Pornography

The Greatest Appearance of Penises in Film – A Classically Educated List

Editor’s note: Those who’ve been following along from home know that we at Classically Educated truly believe in keeping things eclectic, which is why, along with out usual book and movie reviews, we have also looked at things like secular faith and stamp collecting.  

We also don’t flinch from slightly er… adult… topics, so I suppose it was only a question of time before someone addressed the thorny issue of penises in film.

As I am not an expert in the topic, this one was written by Violett (who takes a page from our regular columnist Scarlett for her nome de plume).

We hope you enjoy it.

 

I’ve seen all the complaints and read the rivers of words spilled about the objectification of women in popular culture.  Fortunately, this trend seems to be, if not reversing itself, at least becoming more balanced.  Anyone who watched the Marvel Cinematic Universe knows that, while some of the female costumes are tight, if you want to see skin, you need to wait until Thor takes off his shirt (which he does once per film, leaving no dry seats in the house).

But what about when you want to see a little more… Full frontal isn’t just for men, but then again, it hasn’t been for a while.  The porn industry is run by women for a reason: the superstars are the gals, the guys are just there to provide something to stick them with.

But that’s not what we’re talking about here.  We’re talking about penises in film that actually mean something.  Not necessarily as sexual items, but definitely something that makes us smile.  Ranked in ascending order of importance.

5.  El Lado Oscuro del Corazón (The Dark Side of the Heart).  This one is a sleeper, but when the characters spend a decent chunk of a film wheeling an enormous stone penis around one of the world’s larger cities, you have to give them a nod.

Dark side of the Heart Penis.jpeg

Honorable mention in the stone penis category goes to The Naked Gun for the immortal accusation, in a list of charges, of “…assault with a concrete dildo.”

4. American Gigolo.  A young Richard Gere bares all, which is a lovely way to continue this list.  A-list actresses are always showing their stuff, and this one brings some balance to things.  Not much, but for 1980, this is a good one.  Sorry for the incomplete (ahem) pic, but we’re building a list of films, not necessarily doing the reveal of the more interesting stuff here.

Richard Gere in American Gigolo

Honorable mention in the A-List actors being naked in films with the word “American” in the title goes to Amercian Psycho’s Christian Bale.

3. Caligula.  This one declares its intentions from the second scene: to be the first mainstream movie with real actors to also feature sex as it really is (well, that last bit may be a stretch considering the fact that we’re dealing with one of the crazy Roman emperors here), but at least the stuff that is supposed to be erect is erect, and everything is used as various deities demanded.

It’s a classic for a reason.  Probably because it shows the adults in the audience sex the way it really looks and pretty much how it will be once they get home after the dinner and the movie.  It treats adults like adults.  (If you watch this, make sure you see the full-length version as there were a couple of cuts intended for Americans who would have fainted if they saw a real movie with real erections in it).

The ultimate irony of this film, of course, is that Peter O’Toole is the major star in it, and that’s not a porn actor’s stage name (I hear that Helen Mirren also became important and actually learned how to wear clothes in later films).

Caligula 1979 film

Honorable mention has to go to 9 Songs, another mainstream film with unsimulated sex that looks real because it is.

 

2) John Wayne Bobbitt Uncut.  This one probably classifies as the medical miracle of porn films, but it brings balance to people tired of seeing women as the medically enhanced participants in adult entertainment.

For those who don’t know, Bobbitt’s pee-pee was sliced off in a fit of rage by his wife and then reattached in a nine-hour operation (Lorena would have been well-served to use the blender, one thinks).  Acting in a porn film after that probably counts as the greatest cinematic comeback ever.

John Wayne Bobbitt Uncut

Also, best DVD cover blurb ever.

Honorable mention in the straight porn flick category goes to El Satario as, apparently, the first ever pornographic film (some scholars of the medium dispute this claim, but then, if watching a bunch of dirty movies could ever make you a scholar, every guy I know is a post-doctoral genius).

 

1) And the film which puts a penis reveal not only in front of the audience but also puts it at the center of the plot is…

Drumroll for those who haven’t guessed it yet…

The Crying Game, of course.

Now, I’ve been told by the editor of this blog that we can’t give spoilers here, but those of you who know how this movie plays out will know that it earns its place at the top of the list the hard way (no, not that kind of hard.  You are obsessed).

The Crying Game

Honorable mention?  How about any version of Murder on the Orient Express.  They contain no penises (why isn’t it peni?), but they share the limitation that they are movies that can really only be enjoyed, as they then lose any semblance of suspense.

So, that’s my list.  Any suggestions for expanding can be made in the comments – I’ll try to answer quickly!

 

Violett didn’t let us give a real bio of her other than to say she owns a cat and does not, despite rumors to the contrary, collect films featuring penises.  As for the site, the editor is Gustavo Bondoni, a novelist and short story writer who doesn’t collect penises either, but who sometimes allows his protagonists to do so (figuratively if not literally).  Marianne, the main character of his novel timeless knows exactly what to do with one when she gets a hold of it.  Of course, that’s when she’s not being chased by international criminals.  You can check the book out here.

Naughtiness through the Centuries

The language of love is probably French, or maybe Italian.  It’s no coincidence that so many of histories great romantic figures have had a Latin background.  Casanova.  Valentino.  Don Juan (all right, he was a literary invention, but you get the idea–he wasn’t Mister Jones or Herr Helmut).

But there’s also a tradition of erotic literature in English that might have become a bit of a “mommy-porn” joke on the literary side thanks to the antics of a certain Mr. Grey, (although I suspect that EL James is laughing all the way to the bank, because the books are big business).

But there was a time when erotic literature was not a laughing matter, and publishers and authors could face real consequences for dabbling in the genre, anything from fines to imprisonment or, more recently, to literary ostracism.  But the pull was always there, and the books got written.

There are likely uncountable reams of bad erotica sitting on dusty bookshelves, but there are three books that, to me, have always been the landmark classics of English language lewdness: Fanny Hill, Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Tropic of Cancer.

You’ll probably recall that I wasn’t terribly impressed by Lady Chatterley‘s erotic content, so when I picked up Fanny Hill, a book published nearly 200 years before the Lawrence.

Fanny Hill - John Cleland

Man, was I in for a surprise.

John Cleland, unlike Lawrence, doesn’t just describe sex as a mechanical activity, but actually brings eroticism to bear.  You can tell the author, even in the first half of the eighteenth century, took the time to research his subject exhaustively, and then went on to describe what he’d learned.

Free writing tip: if you’re writing erotica, this is probably the the most enjoyable approach.

As a piece of pornography, Fanny Hill is infinitely more successful than Lady Chatterley.  To be fair, Lawrence wasn’t just trying to write himself into obscenity law history but also to make a statement about class distinctions in Britain.  The reason the Cleland is a better book is because Fanny Hill is unconcerned with politics–pushing your politics as a central theme of your book is a sure way to soporific stultification (see what is happening in the science fiction genre today for a vivid example of politics making it difficult for literature to shine).

Is Fanny Hill a great book?  Simply put, no.  It’s a great bit of pornography, and I’m not surprised that it’s now considered a classic because it’s very good at what it does.  I think the next well-written pieces of literature to do it so well (at least in English) were produced in the middle of the twentieth century.  But like pornographic movies, it gets a little repetitive after a while because the underlying story is paper thin (despite the fact that Cleland was clearly a gifted writer).

Also, as a purely modern critic, there is very little sexual variety in the book, which, even if you updated the sometimes archaic language, would date the book to a less adventurous era.

Still, hats are off to the spirit of Mr. Cleland for setting the bar so high that it would take Henry Miller two centuries later to surpass it.  Of course, that’s an assumption that I need to get my hands on Tropic of Cancer to confirm.

I suspect I’ll enjoy that.

 

Gustavo Bondoni is an Argentine novelist and short story writer who isn’t afraid to put a little heat into his books.  Timeless is an excellent example of this, and you can check it out here.