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A Mind of Its Own: A Cultural History of the Penis

3.75  ·  Rating Details ·  760 Ratings  ·  83 Reviews
Whether enemy or ally, demon or god, the penis is much more than a body part. Here, in an enlightening and entertaining cultural study, is a book that puts into context the central role of the penis within Western civilization. Deified by ancient pagan cultures and demonized by the early Roman church, the penis was later secularized by pioneering anatomists such as Leonard ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published November 1st 2009 by Robert Hale & Company (first published 2001)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Melki
A few years ago, my two sons were playing a video game and I overheard the younger one say to his brother, "Well, at least I have a penis!" My older boy replied with, "So? I have one too!" To this day, I have no clue what brought that conversation about, and I'm pretty sure I don't want to know. I just found it interesting that although they were both pretty young at the time, they still seemed to believe that possession of a penis carried some sort of clout, and neither one wanted to be found l ...more
Tiffany Reisz
Why have I not read this book yet???
Warwick
Mar 12, 2015 Warwick rated it really liked it
• David M Friedman, A Mind of its Own: A Cultural History of the Penis, Robert Hale 2009 [2002]
• Emma LE Rees, The Vagina: A Literary and Cultural History, Bloomsbury 2015 [2013]

A brace of books about the sex organs and what they mean, books that benefit enormously from being read in tandem – even though doing so does serve to erode some of the claims to uniqueness made by each of them. Both, in their own way, try to examine how and why the cultural taboos about concealing the genitals have been
...more
Kirk
Jun 19, 2008 Kirk marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Can't wait to get my hands on this one and give it a whack.
LARRY
Apr 17, 2007 LARRY rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: menology
As posted in [http://www.amazon.com]:

*A Mind of Its Own* started off fantastic, opening with how witches were burned for having contact with the "devil's rod". However, the book's ending wasn't quite as great, concluding with impotence and Viagra.

Friedman presented how the penis was viewed, throughout history, through various lens: historical, social, religious, psychological, medical and feminist. My only problem with this book was that the last half was mostly medical (Freud, psychology, psyc
...more
Diana Yildiz
Jan 29, 2009 Diana Yildiz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The older I get, the more nonfiction I read. This one just sounded naughty and fun, but it was really a serious historical and cultural examination that taught me a great deal.
Caidyn
Hm. How to rate this book? At times, it was very good. And at times, it wasn't. Usually at the same time, as odd as that sounds.

It's a very informative book. It starts in BCE times and makes its way through to modern times. A whole scope, or as much as one can over in an overview of the history of the penis. There are many things that Friedman left out, I'm sure. Otherwise, this would have been a six-volume book rather than six chapters.

So, this was good. Informative, accessible, easy to underst
...more
TKay
Apr 03, 2013 TKay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a woman, I read this book in hopes of gaining greater insight into male motivation. I was impressed with much of the book, though I think a better title might be "A White Man's Cultural History of the Penis" as the book was entirely written from that perspective. The only mention of black or Jewish men was a discussion of the fear they engendered in whites; there was no input about Asian, Middle Eastern or Native American culture whatsoever.

Another review here described the chapter on Freud a
...more
Michael
Sep 19, 2007 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well well well. What an absurdly revered and universally reviled organ is the penis! Who knew something so small could cause such a big mess.
This essay is fantastically written, thoughtfully researched and ultimately provocative in its analysis and understanding of the mythos and manifestations of the phallic influence on cultures the world over, throughout history. I laughed, I pondered, I sighed and I winced all the way through. Perfect bathroom reading for "anyone who has a penis or knows som
...more
John Miskec
Mar 29, 2009 John Miskec rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Highly informitive and funny. Having a penis my whole life there were alot of things I did not know.
Laura
Jun 20, 2008 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Let's just say right away that in reviewing a book like this, it's almost irresistible to make lots of stupid puns. Nevertheless, I'm going to try really hard...oops, I knew that would happen. Well, at least I got it out of the way.

Anyway. Don't be fooled by either the subject matter or the title of David Friedman's book, both of which might lead you expect a frivolous treatment of Man's favorite subject, his Area. On the contrary, Friedman gives us a thorough, well-researched, and thoughtful ac
...more
Catherine
Sep 03, 2007 Catherine rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in the penis!
I liked the chapters discussing the ancient history of the penis and the modern stuff about the penis and feminism and the new science of erectile disfunction. I found the chapters on the Victorians and Freud a bit of a slog - who knew the penis could be so boring! Freud is really aggravating - I can't believe anyone went for that stuff and in such a big way. On the whole, a worthwhile read.
Mark Cornell
Funny and at times deeply disturbing.
Bitchin' Reads
I picked this up prepared to delve into phallocentric worlds, where the penis reigns--and Friedman definitely delivered! Starting with the ancients, he moves forward through time, showing extensive research and interest in mapping out the evolving cultural stigmas of the penis, and doing a well-rounded, solid job of it, too.

Surprisingly, Friedman does approach the topic with a joking manner at times, sprinkling the sillies throughout. At first, I did like this a lot; the jokes and puns kept my
...more
Korri
Friedman's fascinating cultural history of the penis is well-researched and informative. He makes Freud ('a giant among pygmies', according to Emma Goldman) and his theories accessible and writes about feminist attacks on the penis as a tool of oppression without... what's the right word... hysteria?

I liked this book. One of the problems with a sweeping history, however, is that it necessarily has to dance from one cultural touchstone to the next. This book provides insights on the penis in an A
...more
Teresa
Dec 31, 2016 Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book about everything you ever wanted to know about the penis, historically speaking. It actually is a very good read. I often hear that men are obsessed with their penises, but I never knew that they were this obsessed. This book will take you through a chronological journey of the history and power struggles centered around the Demon Rod, the Gear Shift, the Measuring Stick, the Cigar, the Battering ram, and everything that goes with it. I especially liked the author`s play with word ...more
Hilary
The three star rating is in no way meant to disparage this book. This was, in fact, a fascinating and highly enlightening book. The only reason for a less than four star rating came largely from the fact that I found the final portion of the book (focusing on the the 'medicalization' of the penis and the erection industry) far more boring than the previous sections. I will say that I enjoyed the alternative view to the prevailing one - that by focusing on the ED drugs we're losing the more compl ...more
dejah_thoris
An excellent introduction to sex history with a focus on our favorite male appendage. Thoroughly covers all the topics you'd expect to see (Freud, Viagra, circumcision, the sexual revolution, etc.) but also offers some tidbits for those of us overly versed in sex history and sexology. (See below.) Accessibly written for the layperson (and equally fascinating for most, I'd hope!) with comprehensive notes for scholars seeking additional resources. Unfortunately, endnote numbers are not included in ...more
Dan Adelman
Nov 07, 2016 Dan Adelman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed this book despite having zero expectations going in. I found this book in the discount section of a bookstore a couple years ago and picked it up primarily because I thought it would look amusing on my bookshelf. I couldn't even work out what a cultural history of the penis even meant, let alone why it deserved an entire book!

The book is broken up into 6 chapters, each about 50 pages in length. There is a small amount of building upon previous chapters, but for the most part
...more
Natalie
When we were in early high school, my best friend Eric and I used to play the "Penis Game," usually in darkened movie theaters before the show had started. The Penis Game, for the uninitiated, involves two or more people in a public setting each taking turns saying "Penis!!" slightly louder and louder each time until one person (always me) chickens out or until people start to look around to see the socially retarded unleashed and unsupervised kids imposing themselves on polite society.

My inner
...more
Hannah
Apr 29, 2016 Hannah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hilarious and Surprisingly Feminist
I first encountered this book when a woman bought it from my store and happily proclaimed that she was going to post about it on Facebook because of the recent penis throw down between Trump and Rubio. Later, I found it in my local library nestled comfortably by the books about early humanoids and neanderthals. It is a fantastic book. The author delivers a lot of information but with a sassy attitude. I knew I was in love on page 2, when Friedman talks about ho
...more
Wayne
Mar 24, 2010 Wayne marked it as to-read
Shelves: history, anthropology
Prelude To A Review:
Q: Why does the Pope shower with a towel around his waist?
A: Because he doesn't like to look down on the unemployed.

Pre-read:
Amazingly this Coven Of Celibates, of which Popey is the Head, are involved in the most scandalous of all Sex Scandals. They, the Have-Nots, who deny it and regulate it for the Haves, who actually allow them to, and have made this a Cornerstone of Catholicism, have obviously been waist deep in sexlives of their own for...centuries??? Seems so!!!
Happily
...more
Marissa
Sep 14, 2016 Marissa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to like this book, and found the history portions to be mostly well written, somewhat accurate, and entertaining. If only the author had managed to refrain from spending an absurd amount of time on ev. psych. bullshit. That's where this one went wrong. Could have been a four star book if the author had stuck to history alone.
Sophia
Dec 28, 2011 Sophia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Mind of Its Own: A Cultural History of the Penis is an informative, entertaining lay introduction to what is constantly referred to as "man's defining organ" by journalist-author David Friedman. It's full of "cool, I didn't know that" tidbits that one can share to impress friends over a round of beer, but strikes a relatively serious tone. Starting with ancient times, in each chapter Friedman relates how the penis, male sexuality, and at times masculinity itself were conceptualized as the chap ...more
Leah
Jun 24, 2008 Leah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Leah by: a radio review
Shelves: non-fiction
Okay this book took me ages to get through!!!!! It was really fascinating in the beginning when dealing with the Ancients view of the penis but the middle started to get quite boring and the end only picked up in the last chapter. There was a whole section of the book that focused on Freud, which ended up really annoying me because I never knew until now how much I am annoyed by Freud and think that he is a crackpot. I really had never read or studied him before and after reading this book I'm c ...more
Aaron
Aug 09, 2011 Aaron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very smart, historical book on the evolution of phallic thought and meaning. This books takes you from ancient history through Christiandom, Freud, racialism and size, feminism, and the curing of erectile disorder in the arena of urology vs. psychology.



Though I originally started this book hoping for a light and amusing read, I actually learned a lot about historical thought and the meaning of masculinity through the ages. I enjoyed realizing the differences between Roman and Greek thought, Ca
...more
Kirsten
May 14, 2015 Kirsten rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A cultural (Western) history of the penis. It's rather a brief overview, but he touches on a lot of key points. Main topics include ancient and medieval attitudes (i.e. the Greeks, the Romans, the early Christians), the Enlightenment (da Vinci, Leuwenhoek, etc.), SIZE (with considerable emphasis on the racial aspects of that), Freud, feminist revisionist ideas (Friedan, Steinem, Millett, Dworkin), and ED and Viagra. I admit that by the end I was getting a little bored, and really really didn't c ...more
Mikhail Ignatev
Ну... ЗАБАВНО. Пожалуй, наиболее интереснф факты, связанные с изменением религиозных догм по поводу человеческого тела и удовольствий. Становится понятно, что вся эта фигня с аскетизмом, целибатом и прочим безумием реально есть порождение больного воображения ДВУХ несчастных людей - Фомы Аквинского и Августина Блаженного! Просто так получилось, что их идеи ПО РЯДУ ПРИЧИН заняли центрально место в корпусе церковынх норм - а дальше началась обыкновенная трансляция безумия через мощную организацию. ...more
Christina
When it occurs to me that people are nuts, I can now remember this book and realize that things could be a lot worse!

The 2 star rating is not completely fair to the author. It wasn't his fault I found this book so disturbing and sad. I do rate mostly on my enjoyment of a book and since I don't find torture, suffering, and the abuse of children especially entertaining, I have to rate the book accordingly. I don't know how a man can read this without curling up into a ball and weeping!

I admit tha
...more
Kevin
Dec 07, 2009 Kevin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Great read! Literally takes you from the ancient history deification of the penis to the demonization of it. From the secularizing of it to its racializing. From it being psychoanalyzed and politicized all the way to the modern day medicalization. Covers just about every aspect of the its history you never knew you wanted to know but feel overwhelmingly grateful to now know. I feel much more confident to own a penis and more empowered by this blessed possession than I ever have before, well at l ...more
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190611
David M. Friedman has written for Esquire, GQ, and Rolling Stone, and was a reporter for New York Newsday and the Philadelphia Daily News. His first book, A Mind of Its Own: A Cultural History of the Penis, was published in more than a dozen countries. He is also the author of the widely acclaimed The Immortalists: Charles Lindbergh, Dr. Alexis Carrel, and Their Daring Quest to Live Forever. He li ...more
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