This is a truly absorbing project from Laura Dodsworth, author and photographer of Manhood: The Bare Reality. It’s not the photos of all the penises which fascinate; most people have seen more than one, it’s the people attached to said penises, and their stories about the various tangles of manhood and the ever elusive sense of masculinity. I found myself sitting down with a cuppa to read all the stories at the Guardian, and I will buy the book.
Warning: NSFW. Have a care peeking below the fold, there are penises lurking.
Every one of Laura Dodsworth’s penises is unique: introvert and extrovert, straight and bendy, wobblers and bobblers, growers and showers. There are contented penises that have led full lives, and disappointed penises that have let down their owners – or been let down by their owners.
In Dodsworth’s new book Manhood, every penis tells a story. There is the trans man who invested in the biggest and best; the underpowered poet hung up on his for years, until he decided to celebrate it with The Big Small Penis Party; the man who as a teenager thought he had genital warts and considered killing himself, until he found out they were normal spots; the business leader whose small penis taught him humility; the sex addict whose wife tried to cut it off; and the vicar who enjoyed his first threesome while training for the priesthood.
This is not Dodsworth’s first foray into body parts. In 2014’s Bare Reality, also previewed in Guardian Weekend, the photographer interviewed women about their relationship with their breasts. That was delicate, Dodsworth says, but not as delicate as this. Breasts have been commodified and aestheticised, so we’re used to seeing them in everyday life; the same cannot be said of penises, which remain largely unseen and very much taboo.
Dodsworth’s earlier project was personal. Like many of us, she says, she is uneasy with her own body. “You see lots of pictures of breasts everywhere and you can’t help feeling you don’t measure up.” When she talked to women, she discovered many of them could tell their life story through them. And she has had a similar experience with Manhood. “I had this sense that men were in a ‘man box’ as much as I’d been in a ‘woman box’, and I wanted to get to know them better and hear their stories. One word for penis is manhood, so it seemed a perfect starting point to talk about being a man.”
You can read some of the stories at The Guardian. There are many more photos of penises there, so NSFW applies.