Willy's Pictures (Willy the Chimp)
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It has brought erectile dysfunction pills and baldness treatments to millennials by marketing to them in a youthful, relatable way which focuses on wellbeing and self-confidence, more like a GOOP for men – they also provide a service for notoriously doctor-averse men to get their hands on this stuff without having to have an awkward chat with a GP or pharmacist. Martin Robinson, editor of The Book Of Man and the brains behind The Penis Gallery (Picture: Martin Robinson) Laura Dodsworth, whose excellent documentary 100 Vaginas screened last week, previously produced a book where she photographed penises and spoke to their owner’s about their anxieties. Sex sells, but all of my messaging around this event has been that this is not porn – indeed the stipulations for photo submissions were we wanted FLACCID penises only, which not everyone abided by (yes, we know what a semi looks like, you’re not fooling anyone).
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This touches upon the broader issues of how men and boys are socialised, where from school masculinity is about rejecting ‘the other’, the feminine, within which looking at or talking about penis matters may be seen as being ‘gay’, and indeed any such anxieties around that area seen as weakness. Such learnings can have detrimental effects that extend way into adulthood. Until the Russians came in, unzipped, we were struggling, but I found that interesting in itself. Why the shyness?The exhibition is about sex only in that we’re using it as way to talk about sexual dysfunction and how penis anxiety can affect you as a man in general. It took Ant a long time for him to deal with his penis anxiety. ‘Talking about it came about almost by accident (in my late 40s) when a very personal poem I wrote caught the attention of the world and went viral,’ he says. Laura, who will be speaking about her work at our Penis Gallery, told me the she called her book about men in her Bare Reality series ‘Manhood’, because men often see the organ as the very heart of their masculinity. This means that if you have a small penis, you are therefore less of a man. This is what happens when you put a call-out on social media for submissions for a Penis Gallery and it ends up going viral in Russia. Maybe then we can reduce anxiety and love our bodies for what they are. As Laura Dodsworth puts it: ‘Real beauty lies in reality.’
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A recent YouGov survey found 42% of 18-24 year old British men would like their penises to be bigger, with only 36% saying they were happy with their size. Cosmetic surgery firms in the UK last year reported a 70-fold rise in enquiries about penis ‘fillers’, which are essentially like lip filler injections for men, with fluid injected into the shaft to boost its girth and presumably remove wrinkles. We only give voice to those who have (or prefer) a larger penis. We need to rebalance the conversation, be more open and vocal about the truth of the matter – which is that penises come in all kinds of varieties as do the people who have, or want them.’ And where does this need come from? Well it doesn’t take a genius to point the finger at online porn. But guess what? The idea of what is the ‘correct’ size is distorted anyway. The NHS says most men’s penises are around 3.75in when not erect, and 5 to 7in when erect – a far cry from most online mega-dongs. More to the point, if you do have a smaller penis, why should that mean you don’t feel like a true man? Researchers say 0.6% of men have a micropenis, which would mean 200,000 of men in the UK potentially feeling this way, on top of the men for whom average just doesn’t look big enough.The fact that penis anxiety is a taboo only adds to the effects on men’s mental health. Who are you going to discuss your ‘manhood’ anxieties with? Your friends, a doctor, your girlfriend even? No chance. Formerly, erectile dysfunction pills were the preserve of older men needing some artery assistance but now it’s very much a young man’s game. Willie Nelson is a country music icon still going strong at the age of 88! With a career spanning over seven decades, it’s no wonder the Texas native has a legion of fans. He became a household name with hits like “On the Road Again”, “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before”, and “Pancho and Lefty.” Along with his award-winning music career, Willie is also widely recognized for his activism, including fighting for farmers’ rights, the legalization of marijuana and advocating for the LGBTQ+ community.
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Perhaps for the straight men out there the usual dynamic was off – they were sending their pics to strange men who may not immediately invite them for no strings sex, as I’m sure most women usually do.