For most of my life I’ve had a very blurry and timid understanding of the male genitalia. I grew up Mormon, so penises and vaginas were never talked about. People had bottoms and front bottoms -- that was it.
You’d think that sex-ed or ninth grade health would’ve cleared up my misperceptions. Nope. Because I was raised religious I felt like it was wrong to really look at the diagrams or clay models. When our sex-ed teacher projected a penis on the monitor, I blurred my eyes like I was trying to fail an eye exam. I made it all the way to my mid-20s by using this method of imposed ignorance. When I made out with boys, I’d feel something hard in their pants and for the sake of my morality, I’d tell myself it was probably just a cell phone (an early model, circa 1990).
Occasionally I’d read articles in Cosmo or Glamour about turning men on. But without any real context the words felt like magnetic poetry -- taint, the shaft, stroke, scrotum -- and I had no idea how to piece them together. By the age of 26, I still had no idea what a penis really looked like. When I confessed this to my best friend Kevin, he asked me to try drawing one. I did. According to him it looked more like a tugboat.
It’s been two years since my shady tugboat drawing -- and while it took a lot: a break from Mormonism, a boyfriend I trusted and several “straight” YouTube videos on giving head -- I’m proud to say that I am finally friends with the penis. And now that I am, I’d like to share a few things I've learned.
1. Guys don’t dab their penises with toilet paper after they pee.
I made that up.
2. Guy don’t tuck their penises backward when they wear jeans.
They tuck it to one side or the other, unless they want it to look like they have a vagina, but that’s another story.
3. There isn’t actually a bone inside of the penis.
When I was in middle school I went to a museum that had dog and bull penis bones on display. Aha, I thought, that’s where the term “boner” comes from. The connection that I made, however illogical, was that boys had bones in their penis too. These bones jutted out when boys were turned on and retracted when they weren’t. Thank God this isn’t true.
4. The masturbation hand gesture is very misleading.
By that I mean the hand symbol that people use when they want to tell someone to fuck off. Real ejaculation doesn’t come out like a garden sprinkler and spray all over the room. In fact, a lot less comes out than I imagined would.
5. Holding a penis firmly won’t hurt it.
After seeing the “kicked in the nuts” gag in one too many comedies, I thought that doing anything other than lightly touching a penis would cause a man to keel over in pain. I’m not suggesting that you go out and punch a penis, but they’re much more sturdy than they seem.
6. The term “one-eyed snake.”
I used to think that the penis was the snake and the balls were the eyes. Only this never quite made sense because there were two balls, so technically it’d be a two-eyed snake. And then one morning (more recently then I’d like to admit) I was laying naked in bed with my boyfriend when I blurted out “Oh, I get it! One-eyed snake. The top of your penis looks like an eye!”
Surprisingly, I don’t feel guilty because I know these things. I feel more connected to the people around me (or half of them, at least), now that I’ve finally been let in on the inside joke. And when it comes to relationships, feeling confident and comfortable makes all the difference. The added bonus: I can finally look his penis in the eye without mistakenly staring at the balls.