Size and sensibility related to size are serious issues in all relationships. Perhaps more so from the outside than on the inside because once you’ve settled on a partner, you accept size as it is without quibbling over inches.
When the “size matters” debate took hold of Fictionaut in early 2010, a story of mine was deeply embedded in the process. And now Metazen, my favorite meta fiction journal, has chosen to put said story, “The Serious Writer and His Penis” up for reconsideration as part of its ongoing “Best of” series here. In a novel format, the story is accompanied by reviews written by fellow writers and friends Katrina Gray and Sheldon Lee Compton and an essay by myself (reprinted below) that I wish was shorter…I hope you enjoy it anyway. And subscribe to Metazen, hailing from Canada, where surreal stories and poems appear every day.
Good talking to ya,
Author’s Commentary on „The Serious Writer and His Penis“ by Finnegan Flawnt (aka Marcus Speh), tentatively and reluctantly titled:
“A BATTLE OF WILLIES”
“Ok, will somebody please write a story about this poor guy with the fourteen inch penis who cannot find work?”
I’m not usually very receptive to word or story challenges but this time I responded because: (1) this was Gary, whose online profile picture featured a phallic object; (2) the article presumed an obsession with size that I haven’t found to be true among men – or should I cheekily say ‘real men’? Women I’ve known liked to talk about penises more than men I’ve known; (3) in my six years of sessions with a noted London therapist the size, agility of or secret names for my penis never came up (which could mean that I am in major denial); (4) I considered myself an expert on the subject if only because of my army days which involved showering in the nude with a bunch of battle-ready, testosterone-crazed guys and provided ample opportunity for comparing theirs and mine; (5) I think few things are funnier than genitals – no matter from which viewpoint – there’s nothing sexier than shared humor and I’m a sucker for humor in the bedroom and beyond.
I don’t know much about the context. I haven’t researched the history of sexuality, I’m quite daunted by the very idea. My impression is that this whole area of gender relations and genital references is overwrought in a way that can only be understood when you consider that the solid silence on what’s hanging below the belt has lasted for around 2000 years while the still shaky desire to address these slippery matters publicly is as young as the joint bathing of women and men (forbidden in the UK until 1901).
I presume that, if the 19th century had enjoyed an open dialogue on not only the size but the shape, color, mode of attachment, use etc. of penises and, of course, I hasten to add, on the corresponding(?) female genitalia, much of what Freud wrote, and Nietzsche before him, would have been neither necessary nor possible – my story included, because the last paragraph contains a quote by Nietzsche, distorted in that I replaced the word “history” in the original by “personality”. Since a lot of history (though not all of it) comes down to personality, I believe I ought to be forgiven for that. And, of course, personality does not depend on size either.
But without the 19th century insisting on its “Verklemmtheit” (a wonderful German word suggesting a clamped down, clenched self-consciousness), we wouldn’t have had to be liberated by Joyce and Dostoyevsky, and Kafka wouldn’t have happened either, I presume.
I still find it remarkable what happened over at the Fictionaut literary community in the weeks after the publication this story: almost a dozen people jumped on the bandwagon propelled by my phallus piece and published stories using and modifying my “serious writer” character involving any number of limbs and mental attitudes – the by far most successful one being a piece not about penis but pussy instead. In fact, as of today, the “pussy” piece by Meg Pokrass is about twice as popular (in terms of clicks) as the “penis” piece by Flawnt. This could be explained by superior quality, statistically by the 2/3 majority of female Fictionaut members or simply by Flawnt’s absence from the site. The infamous Fictionaut penis/pussy craze of 2010 is most likely an otherwise inexplicable blip of silliness, an aberrant plea for cocky freedom among American puritans, a mighty community gesture.
4. Really, now.
I am sorry to disappoint you if you expected anything qualified by way of commenting on my own work and got a 1000-word ramble instead.
This is how I see it: I live and I have lived the life of a man and I wrote a story about men and women (not surprisingly, all my stories are about men and women and what is, or could be, between them) and having been asked to write about having written it in a prominent metafiction journal I feel as if I’ve given myself a meta brain fuck – because here’s the thing with sex and, by implication, with your penis/pussy: if it isn’t real, you got nothing. Meta gets you nowhere. Bukowski knew all about that.
I’ve just read my own story again and even from a distance I like it more than other stories of mine. I have never measured the length of my penis but I’ve thought about doing it often. I believe what I wrote in the first paragraph and all the story does, in a way, is to give three examples made up down to the women, to underline that one point: what we think of ourselves as (heterosexual) men largely depends on the woman we’re with. That wasn’t as easy an admission to make as I had thought it would be at first. I had not expected that exploring this notion would turn out to be somewhat funny. I had expected it to turn philosophical (hence the tongue-in-cheek reference to Nietzsche). I was surprised and delighted when, in the end, I could explicitly mention the relationship between humour and good sex. Not to talk about sex in a piece on the penis would have seemed like cheating to me, because this episode is about relationships of course, as are penises and pussies, at least if you’re as hedonistic as I.
5. Writing exercise.
You should try this yourself: write about some part of your body. Begin with your nose – actually, too penile for starters. So begin with your hands on the table or under the bedspread…and watch the miracle unfold. Can you write well if you don’t know yourself? I guess not.
You could get your mixed gender support group to discuss the impact on your writing of having one set of genitals rather than the opposite. You will experience defeat in the discussion but it’ll have been worth it.
If anything I would like to meet these four women in real life, though I could totally live without their comments on my private parts, which, in the end, remain as private as anything we decide to write about because as a reader you enter into my fictional dream but you don’t enter into my head. Or my pants for that matter. So writing about penises is perfectly safe though as Nietzsche almost said: „The man who writes too much about dicks becomes a dick himself.“