A Mind of Its Own: A Cultural History of the Penis by David M. Friedman

02Apr07

I have to say, it’s the title (and cover image) of this book that made me buy it. Also, it was on the bargain shelf of the University book store. All that aside, this book really is great.

First, Friedman is a fantastic writer. Although this book includes a lot of scientific information and jargon, Friedman “dumbs it down” for us lay readers and makes a lot of penis jokes on the way. I appreciated that. He wasn’t too serious about his subject matter, and let’s be frank, penii are pretty funny.

The book is divided into six sections: The Demon Rod (about the penis in religion, both ancient and modern), The Gear Shift (about the penis in science), The Measuring Stick (about the penis in relation to colonialism), The Cigar (Freud), The Battering Ram (about feminism), and The Punctureproof Balloon (about impotence).
I was sort of disappointed that the book had very little information on the type of clothing pictured on the cover: codpieces. The “O” in “Own” encircles the prominent member very nicely, and I think a chapter (or small section of a chapter) on penis-exposing/covering clothing could have been fun. However, Friedman covers the subject of penis-friendly pants and tons of stuff about nudity, so I suppose he figured, “enough with the clothes.”

At points in the first two chapters, I found myself getting bored. I even nearly gave up on the entire book. I’m glad I persevered. “The Measuring Stick” chapter made up for any boredom I felt with the first two sections. This third chapter is fascinating; it’s about colonialism and the white man’s fascination with black ‘nads. The anthropology major in me immediately (forgive the pun) came to attention. I even highlighted some sections to photocopy for my professors!

I tend to enjoy these sorts of books, books with colons in the name. Like, “Ferrets and Hot Tea: My Life in the West Indies” and “Slathering Lotion on the Skin: Ritual in Modern Cinema”. I just made those two titles up, but they might even exist. This book, with its inventive and engaging title and humorous tone, fit the bill for me. When I finished Friedman’s book (which apparently started out as an Esquire magazine piece), I knew a crapload more trivia about penii (it’s not “penises,” okay?) and now my conversations with awkward college freshmen are even more awesome.

And, bonus, there’s a photograph section (glossies!) in the middle of the book!

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One Response to “A Mind of Its Own: A Cultural History of the Penis by David M. Friedman”

  1. 1 Ilya Okunev

    Hey Amanda, I started a sex magazine at Brandeis called ROMP. I should give you a copy.


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