All About The Penis, Men & Male Sexuality


One of the most fascinating customs of various tribes, including those in the West to submit to body modification, is penile sub incision. For those who don't know, this is the slitting the penis along the entire underside of its length, so that it unfolds, with the interior of the urethra completely exposed.

This may seem like an extreme body modification, no matter where it is being done. And because it is so extreme, because apparently so mutilating to the human body, it's worth spending the least a few minutes examining what might be behind such peculiar practice.

To start with, one can look in Wikipedia. Not necessarily 100% reliable, but still uninformative starting point.

Wikipedia tells us that was traditionally performed around the world, in Australia, Africa and the Pacific cultures, and that it was described in many cases as coming-of-age ritual.

Of course some incision is such a dramatic operation that can affect urination, and requires a man to completely modify how he urinates. It follows also that he is unable to ejaculate normally either.

Let's deal first of all with indigenous cultures like the Australian aborigines. This is, after all the type of sub incision that most people know about. The obvious question is why try and do something so horrendous to the most sacred part of the male anatomy (at least as we see it today). What possible justification or rationalisation could there be?

On a superficial level, I've often thought that so-called initiation rituals, which is a term that has been applied to sub incision, were actually much more about encouraging young people and tried to be resistant to pain, to cut themselves off from feeling, so that they could be fierce warriors the tribe did not feel pain or death.

This is not an argument that I've seen repeated anywhere, but it seems plausible to me - certainly a lot more plausible than the idea that tried to do something like this as an initiation into manhood. It is, after all, a very real manifestation of emasculation.

However, an article written in 1966, and published in the British Journal of medical psychology, offers some indication of what might be going on. So it is cut, the article reported, through the surface of the penis into the urethra, from the opening position about an inch along the shaft.

This slipped is usually extended bit by bit until the full extent of the penile urethra is converted into an open channel. The article goes on to question the significance of sub incision amongst Australian tribes.

And of course they make the observation that this horrible practice has been widely debated by anthropologist, psychoanalysts, and others it's no surprise that they also discovered the answers to this question appeared to depend upon the point of view of the person who's writing the article or observing the phenomenon of sub incision. The that reason, we have explanations that emphasize hygiene, contraception, greater sexual satisfaction for the woman due to the modified shape of the penis, and so on.

Yet the explanation may in fact be very simple -- it may line ignorant superstition and tribal myths.

Consider, for example, this extract from The Bradshaw Foundation:

A red blossom is placed in the wound because the penis is to be as red as possible on the inside. After the young man has been initiated in this way he is allowed to make stone spearheads. The Wandjina cast the first bolt of lightning by splitting open his penis and in this way was able to discharge fire and lightning from it. The Wandjina created fire by turning the red inside of his split penis outwards so that fire could come out. The Wandjina can direct lightning by taking his penis in his hand and with his club show the lightning the direction it is to take.

In this way he can strike his enemies with lightning or shatter trees to get firewood for himself. I have often observed the aborigines in thunderstorms trying to follow the Wandjina's example of directing flashes of lightning, and no amount of failure was able to shake their belief. The aborigines decorate their Spearthrowers with a yellow serpent to represent lightning.

Now this is not meant to reflect in any way on cultural traditions, it's more an illustration of how something that we and our own society don't understand can become the subject of westernized explanations -- as suggested above, the truth may lie in the eye of the beholder. It is just possible, that tribal mythology amongst an educated population is the driving force for the brutal sub incision of the penis.

Unfortunately there are other explanations which are even more bizarre. Essentially, the essence of these is that sexual traditions lead to sub incision. Again, it's regrettable that the human brain is so susceptible to cultural influences, because once they can be incredibly helpful, there's no doubt also that they can be extremely deleterious to the welfare both individuals and society as a whole. No oil you see this more clearly exemplified than in this article which appeared in the Australian newspaper some time ago.

"Baldwin Spencer and Frank Gillen, who wrote the world-famous The Native Tribes of Central Australia (1899), believed that the urethral sub-incision of central Australian Aboriginal men was for the purpose of homosexual intercourse. The usual sexual act was when the boy's penis was rubbed until it was erect, after which it was inserted into the sub-incised elder's penis, who then ejaculated."

The truth is of course, that looking on from a culture that lies outside the Australian native tradition, it's probably almost impossible to truly understand what's going on here. I think, however, it's fair to say that cultural imperialism or intellectual superiority are not at work when I say that I believe that the infliction of such pain, and misuse (by any standards) of human dignity, and for that matter of the human body in such a way, is neither noble nor defensible.

And you know what? If that is cultural imperialism, I make no apology for it. It is just possible that sometimes one culture really does have something to teach another which is less emotionally developed.

Which brings us on to the interesting question of subincision as a sexual act of body modification.

Why would people in the West undergo such an appalling experience, voluntarily?

Perhaps it is possible here to draw some parallel between the experience of the Australian aborigines, the subject of unquestioned cultural tradition, and those in the body modification world, who evidently have some strong beliefs that they too are part of a worthwhile and valid cultural tradition.

Here's what the body modification wiki suggests. As to why, there are some basic reasons why people may choose to do subincision.

And, at this juncture I would remind you, that many people do this process themselves. Perhaps that's hardly surprising because it's hard to imagine many medically qualified individuals would willingly do such a procedure.

So the justification stated is that this process increases the pleasure of the recipient, on the grounds that the inside of the penis often feels better than the outside: and even if it doesn't feel better, then there's certainly more chance of sexually sensitive nerves coming into contact with another surface.

Or alternatively, another justification offered is that penile subincision is actually all about the pleasure of the partner the penis is wider, flatter has great texture, and certainly is a different shape. Would that give a woman more pleasure? Who knows?

And yet another justification is that it's either aesthetic or fetishistic -- in other words people like the way it looks, or they simply want to urinate from the base of the penis so that the penis itself is simply an object of sexual pleasure.

Frankly I've never heard such garbage in my life! Of course anybody who wants to mutilate their own body is free to do so in our culture. But I think the motivation for this self-muitlation lies deep in the dark shadows of the subconscious.

Rather than believe the reasons given above, I'd suggest that the true reasons for subincision lie in self-hatred, hatred of one's own masculinity, hatred of the penis, or some deep level of aversion to masculinity.

See also:

Enlarging the penis and penile modification

Other pages on the penis and sex

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?