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The Serious Writer and His Penis
By Marcus Speh
The serious writer has never measured the length of his penis. He didn’t see the need because he knew its size and form depended entirely on the woman. In mid-life, he had accepted the estimation of one’s genitals as a creative endeavor rather than a mathematical exercise.
“You’re huge”, A. said after she had unbuttoned him.
“Oh”, he said, uncharacteristically short in his reply but with a world of pleasant associations rushing to his head like a horde of wild buffalo to a water hole.
“But not too huge”, she added a little later once they’d found a mutually convenient position for their wordless play. The serious writer always remembered her as a devout, objective reader of his work.
“Don’t show it to me”, said B., the horticulturist, and reached across his chest uncomfortably to switch off the small bedside Tiffany lamp, “or I won’t be able to forget it.”
“Why should you want to forget it?”, asked the serious writer.
“…In mid-life, he had accepted the estimation of one’s genitals as a creative endeavor rather than a mathematical exercise…”
“Because I don’t want to compare it”, she said. He saw her point, though he always found it hard to orient himself in the dark. The serious writer imagined B. was thinking of a large, luscious, potentially dangerous jungle plant when touching his knob.
C., a fellow writer, looked at the serious writer’s penis for a long time before she carefully took it between index finger and thumb and shook it a little as if to see whether it would come to life.
“It seems a little small”, she said. The serious writer sighed, loudly, and said nothing.
“But I’m sure it’ll do”, she said. Among peers, C. was known for her delicacy, which permeated all her writing. Much later, the serious writer paid her back using these same words in a very long, altogether positive, critical review of her novel.
“Only strong personalities can endure such size, the weak ones are extinguished by it”, said D., a red head with an imposing chest, eyeing his cock. The serious writer, his past fogged by reckless existentialist thought, recognised the Nietzschean rudiment and smiled knowingly.
Good humour, the serious writer thought, is the strongest aphrodisiac.
Author’s Commentary on „The Serious Writer and His Penis“ by Finnegan Flawnt (aka Marcus Speh), tentatively and reluctantly titled:
“A BATTLE OF WILLIES”
This story emerged after an explicit challenge by Gary Percesepe in the Fictionaut group aptly titled “sex (sometimes in the first line)”. Gary wrote (in reference to an HP article):
“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.“
By the time Marcus Speh’s story “The Serious Writer® and His Penis” appeared here at Metazen, it had already stirred reactions across the board with the good folks at Fictionaut, Jurgen Fauth’s online community of “adventurous readers and writers.”
To date, the story, written and published originally under Speh’s pseudonym, Finnegan Flawnt, is among the highest recommended at Fictionaut with 524 views, 44 comments and 19 starred reviews or faves, as they are referred to at the Naut.
These are the numbers. Now, the legend.
Part of a series of “Serious Writer” stories Speh makes available to readers, it also inspired a number of other “Serious Writer” stories from fellow writers, most notably Meg Pokrass’s “The Serious Writer and Her Pussy.” As Speh himself mentions, Pokrass’s story surpassed his own after a certain point in respect to exposure.
The draw? A number of things, I believe, not the least of which was Speh’s success in fusing a serious viewpoint on a subject universally of interest, then the added humor that turned the story back on itself and avoided what could have been certain pitfalls in Speh’s overall purpose, and then, of course, the now well-known fact that Speh embarked on the story from a challenge, essentially a prompt, issued from Gary Percesepe at the Naut. Percesepe tossed out this question: “Ok, will somebody please write a story about this poor guy with the fourteen inch penis who cannot find work?”
Speh answered the call, sitting down, I imagine with a smile, and jotting down that opening sentence: “The serious writer has never measured the length of his penis.” What followed was a story that addressed at once the age old question of how much does size matter and in what context with Speh’s signature ability to enlist humor as a tool in crafting that philosophical exploration. As he said it talking about the story himself, Speh said it best: “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.”
Literary voyeurism, says Metazen. Well, this is the pinnacle.
We watch the Serious Writer. We watch him closely. We have seen him mourn his hamster; we have seen him [almost] tap out a first novel; we have seen him choose a rental flick to watch at home. We see him move about his life, shuffling from room to room, doing human things.
And so when we see the Serious Writer’s penis, it’s not an unsound thing, because he is already known to us intimately, his unabashed human-ness well established. It is the natural next step in our relationship, talking about what women talk about when they talk about SW’s penis. He doesn’t whip it out to shock: it is a philosophical jaunt, a wink, rather than an ostentatious PG-17 rumble.
Speaking of rumble, here come the Serious Writer’s women: A., his honest reader; B., the horticulturist; C., the writer; and D., the good-humored existentialist. This is where it gets meta. They get to read the story within the story—the knob set before them. They analyze it, feel it, review it. This is body-as-text at its cheekiest.
Like any sample of readers, they have different perspectives of the “text.” “You’re huge,” says A. “Don’t show it to me,” says B. “It seems a little small,” says C. Meanwhile, the Serious Writer’s sense of self shifts a little with each evaluation—just enough to reinforce his human vulnerability, but not enough to dent our trust in his narration. The Serious Writer, in his mid-life wisdom, understands that his penis’s “size and form depend entirely on the woman.” And so, as in hearing any critique, enjoying the uplift is nearly as perilous as mulling over the comedown.
But along comes D., who tickles the Serious Writer’s funny bone with a paraphrase of Nietzsche: “Only strong personalities can endure such size, the weak ones are extinguished by it.” And—bam!—the playful story turns more Serious than we expected. We become philosophers. What was the real Nietzsche quote again? Is the strong personality supposed to be the owner of the cock or its beneficiary? It is all as simple as endurance versus extinguishment?
For hard-ons and stories, the answer for a lot of us is yes. In the end, the Serious Writer does endure, thanks to D.’s quick wit, thanks to D. “getting” him, thanks to D. receiving him with humor and generosity of spirit. Good humor is the strongest aphrodisiac, and because of it, he can keep going. He can give us more where that came from. On writes the Serious Writer; on goes his exposure, his private undressing. On goes our gaze and our lust for more.
We root for the story. We root for the root.
© 2010, Metazen.