Big Black Penis: Misadventures in Race and Masculinity

Big Black Penis: Misadventures in Race and Masculinity

3.2 13
by Shawn Taylor
     
 

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How does it feel to be a black man in America? It hurts, but in a beautiful way.

So Shawn Taylor says—and a lot more—in this unapologetic and sharply critical exploration of the hatred and anxiety that American society harbors toward black men, and the fear and confusion that black men harbor toward themselves. Mixing humor, rage, and startling

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Overview

How does it feel to be a black man in America? It hurts, but in a beautiful way.

So Shawn Taylor says—and a lot more—in this unapologetic and sharply critical exploration of the hatred and anxiety that American society harbors toward black men, and the fear and confusion that black men harbor toward themselves. Mixing humor, rage, and startling vulnerability, Taylor leads us on a no-holds-barred tour of his own masculine development: negotiating his young life without a father, getting shot, forming all manner of relationships with women. Big Black Penis, winner of the DIY Book Festival, brings the conversation on black masculinity into the 21st century.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"There are enough twists and curves to keep any reader titillated. [Big Black Penis] gives insight into the author’s inner workings, showing his vulnerability, fear, and concern in full—something not often granted to black men in America."  —East Bay Express

"Truth comes in many flavors. Shawn Taylor's Big Black Penis is a picnic of spicy nuggets. Open it anywhere and laugh with recognition."  —Steven Barnes, author, Lion's Blood and The Cestus Deception

"Shawn Taylor's deep questions and riveting stories give us a lens into our own culture that we desperately need."  damali ayo, author, How to Rent a Negro

"The black nerd has become the locus of pomo literary style."  —San Fransisco Bay Guardian

"An intimate and comically insightful portrait of African-American masculinity."  —Tri-County Sentry

"A great exploration into what it means to be a man in today's society."  —Pop Syndicate

East Bay Express

An engaging read.

Pop Syndicate

A great exploration into what it means to be a man in today's society.

San Francisco Bay Guardian

The black nerd has become the locus of pomo literary style.

Tri-County Sentry

An intimate and comically insightful portrait of African-American masculinity.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781556527340
Publisher:
Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
Publication date:
06/01/2008
Pages:
208
Sales rank:
1,373,888
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.36(d)

Read an Excerpt

Big Black Penis

Misadventures in Race and Masculinity


By Shawn Taylor

Chicago Review Press Incorporated

Copyright © 2008 Shawn Taylor
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-56976-385-8



CHAPTER 1

Penisis

The Genesis of the Penis


I guess the whole thing started with the penis. Not the little cashew that dangled between my legs and that I peed out of, but the symbolic penis. You know, the everything-that-is-wrong-and-harmful-to-this-world-is-shaped-like-it penis. The bullet, the nuclear missile, the skyscraper, the reason that women hate men, the black man's handhold, the almighty scepter of masculinity. When I learned that a penis wasn't just an organ for pleasure, waste management, and procreation but had a whole multipage Wikipedia entry unto itself, I freaked out.

My first exposure to penis power was in the second grade, in my mythology unit. The teacher was explaining how Set chopped up Osiris and sent his various parts all over the place. Then Isis, Osiris's sister-wife, found some of his pieces, got pregnant, and gave birth to Horus. The teacher did a wonderful job of not spelling out how Isis got pregnant. She probably figured that we were having a hard enough time wrapping our heads around the whole sister-wife thing. We second-graders may not have been very well versed in the reproductive arts, but we for damn sure knew that a woman couldn't get pregnant by some nebulous body part; not even a goddess had powers like that. So, of course, we pressed her into giving us more detail. Boy, did she!

"Isis was made pregnant — um — by Osiris's — um — private parts that were found in a — stone pillar." After spitting it out, she cringed as if expecting to be fired on the spot.

The effect on the class was amazing. This is when, in my experience, the gender division began. The girls, those who understood what was said, wore either knowing smiles (with some giggling) or looks of untamed disgust. We boys covered our laps and shrank in our seats, contemplating the power of the pee-pee. After hearing that, I would never be the same. This was Defining Life Moment (DLM) #1.

I am a thirty-four-year-old man, and my penis is still a mystery to me. Don't get me wrong — I know how it works, and I am quite adept in its use (male ego chiming in). But I am still tripped out by the intense reactions people have whenever the penis is a topic of conversation. Like if I call it a "penis," most people look at me as if I had spat on their mother.

"It's not a penis, man! It's a dick!"

Then the conversation turns to something less controversial, like fistfights. This is what happens with my guy friends. My female friends, including my wife, all have little nicknames for "it." Some are cute, like "coo coo," and some are downright odd, like "Charlie Mack." I shouldn't complain too much — at least it is OK for me to speak about my penis in public. If women were this "bold," I bet that most people would either not take them seriously or think they were being sluttish. Major big ups to Eve Ensler for her Vagina Monologues! Do your thing! I think that genitalia, and the baggage that comes with them, should be in the public discourse at all times.

When we talk about the penis, we have to discuss the construction of a man's masculine identity. Yes, I use the word construction because one doesn't just become a man. The neighborhood, culture, economic status, and hosts of other things help to dictate what type of men we become. Masculinity is a construction, and just like femininity it has been co-opted, reshaped, remixed, expanded, shrunk, polluted, and diluted. The fruits of this construction look different from femininity. Men have been, and are currently, in power, and we can spin and manipulate our shit to make us look as if we're on top of it. But most of us are not as put together and confident as we appear.

I can tell you the exact moment when I saw the construction for what it was: a system of imagery and expectations designed to make me feel inferior to all other males. The year was 1985, and I was twelve years old. My friends and I went to go see that guilty pleasure of a movie Krush Groove. All of us were enjoying the movie, and then LL Cool J showed up. This was DLM #2.

As LL burst on the screen, his sixteen-year-old masculine energy forced everyone in the theater to lean way back. He spat those famous words:

Nobody can rap
Quite like I can
I'll take a muscle-bound man
And put his face in the sand

All any of us could say was "Whoa." After the flick, I went home, took off my shirt, and began to flex in front of the bathroom mirror. What an awful sight. You could've laid me on my back, poured water in the concavity that was supposed to be my chest, and let goldfish swim in there. I was not the man that LL was. Hell, I'd probably never be that. That shit looked way too hard to pull off, and I didn't yet have the skill set. At least that was what I thought back then. Later I discovered that a man could wear many shapes and could be many things. But first I still had a bunch of heartbreaking lessons to learn.

One of the biggest lessons was that my penis didn't make me superior. Now, don't think that I'm on some my-penis-makes-me-a-bad-boy emasculation shit. I'm not one of those pseudo-Million Man March brothers who feels the need to apologize for things I never did (or would do). This is not where we're going. But our society has a severe case of the-penis-is-good positive reinforcement syndrome. (Not the actual penis, mind you, but the phallus.)

Everywhere we men look, someone or something is telling us that our dangling bits make us kings. Just look at Hollywood. Jack Nicholson and Sean Connery, their collective ages totaling almost a century and a half, are still considered sex symbols. When an actress hits her late thirties, she is no longer sexy. More attention is focused on her acting ability than her sex appeal. And that's bullshit. But there can be only a set number of kings, and we spend most of our time trying to dethrone all pretenders to the crown — anyone and everyone who doesn't conform to our retarded, self-involved visions of masculinity. Sad, isn't it?

This bit is for the females, if any are reading this book. The next time you see an average group of men — not too Banana Republic and not too Wrangler, somewhere in the middle — sneak up close enough to eavesdrop on their conversation. If they're good friends, there is a good chance they are talking about something interesting, maybe even heartfelt. Now, wait for a hot woman to walk past and catch one of the guy's eyes. If you are that hot woman, walk by them, but do it slowly. Walk by slowly enough to hear the shift in their conversation.

One minute these friends are talking about theology, philosophy, or particle physics, but as soon as a female presence enters their orbit, someone in the group is gonna get insulted. This cat is the one the others feel isn't as manly as they are. And this insult usually takes the form of a gibe at his sexuality — sex and sexuality, of course, being one of the few ways men quantify their masculinity.

The vulgarity of these gibes has waned in recent years. Whereas back in the day, you may have heard something along the lines of "You no-dick-havin' motherfucker," nowadays most men have developed a certain refinement when playing the dozens. Most likely, the dozens will now sound like "You don't have any idea how to please a woman." These guys were having a regular conversation, and then, out of nowhere, these insults are launched, landing in a heap in the less manly cat's lap. This poor guy hasn't the slightest clue as to what just happened. All he knows is that his friends just went Judas on him.

The female-energy disruption lasts for moments, a minute at the most. Then the hot woman breaks orbit and goes about her business (which she was handling anyway). The conversation continues at the exact spot where it was broken off. Everyone is back to normal, as if nothing happened, except for that poor bastard whose friends just dogged him out.

If he asks them why they were taking the piss out of him, they look at him like he's a really geeky dude looking through the window at a really cool and happening party. They shake their heads and silently wonder why their friend doesn't get it. Awkward silence petrifies the group like superglue, freezing everyone. One of the guys, the one all of the girls flock to and considered the coolest of the crew but actually the biggest asshole, cracks a dirty or semi-dirty joke, and everyone busts up laughing — all is back to normal. That is, until the next hot woman walks by.

You think I just pulled this out of my ass? Let me tell you true: I was that guy who was negatively baptized by the insults. Believe me, things may have superficially gone back to normal, but we, the insulted, never forget.

We don't gunnysack all of these slights to exact our revenge, although that does come into play in some cases. We hold them in to provide ammo for our auto-assault on our self-esteem. Most men, and I am wholeheartedly including myself among this number, are born to undo themselves. It may not be obvious, but men have the same esteem problems privately that women have publicly — we just don't have as many magazines, talk shows, and self-help groups constantly reminding us of them. Every man, despite the public face he presents, hates one or more things about himself.

He may be going bald early, he isn't the bedroom king he imagines himself to be, he isn't as educated as his partner, he sports some love handles or a big old sloppy gut — I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Instead of working on the areas that we hate, most of us would rather just wallow in them.

Most regular guys wear their sloppy guts like some badge of honor. They strut around, using their stomachs as a shield or a battering ram, seemingly content with where they're at and how they look. While some genetic dispositions may be involved, a lot of these cats are lazy as fuck. They have given up. Society tells them it is OK to be sloppy and unkempt, so they revel in it. The funny thing is that most of them want a thin, well-built woman to put their ham hocks on. They figure that with a thin woman in their mitts, people won't think bad of them.

"Hey, look at that guy! He's as big as two Rosie O'Donnells, but his girl is fit. He must be doing something right."

These poor bastards coast through life being validated by the world at large. They never do anything to combat their weight (esteem) problems. Most men in this situation do something that I like to call The Slide. The Slide is a doubled-edged self-defense technique that men use to become a type.

The fat dude becomes more jovial, always smiling and laughing with people, putting them at ease. He's in pain, but because he's large, he feels that he has to slide into the Santa Claus role. I don't mean to attack "weight-challenged" people. I have had my own issues with weight and am pulling from my own experience.

The Slide can easily be applied to other types of men. Let's take the man who fancies himself a Casanova. Pussy, pussy, pussy is all the guy thinks about. "All I'm doing is giving these women pleasure! They know what they are getting into when we hook up. It's just sex. Just beautiful sex," he spouts. This cat says it in such a poetic way that he almost convinces himself of its truth.

Let a few years of this fastest-dick-in-the-West mentality go by, and see how many damaged and irreparable relationships and people he has left trailing behind him. And Casanova is the most damaged of them all.

You've seen those miserable ex-lotharios. Everything on them is manicured to the fullest, the clothes are just right, the hair is perfect, and the car is the latest and greatest. They are usually funny and willing to do anything at a moment's notice, but they have no real personality.

"I'm coming to get you right now! We're going to Vegas. There will be women everywhere. Vegas pussy is the best, man. Pack your shit; I'm on my way."

He almost has you ready to drop everything, and then you realize that every time you are with him, you have a shitty time. It starts out great, but by the third or fourth hour, you want to put two hungry rats in a bag and put it over his head. He's miserable, and you become so, via proximity to him.

He'll go through women like he goes through pairs of socks, but he's never satisfied. It's as if he is (cliché as it sounds) trying to fill a hole that cannot be filled. With dull eyes and an army of well-worn patter, he ambles about the earth nailing anything that moves. For every dick-thrust, he appears to lose a year of his life, but he'll be damned if he will ever tell you how he's feeling. Real men don't do things like that. They "suck it up" and force others to unconsciously participate in their misery. But as long as he is fucking, he thinks, what the hell, right?

While there are still a few Casanovas out there, they are slowly being replaced by another Slide type: the Sensitive Artist Dude (SAD).

This type sprang up at around the same time that slam poetry and open mics and coffeehouses started to become way too popular.

Not to put this solely at one brother's feet, but the multi-hyphenate, spoken-word dervish Saul Williams is partially at fault. I'm sure he had no idea just how far his influence would reach, but now there are Saul clones running around in art scenes all over the world. This incredibly talented brother has changed his presentation, has expanded beyond his own boundaries, but his clones, the thieves of his artistic legacy, have not. They're still stuck in what this cat was doing five years ago. Fellas, it's time to lay that shit to rest.

Long before Kanye rocked button-ups, cafe poetry dudes were sporting them with the cuffs unbuttoned, paired with tattered jeans or Africanesque fabric trousers. Egyptian musk oil pouring from their bodies, they put flower petals in their pants instead of wearing underwear, and they rocked the mic, professing just how vulnerable they were. You see, vulnerability was the ace weapon of the SAD. Vulnerability is an aphrodisiac to the scores of women who attend poetry and other artistic functions. "Oh, he is so lonely and vulnerable, maybe some good sex will help him to heal." And believe me, if you are a SAD, you can have as much sex as you want. On the flip side, these cats have the most demons.

SADs know they are manipulative, but they don't have any idea how to curb their behavior. They truly think they are doing the right thing by speaking in meta-cosmic terms and comparing everything to a celestial body, but they aren't being honest with themselves. Instead of working through their pain in private, they do it among the masses in order to receive public validation for their pain. The more applause they receive, they more they pick at their emotional scabs in order to "create more art."

It is a nasty little feedback loop of bared pain, acceptance and validation of the pain, and baring more pain in order for it to be validated and accepted once again. SADs have been around for centuries in many guises and in many different cultures, but now it's my brothers' turn to adopt the mantle, and most of us are putting our SAD ancestors to shame.

All this doesn't just come out of nowhere. These are a series of steps that many men climb in order to escape the shadows of their fathers. A man's foundation should be his interaction with his father, but for so many black men, there wasn't one. Men learn how to be men by observing their fathers being men. And our fathers should have been around. Mine wasn't, and his absence left a big impact.

CHAPTER 2

Daddy Complex


I was born in 1972, post-civil rights struggle, post-Black Power movement, right smack at the dawn of the disco era. All of those black and brown fists that were once raised in defiance, raised in unity, dropped and formed a barrier between fathers and their families when I was born. The exit conversation usually went like this:

"Pregnant? I thought you said you were on the Pill. I ain't tryin' to have no kids, bitch. Look, I'll shoot you some bread from time to time, but I can't have no kids. I'm trying to get my head together." Then he would snort a couple herculean lines of coke.

And just like that, like so many black and brown children of the seventies, I was left fatherless. Fathers were a myth where I grew up, a legend kind of like the boogeyman, a tale used to straighten out crooked kids. The word daddy was the ultimate manipulative tool used by project mothers everywhere.

"If you don't clean up your room, I'm gonna tell your daddy not to take your ungrateful ass to the circus!"

Upon hearing that, you'd rush to your room at top speed. Like Irona from Richie Rich, you'd quickly and mechanically put your dirty clothes in the hamper, make your bed, and put all of your toys in their proper places. When your room was at its best, you'd rush outside and wait for your father to arrive. And you'd wait. You'd wait some more, hours, until your mother came outside and put her arm around your shoulders.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Big Black Penis by Shawn Taylor. Copyright © 2008 Shawn Taylor. Excerpted by permission of Chicago Review Press Incorporated.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Steven Barnes
Truth comes in many flavors. . . . Big Black Penis is a picnic of spicy nuggets. Open it anywhere and laugh with recognition. (Steven Barnes, author, Lion's Blood and The Cestus Deception)

Meet the Author

Shawn Taylor is the author of People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. He is a spoken-word performer and writer who focuses on gender, cultural identity, folklore, ancestry, and ritual. His solo performance “Slower than a Speeding Bullet” was selected as the AOL.com pick of the week.

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Big Black Penis: Misadventures in Race and Masculinity 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
God is watching everyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU GUYS ARGUING ABOUT ITS JUST A BOOK FOR CRYING OUT LOUD.DO YOU PEOPLE EVEN READ THE BOOK? ITS SO STUPID OF YOU PEOPLE. GO GET SOME COMMON SENSE PLZ >:(
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Yup
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I AM A MUSLIM, BUT EVERYONE KNOWS GOD IS REAL!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just sayin.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Shut up people this is for reviews not stupid comments!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Number five ura dck
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Of course god is real! Why dont you go suck a bible, jerk!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Jesus Christ is real!! Why do you think there is the Holy Bible and so many prayers! He came once and will come again at the end of the world! And some people have reported seeing angels in the sky! Look it up on Youtube if you dont belive me!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Yeah, the first guy was right. That was a poem written by a heat crazed egyptian slave, not a message from your god. Go suck a science textbook.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ever heard of something called evolution? god is not real and you must have an F in science if you disagree.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
No im not... ssssssshhhh