Monday, June 27, 2011

Book Review: A Mind of It's Own by David M. Friedman

Title: A Mind of It's Own: A Cultural History of the Penis
Author: David M Friedman
Publication Year:2001
Rating: 8/10
Similar Books: Bonk: The Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach

You gotta love fascinating little bits of history. Take for example this passage, which gives you privileged access to the medieval mind:

Anna Pappenheimer was one of thousands of women killed during the witch hunts that reached their grisly peak between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries . Some of those killed were accused of causing crop failures, others of performing abortions.

But there was one crime that virtually all the women confessed to after torture, beginning with the first "documented" witch to be executed in public, the Frenchwoman Angela de la Barthe, in 1275.

That crime was knowledge of the Devil's penis.

Okay, maybe not such a privilege.

A Mind of It's Own by David M. Friedman follows the penis through Western history, from carnal knowledge of the Devil to the theories of Sigmund Freud to the militant feminism of the late 20th century.

It tells us that the Ancient Greeks idealized the bodies of adolescent boys. To them, a smaller penis meant a more civilized--and therefore more beautiful--man. They engaged in pederasty while the Ancient Romans hung giant phalli wherever they could.

The Ancient Egyptians believed that life on Earth was created through a sacred act of masturbation by the god Atum.

The Sumerians recorded in their poetry the words of the god Enki, who dug the first irrigation ditches, created the Euphrates and the first human baby ---all using his 'shrinky-dink' (as Ned Flanders called it.)"Let now my penis be praised!" cries the priapic god.

The penises of some groups, like blacks and Jews, became emblems for mainstream society's fears about those groups themselves.

Having read this book, I see that this subject could have been handled differently- it could have been preachy, it could have been silly, it could have been disturbing (but it could never have been boring, I'm sure).

Instead, Friedman is intelligent without being esoteric, funny without immaturity and (speaking as a girl) answers questions that you really can't ask a man dude out loud. At least, not if you expect a completely honest answer.

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