian theology.

Rubens was not the first to depict Jesus with an erection; the motif occurs earlier in Flemish and German art—notably in the paintings of Van Heemskerck—as a daring articulation of the implications of Incarnation in, not just human, but in male human form (109).

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Rubens was a prolific guy.
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I majored in art history back in college. I don't remember this particular work by Rubens being mentioned at all.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
In Praise of Dicks

I don't normally watch much television, but a while back I saw three shows at a friend's house. What dismayed me so much was not to hear dicks mentioned on every single one of them—I'm gay, I enjoy talking about dicks—but to hear how they were mentioned.

Not once were dicks mentioned as a part of the body. In every single instance, they were used as metaphors. In every single instance, they were used as a metaphor for something bad.

Don't be a dick. Translation: Don't be a jerk.

Dick-measuring contest.Translation: Being needlessly competitive.

Dick-waving.Translation: Pulling rank to get what you want.

Now, using television as a cultural barometer is a fraught and risky enterprise. But all of these metaphors are in general, real-world use, and to my gay, pagan ear they suggest a culture that finds maleness problematic.

And that really is a problem.

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Recent comment in this post - Show all comments
  • Kile Martz
    Kile Martz says #
    Certainly referring to another as a taboo body part is one of the oldest forms of insult. Even today when you call a man a "dick,"
Gimbutas Revisited: A Trypillian Clay Phallus, 4500-3500 BCE

In the cash-strapped days following independence, a trio of Ukrainian businessmen watched in horror as illegal digging and the black-market antiquities trade threatened to denude Ukraine of its historical patrimony. The three began to buy up antiquities before they could leave the country, and so assembled the world's largest private collection of artifacts from the Copper Age Trypillian culture (4500-2700 BCE).

I saw a traveling exhibit from this collection at the Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis in early March 2011. What I saw there forced me to reassess my analysis of the work of Lithuanian-born archaeologist (and feminist ideologue) Marija Gimbutas (1921-1994). Although none of the ceramics in the collection had been excavated before her death, I found that the analytic vocabulary of symbols that she articulated in her 1989 book The Language of the Goddess again and again produced cogent readings of the art.

Let me take one particularly striking example. The not-quite-life-sized (6¼ x 2½ inch) clay phallus and testes (shown above), from the Khmel'nitska region of Ukraine, dates from the Trypillian BI period, roughly 4500-3500 BCE. Above the testes is a small, inset cup; the clay wedge that supports the phallus gives the entire piece a rather droll, and probably not unintended, resemblance to a quadruped. (“I like the kickstand,” I overheard one visitor say.)

Note the engraved “decoration.” Twin spirals adorn the sides of the testes. There are parallel lines engraved along the phallus itself. Rows of evenly-spaced dots ring the top of the scrotum and run down the length of the shaft.

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