The Domesticated Penis

The Domesticated Penis

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Loretta A. Cormier & Sharyn R. Jones

- How Womanhood Has Shaped Manhood -

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Book Details
 252 p
 File Size 
 8,446 KB
 File Type
 PDF format
 2015 by the University of Alabama Press  

In these pages, we have presented an anthropological history of
the penis that incorporates evidence from evolutionary theory, primatology,
archaeology, and cultural anthropology. It is obvious that the human penis,
when compared with that of our primate cousins, is unique in terms of its
size, shape, and ability to prolong sexual activity while remaining erect. However,
most discussions of human sexuality and evolution have long ignored
one of the most intriguing aspects of the evolution of the human penis, that
is, the role of female choice. Female choice has shaped the penis, in the process
of domesticating it, and thus contributed to both the biological and cultural
evolution of our species. Moreover, the human penis appears to have
evolved for social sex rather than for strictly reproductive purposes. This
argument sheds new light on the idea that alpha males, being aggressive and
dominant, are able to mate with more females and produce more offspring.
The alpha-male myth is debunked by the weight of data, which illustrates that
cooperation, empathy, and positive social interactions convey advantageous
reproductive success to individuals and groups.

Throughout this book we have emphasized several themes, including the
role of female mate selection with an emphasis on social sex; the connection
between agricultural practices and the rise of penis cults; the connection
between an ideology of male dominance and elaborate phallus imagery as an
expression of male control, in addition to other meanings; and the future of
our relationship with the penis. From a historical perspective, it appears that
the social roles of males and females shifted in association with, and perhaps
as a result of, the development of agriculture. Gradual systematic changes
in food production, society, and culture are evidenced in archaeological, ethnohistoric,
and ethnographic data. For the majority of humanity, over time,
the hunting and gathering and egalitarian way of life was replaced by one of
elaborate food production. Males became associated with ownership of land,
and, in some contexts, of people. Patriarchy and male control of the dominant
political and public social spheres appear to have become increasingly
common after the adoption of full-scale agriculture. Our review of data from
around the globe provides ample evidence to support the notion that deeprooted
and pervasive connection exists between penis cults and agricultural societies.

While our cross-cultural investigation cannot examine all the specifics
associated with each culture, ethnic group, gender, time, and place, we do
find a pattern of cultural expressions, themes, and symbols. Phallic imagery,
material culture, and written records of the past relating to phallocentrism are
abundant. These varied lines of evidence suggest connections between concepts
of domestication, fertility, creation, the legitimacy of rulers, and public
expressions of masculine power. Another theme that appears in many cultural
contexts is expressed as the opposition between male and female. We
see widespread evidence from places as far-flung as Cambodia, Mexico, and
Rome that social institutions drew power and support from phallic imagery
that privileged masculine expressions. Daily reminders of masculine power
appeared in religious rituals, texts, charms, and quotidian domestic objects.

The phallus was also memorialized in elements of the landscape and as part
of monumental architecture. In some cases, as in the Classic Mayan iconography
of the Yucat√°n, shared cultural symbols of the phallus may have been a
response to social and environmental stresses. In places such as ancient Egypt
and Japan, the phallic symbol had clear associations with fertility, resurrection,
and social order. While as symbols the penis and the phallus convey varied
meanings in different cultural contexts, themes of bodily transformation,
male versus female, phallic power, and both the natural and domesticated
worlds are common. We argue that cultures focused on these subjects in the
process of building and sustaining social institutions.

We have explored the way that ethnographically recorded cultural customs
associated with the penis may be understood through the concept of
the extended phenotype. Our review suggests that an ideology of patriarchy
frequently appears when cross-cultural phallicism, rituals, and religion
are examined. The penis is often a significant component of rituals, rites of
passage, and mythological stories. This is evident in the practices of penis
sheathing and modification and in the bullroarer complex. These customs
domesticate the penis by altering it in culturally appropriate ways. Some practices
are motivated by masculine anxiety and perhaps are efforts to ensure
patriarchy and male superiority or power, as evidenced by modes of penis
manipulation and accounts of penis theft and loss. As we have seen in the
archaeological, ethnographic, and ethnohistoric records, phallic imagery and
explicit expressions of maleness are related to male power and social position.
By memorializing critical events with phallic imagery and rituals, those with
power, and even those without power, reiterate the socially dominant role of males.

Although we argue that female choice shaped the evolution of the penis,
in many cultures the phallus has been symbolically associated with power,
masculinity, ownership, and control. Given the likelihood that females actually
directed the evolution of our species with mate selection, the ideological
position of the penis is somewhat surprising. Perhaps in the future we will
follow the lead of our primate cousins the bonobos. Perhaps we will begin to
act on the understandings that making peace is more productive than making
war and that expressions of dominance and power are often less effective than
empathy, compassion, and cooperation.

Table of Contents
List of Illustrations vii
Acknowledgments ix

1 The Human Penis | Why Study the Phallus? 1

2 The Sexual Penis | The Phallus in Evolutionary Perspective 9

3 The Patriarchal Penis | Phallic Cults and the Dawn of Agriculture 45

4 The Cultural Penis | Diversity in Phallic Symbolisms 88

5 The Erotic-Exotic Penis | Phallic Facts and Fictions 113

6 The Domesticated Penis | The Phallus and the Future 132

Epilogue 147
Notes 151
References 175
Index 225

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2.1 “Two Female Bonobos GG-Rubbing”
3.1 Egyptian obelisk, 
Boboli Gardens of the Pitti Palace, Florence, Italy
3.2 Priapus, god of fertility, 
depicted on the wall in the doorway of the House of Vettii at Pompeii
3.3 Bronze statue of the faun in the impluvium at the House of the Faun, Pompeii
3.4 Phallic house relief and fresco located along one of the main streets in Pompeii
3.5 Penis image carved on the street in Pompeii
3.6 Fountain depicting the Roman god Neptune 
in the Boboli Gardens of the Pitti Palace, Florence, Italy
3.7 Copy of Michelangelo’s David statue, Piazza della Signoria, Florence, Italy
3.8 Obelisk in Saint Peter’s Square at the Vatican in Rome, Italy
3.9 Renaissance bronze sculpture of Perseus with Medusa’s head,
Loggia dei Lanzi of the Piazza della Signoria, Florence, Italy
3.10 Harappan seals from Early Indus Period
3.11 Elaborate Shiva linga carving with head motif, 
National Museum of India in New Delhi
3.12 Miniature Shiva linga and yoni shrine next 
to a Ganesha statue in north India
3.13 Shiva linga and yoni shrines are still produced in Asia for the
tourist trade and for purposes of worship
3.14 Ancient Shiva linga and yoni shrine at the 
Angkor Wat temple complex of Cambodia
3.15. Ancient Shiva linga shrine at Bayon temple in Angkor Thom
at the Angkor Wat complex in Cambodia
3.16 Stone phallus at Shinto shrine
3.17 Carving along the Terrace of the Leper King at Angkor Thom
in the Angkor Wat complex in Cambodia
3.18 Painting depicting penises on the wall of a house and gallery in Bhutan
3.19 Phallic drinking fountain in front of a house in Nepal
4.1 Bullroarer
4.2 Phallic cornerstone marker in front of a church in Rome, Italy
4.3 Cerne Abbas giant in Dorset, England