The spectacularised penis: contemporary representations of the phallic male body

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Publication details

Stephens, E 2007, 'The spectacularised penis: contemporary representations of the phallic male body', Men and Masculinities, vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 85-98.

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Feminist critics have often remarked on the striptease of appearance and disappearance by which the phallus both determines dominant cultural assumptions about sexuality and corporeality while simultaneously effacing the specificity of the penis. Through an examination of contemporary representations of the penis in the popular media—such as the media coverage of the Bobbitt trial, The Puppetry of the Penis stage show, the freak-show performer Mr Lifto, and the work of Cynthia Plastercaster—this article elucidates the mechanisms of effacement by which the specificity of the physical penis is obscured by a phallic ideal. In bringing the relationship between phallus and penis into focus, this article aims to challenge a number of important critical assumptions about the structure and operation of phallocentrism. Contrary to the widespread assumption that the phallic male body represents a rigidly stable and self-contained corporeality, in this paper I will argue that it is precisely the phallic penis which opens the male body to the possibility of transformation and otherness.

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