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Warning: This critique contains several cheap, childish penis references, many of which could be considered unsuitable for younger readers and even some adults. Therefore, if you find any of the following words even the slightest bit offensive—or if you still eat glue on a regular basis—please read no further: prick, peter, pud, pole, peeper, dong, dick, drill, dingus, shlong, sausage, salami, hog, hogan, hardhat, Cap’n Willy, Cap’n Jack, Ol’ Johnny One-Eye.
Despite the solemnity of the penis’s primary functions, the male reproductive organ, as many of you are undoubtedly aware, is quite ridiculous in appearance. Whether erect or flaccid, the penis’s dangling, buoyish movements and its sentry position over the equally laughable testicles beg to be mocked—preferably, most men will agree, after coitus. However, chuckling at the johnson does facilitate relations between the sexes; in the long run, mockery of the bopper below benefits all of us.
Unfortunately, in Margaret Gore’s new maintenance book for one’s manhood, The Penis Book, the aforementioned appendage is actually revered and praised as something never to be laughed at. This missed opportunity at relieving tension with the occasional penile punch line—Gore has obviously never enjoyed the comedic stylings of Mr. Buddy Hackett—makes Penis a complete malfunction, a slim, unsmiling book that plays out like a boring high-school health class—except moonlighting gym teacher Mr. Coover isn’t there to snicker at every mention of the word “testes.”
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Even Penis’ presentation lacks creativity. Gore, an Aussie health writer who has served as a consultant to the National Social Issues Committee of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, breaks matters down into 10 predictable and dry chapters, including “The Plumbing—How the Penis and Testes Work,” “What You Should Know About HIV/AIDS,” and “Sex as You Grow Older.” Gore tries to pick up the pace by dispelling myths surrounding the cock, but those attempts are old and tired, too: “I’ve got a dick that’s two feet long, hard as steel and can go all night” (yeah, yeah, Sorority Sex Kittens 3. Been there, done that) and “Men are always ready for sex” (ESPN, six times a day, check your local listings).
Making penile ownership sound even more like a frightening burden, Gore blows the delivery of fact-friendly reassurances like the following:
Wearing tight underpants and jeans can prevent the scrotum from keeping the testes at the proper temperature for making sperm, which can affect your fertility. Also, tight clothing doesn’t allow proper ventilation for your genital area and the subsequent hot and sweaty conditions can leave you prone to rashes and thrush. So be sensible about what you wear.
Flaccid penises do vary in size, but the difference evens out substantially when the penis becomes erect. Studies in America and Japan have revealed that the average-sized erect penis is about 13.5 centimetres. One study in Japan showed that out of 2300 men who were measured, only six were under 9 centimetres and only six recorded 20 centimetres.
Great, Margaret, some kid’s trying to measure up to the guy showering next to him, and you’re confusing the poor bastard with the metric system! Show some life. Show some humor. Show some warmth. Better yet, show some pictures.
Penis’ largest section is devoted to sexually transmitted diseases, but Gore gives us nothing more than dictionary definitions and a schoolmarmish slap on the wrist. Come on, I don’t care who you are, when you’re talking about scabies—am I the only getting chills?—you gotta pull some punches.
With the exception of such vocabulary builders as “Cowper’s glands” and “gynaecomastia,” even the Penis-ending glossary is loaded with mundane terminology like “hard-on,” “jerking off,” and “come.” (Hell, thanks to 24-year-old sixth-grader John Hickey—and Pamela Sue Martin on the first season of Dynasty—I knew all about those terms before I hit my teens.) No matter how old your penis is—be it 5 or 50—there is nothing useful to learn about it in Gore’s icy manual. Penis, after showing promise with a titillating title, turns out to be a limp noodle indeed.
(Just in case you were curious: Cowper’s glands produce some of the fluid that dribbles from the penis prior to ejaculation, while gynaecomastia is the temporary enlargement of a prepubescent male’s breasts. There, now you definitely don’t have to buy the book.)