All About The Penis, Men & Male Sexuality

The penis, the phallus and the male ego

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Thomas Moore, one of our most respected religious and spiritual commentators, has written a fascinating book, The Soul Of Sex, in which he comments on the relationship between the penis and the soul. The ideas below are taken from his book, but their representation - or misrepresentation - is my responsibility!

Men are obsessed by the size of their penis. But biologically this does not make much sense - it's possible to have perfectly satisfying sex (and indeed wonderful sex) with a small penis. Nor is it necessary to have a large penis to reproduce efficiently.

So why such an obsession?

The answer lies in the direct relationship between penis size and the size of the male ego: but this just raises another question - why would a large penis inflate the male ego?

The obvious answer is that a large penis conveys a sense of power (see what men and women think about penis size here). However, Moore suggests that our interest in the penis is about more than a sense of personal power.

He talks of the phallus, the penis mythologized and fantasized, the organ that becomes more than a penis ever was: in some cultures it's a symbol of divine potency, or a representation of the potency of life itself, or a symbol of human potency and fertility, or an image of erotic vitality - things that it is normal for humans to crave.

Perhaps, he suggests, a man's wish for a bigger penis represents a deeper search for the phallus, with all its meaning and symbolism. The erotic potential of the penis is something we all encounter and, like feminine sexual mythology, it represents the most fundamental aspects of life itself - regeneration, potency and survival.

dionysus_phallus.jpg (40870 bytes)Cult of Dionysus





pans.jpg (16424 bytes) Pan and his penis



BigPalanquin.jpg (33923 bytes)Honen Matsuri festival, Japan: "This is, perhaps, the single, most insane gathering of human beings and phallus paraphernalia on the face of the planet. The main feature of this festival, aside from the river of drunken Japanese men and women that flood the streets of the small town of Komaki, is a 2+ meter long wooden phallus which is carried on the shoulders of shockingly drunken Japanese men."

priapus.jpeg (33714 bytes)Priapus, the God of the phallus and male sexuality, weighs his prodigious member. This is from a painted wall at the House of the Vettii, in Pompeii. 




While the penis is experienced subjectively by men, the phallus is available to everyone, whether they are waving it in a procession, pleasuring it in sex, or strapping on a rubber one. But such fascination is not, says Moore, just about power. We are fascinated because the penis is a mystery: most of the time it is small, but it becomes large, sometimes even Priapic.

The ancient Romans wore a penis-shaped amulet around their necks to ward off the evil eye; and the Greeks placed busts of Hermes with phallic emblems attached (for he was an especially phallic God) at the doorways to their houses for protection and they placed phallic emblems at gravesites. In the ancient world, the phallus was associated with the cornucopia, the horn of plenty (horny therefore being no accidental usage for a man who wishes to display the power of his prick); and a host of fertility rituals and rites in all cultures suggest that the phallus is not an image of the male ego, it is more a representation of earth's potency and life's capacity for pleasure, creativity and generativity.  

Moore observes that the phallus isn't so much an image of the male ego as of the power and vitality that we need to get through life successfully.

There is, he says, no better example of nature dwelling in us than our sexuality, and the phallus represents the vitality and energy of that sexuality: like life itself, it is procreative and pleasurable, it rises and falls, it is penetrating, healing and enduring.

Many historical images of the phallus suggest the honor and worship of the male organ; and sometimes it is represented as detached from a man and associated with animals. The essence of all these images is humor, playfulness, and vitality - all qualities which enhance our sex lives and indeed life itself.

But to move beyond our image of the secular penis to share the awareness of the sacred phallus which seems to have been a feature of other, earlier cultures than ours requires a shift of consciousness and a strong awareness of psychological symbols in ourselves and the culture.

Other pages on the penis in the human psyche

The penis and the phallus
Beauty of the penis
Penis, phallus and the male ego
A cultural history of the penis
Black men and penis size
Evolution and the penis
How important is size?

Other sections on the site

Penis facts and penile functions
The penis, masculinity and sex
A Cultural History Of The Penis
Penile & Other Problems