Monday, November 19, 2012

The Following is Rated M for Mature

Penile mutilation is chief among a collection of topics that I am not interested in discussing, hearing about, or reading about. (And lest a charge of sexism be leveled against me, the details of female circumcision are right there with it.) It certainly was not something I expected to find discussed at great length in Anthony Reid's Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce. Yet, right in the heart of this Braudelian examination of the "land below the winds," Reid managed to work in an extensive and graphic discussion of grotesque penis surgeries that were enough to make my...stomach turn. Reid sees these surgeries as evidence of the inverted sexual power dynamic between the sexes in Southeast Asia society, a point which is proved as soon as the reader asks, "Why else would a man do that to his genitals?" In the interest of keeping myself well within the bounds of fair use, I have omitted much of Reid's account and encourage you to read it (beginning on page 148) if you find your appetite whetted by the following description:

The most draconian surgery was the insertion of a metal pin, complemented by a variety of wheels, spurs, or studs, in the central and southern Philippines and parts of Borneo. Pigafetta was the first of the astonished Europeans to describe the practice:

"The males, large and small, have their penis pierced from one side to the other near the head with a gold or tin bolt as large as a goose quill. In both ends of the same bolt some have what resembles a spur, with points upon the ends; others are like the head of a cart nail. I very often asked many, both old and young, to see their penis, because I could not credit it. In the middle of the bolt is a hole, through which they urinate...They say their women wish it so, and that if they did otherwise they would not have communication with them. When the men wish to have communication with their women, the latter themselves take the penis not in the regular way and commence very gently to introduce it, with the spur on top first, and then the other part. When it is inside it takes the regular position; and thus the penis always stays inside until it gets soft, for otherwise they could not pull it out."

The same phenomenon is described by many others...who agree that its purpose was always explained as enhancing sexual pleasure, especially for women. Some peoples of northwest Borneo...continued this practice until modern times, and their oral tradition attributes its origins to a legendary woman who found sexual intercourse without such an aid less satisfying than masturbation.

The same result was obtained in other parts of Southeast Asia by the less painful but probably more delicate operation of inserting small balls or bells under the loose skin of the penis..."they open [the penis] up and insert a dozen tin beads inside the skin; they close it up and protect it with medicinal herbs...the beads look like a cluster of grapes...They make a tinkling sound, and this is regarded as beautiful."

So, gentleman, the next time your wives make some seemingly onerous request regarding their sexual satisfaction, comfort yourself in the knowledge that at least they aren't asking you to nail a spur into your penis or embed a cluster of grapes under the skin.

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