It’s perhaps not the most subtle approach to breaking down one of the last remaining taboos of male culture (sorry for the obvious oxymoron) – to wander up and down the streets of London with “I want to talk about penises” on your back – and neither was it the most productive, but you have to give Lawrence Barraclough full marks for trying. The celebrated owner of a shorter-than-average penis (as revealed when he had a plaster cast of it made during his last dick-related documentary My Penis And I) will clearly stop at nothing to persuade men to talk about that most sensitive of subjects – their tackle.
So did Barraclough succeed? Why is penis size such a universally avoided subject whenever more than one man is gathered together pretty much anywhere you can think of? And is this review just an excuse for me to type the word ‘penis’ as many times as possible?
If the size of their penis is such a big deal for so many men, why do so few of us ever talk to each other about it?
You have to admire Lawrence Barraclough’s sheer nerve for even asking the question. I imagine, like me, most blokes watching this programme felt distinctly uncomfortable even hearing the question, even before thinking about what the answer might be. I mean, it’s just not done, is it? As one chap observed later in the film, you learn at an early age when standing at the urinal that you simply do not look.
Blokes are competitive, explained the tame psychologist, whereas women are co-operative. I think the point he was trying to make was that if it was women who were hung up about part of their bodies, they would all share and sympathise, tut and coo and say it really didn’t matter. It’s what you do with it that counts. Whereas with blokes, the very fact that you’re even thinking about talking about it is an admission that you might (only might, you understand) have a small one, and thus you would be opening yourself up to competitive peer ridicule. “It’s HOW big??”
Barraclough chose some strange places to attempt to talk about dicks. First stop was Camden Market, first thing in the morning as the produce was being brought in. “Ey up lads, fancy a bit of a natter about todgers?” If it hadn’t been for the presence of the film crew, this opening gambit would more than likely have been enough to get him a black eye at the least. Instead the traders responded with good humour, albeit accompanied by nervous tics of various sorts. “Nah, fanks,” answered one wag, “if ya want to talk abaht wimmin that’s different, but penises? Nah, I’d feel a bit of a prick.” One couldn’t help thinking perhaps he’d got hold of the wrong end of the…
His next try was the sandwich boards as seen above. Not surprisingly he cut a swathe a mile wide through the crowded streets. “There was a huge crowd here a minute ago,” bemoaned a lonely Barraclough, whose sole interview came from a beat copper no doubt intent on ensuring that there was no funny business going on. It’s not every day you see someone on your beat walking up and down with “PENISES” strapped to their back. And no truncheon jokes, plskthx.
So what is it about penises that makes the average man so hung up? Lawrence turned to the porn industry for an explanation. This is, after all, where most men get their only glimpses of other men’s willies. No wonder then that 85% of us feel inadequate. Our resident doctor explained, in case we hadn’t already worked it out, that porn actors are hardly a representative sample of the male populace, hand picked as they are for their… umm… acting ability.
An attempt to help us all feel more at home with John Thomas by asking four attractive young ladies to model their perfect penis in clay backfired somewhat when they all produced something at least 7″ long and with a girth to match. Even Kinsey’s discredited survey (bless him – he naively let the blokes measure their own erections) didn’t reach these dimensions. He came up with an average of 6.2″ whereas a more realistic later survey where the measurements were taken by trained nurses (settle down at the back there) calculated the average to be closer to 5.9″ Pointing out this discrepancy to the girls, Lawrence was rewarded with an admonition that he HAD asked them to model their PERFECT penis. Of course, they said, something smaller would be okayyyyyyy.
Our intrepid truthseeker next took himself off to Speaker’s Corner to berate the masses on the question of penis size. You can watch a clip of his exploits here. He gathered quite a crowd, but one whose members backed off with sideways glances (“who, me?”) and nervous titters when he singled them out to ask them to reveal how big theirs was. Only one man in the whole crowd was prepared to admit that he too had a small one and had presumably suffered from a surfeit of expectation from those who believe the myth that black guys are better off in the packet department.
As if to prove that there’s no end to the list of places where men WILL NOT TALK ABOUT their penises, Barraclough visited a barber’s shop in Clapham, wherein the customers and staff alike were unanimous in their view that such talk was not a suitable man t’ing.
Shortie Barraclough was at pains to explain that he’d long ago given up the idea of surgery to improve his standing, but he knew a man who had made the opposite decision in (where else?) California. So off he set to hold the guy’s hand through his ordeal. This poor guy revealed how his life had been blighted by rejection, cheating partners, low self-esteem and all because of his small todger. Our man in California found this particularly hard to believe especially when he found out the guy had seven inches. His girlfriend of two months seemed keen on the op though and the nurses in the operating theatre, peering expertly at his flaccid, shaved, prepped penis nodded sagely and agreed it was “a little on the small side.”
So what did his phalloplasty consist of? Look away now if you’re squeamish: sections of fat were removed from his buttocks and inserted under the skin of his penis, which had to be cut and peeled back first. As Barraclough said to camera afterwards: “I sat there watching him have bits of his arse stuffed into his penis and I thought…’why’?” Didn’t we all, mate? Didn’t we all?
Back in Blighty, Barraclough was keen to interview The British Equivalent – the man who, starting with a 1″ penis, had returned no less than three times to have an extension and later “revisions.” Was he happy with the result? Err, no. Not really. And Barraclough suspected that Mr. California, who was still in pain three weeks after the operation, would end up feeling pretty much the same.
Still searching for a way to get men to talk about their most private subject, Barraclough hit upon the photo opportunity. He’d proved earlier that anonymity was a way to break the ice, so he commissioned a website called Snap Your Chap, where blokes could send digital pictures of their own penises anonymously. He then arranged a basement gallery where around a hundred pictures would be displayed, and advertised the “exhibition” around the borough. Although the event got off to a slow start, eventually the barriers came down, to the extent that not only were the men talking about how they compared with the photos, but some of them were even prepared to enter “the tent” armed with a Polaroid camera and offer up their “artwork” to hang alongside the others.
Exactly what this exercise added to the sum of human knowledge remains unclear. But I guess if the show has made one bloke feel happier with himself than he did before, it was an hour well spent. Only one question remains: exactly what do you do with 100 mounted photos of dicks?