The Beauty of Transparency: My Friends and their Penis

The reason I am attracted to men, or attracted to their masculinity, is because I am intrigued by the male body. Philosopher Maxine Sheets-Johnstone wrote, “ A male's body is not anatomized nor is it ever made into an object of study in the same way as female bodies.” The gay community has made the male body just that, an object, but an object that has not been studied but sexualized. When I experience nakedness with my friends, especially those I am attracted too, I have the chance to get to KNOW them and their bodies and not see them as objects. Can I choose to sexualize (Lust) them? Of course, but do I want to, no. I want to know them and accept them emotionally, physically, and spiritually as my brothers and I need to be accepted as well.

A friend of mine once gave me the experiences he had in the locker room that I had never had, which is why I thank him as well as my other friends that experience this (locker room, spa, skinny dipping, etc.) form of friendship with me. I'm grateful they are able to give me that type of experience, which is a need for me. They give me the chance to be part of the team, including the locker room.  I am not treated as a vampire thirsty for a penis.

Lets talk about the penis, obviously men have penises. Throughout world history the penis has been perceived in many different ways. In Ancient Greece, which was a culture that stressed a high masculine role, having large sex organs was not ideal. Greece was a place that stressed male self-control in sexuality. They saw large genitals as gross and ugly and were exiled to the lows of barbarians. The penis' that were huge were looked at as a penis absorbing all the sexual excess that the “civilized” Greek would not permit to have a place in his own self-conception.”

Obviously our culture does not see it like that. Males feel they need to be the big man in the locker room. According to Susan Bordo, who wrote what I think is a fantastic book on the male body, says, “But many men, like women, get their ideas about how big (penis size) they should be from the bodies of cultural icons. (porn, magazine like GQ, etc.)”

In her book she wrote a great chapter called, “Does size matter,” and she tackled a lot of topics men struggle with. She mentioned one story where a young man pierced his penis in order for him to gain confidence about his penis size and said in the locker room that attitude “the big-size thing” develops in the locker room when you are a kid. The big dicked guys send out signals that say, “we're better, Were more masculine than you,...” Some guys because of this struggle increase their penis size by getting plastic surgery so they can feel more confident in themselves. Which then begs the question, “Why do men identify so much of themselves with their penis?”

Think about it, men wake up and pee. We feel it when we sit down. When we play sports and get hit there. When we change in the locker room or take a shower we see it. We are afraid we can get an erection in public, we have morning wood, we have to make sure when we are having sex or about to have sex we are prepared and ready to have an erection, we have to make sure we please a girl and that we are firm and the right size for her. We have to be bigger then the next guy in the locker room so we don't get made fun of. I can go on and on about the standards of what a 21st century penis should be and do. Bordo says, “We live in a culture that encourages men to think of themselves as their penises, a culture that still conflates male sexuality with something we call “potency” and that gives men little encouragement to explore the rest of their bodies.”

Whenever I go to the spa with my friends, especially the guys I am attracted to, they are vulnerable with me and I with them. Especially with all the cultural standards we apparently need to live up to. To experience nakedness with a buddy to me is true and brave. What is interesting is that the idea of what a penis is or should be according to our culture is that it should be hard and big. Bordo says,

“Most of our metaphors for penises are...stiff torpedoes, wands, and rods that never get soft, always perform. These metaphors may be a defense against fears of being too soft, physically and emotionally.....they(metaphors) also set up for failure. For men don't really have torpedoes or rods or heroic avengers between their legs. They have penises. And penises, like the rest of the human body, feel things.....The penis knows, too, that is it not a torpedo, no matter what a culture expects of it or what drugs are coursing through its blood vessel.”

Men are given this idea we need to be tough, we need to be hard, we need to be powerful, we need to be bigger. With how often we think about our penis and experience it, how can we not attribute being hard, tough, big, etc, to our penis. But a small, soft penis, that is a wimpy penis. It is not manly.

Non erect, the penis can give a sense of vulnerability, fragility, and a true sense of security. The penis is not always big, tough, and hard. The penis is not just soft, it is really soft. When cold, it shrinks up. And when I experience nakedness with my buddies, and they are soft, small, non erect, I'm experiencing them, I'm experiencing their bodies. Im experiencing them being vulnerable with me. There is a risk I can make fun of them, they can make fun of me, I have a bigger penis than some of my friends, and some of my friends have a bigger penis than me. It is what it is. And if we accept each other and our bodies, it will help many men get over a lot of bigger insecurities in their life. They will not use women's bodies for their own insecurities.

I get extremely annoyed when men boast their confidence because they get a girlfriend. Stand side by side with another male naked without comparing your body and feeling you need to be bigger down there to be more of a man, then I will consider you strong, tough, big, and hard.

We need to learn to be comfortable with our bodies. I needed to learn that. Instead of trying to be like my attractive friends, who I think have better bodies than me, I need to learn to accept my own body. That has been the lesson I have had to learn when it comes to my masculinity. I hope my friends accept me and help me pursue the way I can be a man and I hope I can help them pursue ways they can be a man.

What is interesting about Bordo is that she is a female sociologist who wrote about the male body and did great research about how men identify themselves with their bodies. She brought up an experiment that a evolutionary biologist did concerning women and what they think of the penis and what he concluded was interesting. He reported that women, when it comes to the sight of the penis, are not really attracted to it. “The ones really fascinated by the penis and it dimensions are men. In the showers in men's locker rooms, men routinely size up each other's endowment.”

What are some conclusions we can learn from our culture? Our culture wants us to define ourselves by our penis. And when we do, and don't meet the standards that the media, porn, and others set, we feel like we fail. We are not big enough. So we hide. We hide from our wives, our friends, and ourselves. We are not okay with our bodies. Also, according to Greif, we can conclude some friendships are maintained at a physical and emotional distance because men fear emotional and physical closeness, which they can link to homosexuality. Because of this, some men can develop shallow friendships. According to Greif, he mentions that although men bond through sports, they hit each other and there is more physical contact with each other, it doesn’t mean deep emotional friendships are formed.

When I go to the spa with friends, I experience the opposite. I feel accepted, known, vulnerable, as well as I accept, and give my friends affirmation by not making fun of their bodies. One time I was with my friend Jack and my buddy Dave, Dave made a comment and said his penis was smaller than the average size and Jack responded saying, he had a good size. Now this might be funny and even sound “gay” but what better way to lift a man's self-esteem and perception of his body by complimenting him. Instead of using girls to make himself better, a friend said one encouraging statement that can go a long way for him and his confidence.

Men don't be afraid. Be vulnerable. Don't make excuses. But accepting your nakedness (spiritually, physically, and emotionally) as well as your friends is not gay, but Christ-like. And that is why experiencing nakedness with friends, whether is spiritual, emotional, or physical, is healthy. It mainly pushes us towards the love of Jesus.

Now I understand there is a question that goes like this, “Richard if you are attracted to men and lust after men, is it healthy to be naked with them?” That is a good and a important question. I know men want to avoid lustful situations, so men stay away and “flee from the devil.” So now I ask this question, what happens when the community a man needs to be apart of includes men he is attracted too? Does he just move on? Go to a different church? What if he is attracted to the pastor? And the pastor's good looks cause him to lust? Should he leave the church? Some can tell me, “Richard, why do you need to be naked with your friends? Why do you need to see their penis?” And then they bring themselves in the picture and say, “When I struggle with lust after a girl, I leave the scene, or ask her to wear something that is not so “open” (Im sure you get my point now).

I want to stress that a guy who struggles with lusting after women can go to a community of guys and talk to them about it and not worry about whether or not they feel comfortable about his lust for women because they all understand that. And that is a healthy, loving, and godly environment. And I believe those who are attracted to their male friends should also have that same environment. I don't have the option to run away from a situation because the very community I am in includes men that are attractive. Instead of running away from them, I run to them. The reason I do that is because these men are God's hands and feet in my life. And so I need to see God through them and experience God's love through them. And as I do that I no longer see them as sexual objects but my brothers, my friends! Seeing them naked and being with them naked gives me the experience of being known, knowing them, and gives me the opportunity to not lust after them but see them as they are. It also solves the curiosity of their physical being. As I experienced nakedness with them my attraction for them goes away. I believe that happened because I was able to know them in a better and healthier way. I call this “locker room bonding.” The reason I do this is because I can't just run away from every christian guy I am attracted too. I need to deal with saying no to the sinful unhealthy desires in my life. And it hurts and it is painful. But I need to do this because I am going to be living with men and be in a community with them my whole life. I need to deal with the fact that it is sinful to lust after men. This process is called sanctification. And it burns. It takes the sinfulness out of us. C. S. Lewis says something that refers to this process, “We are, not metaphorically but in very truth, a Divine work of art, something that God is making, and therefore something with which He will not be satisfied until it has a certain character. Here again we come up against what I have called the “intolerable compliment.”

I have a hard time when men want girls to wear certain clothing in order for them to not lust after them. Now the girls should be thinking about their christian brothers, but guys need to grow a pair and learn to say no to their lust. Trust me, I know it hurts, but you have to do this. It is a command from God. Don't start putting your burden of lust on women by having them change. You need to change your heart and say no to it and trust that God will provide you with what you need. Again. C. S. Lewis tackles this, “We may wish, indeed, that we were of so little account to God that He left us alone to follow our natural impulses- that He would give over trying to train us into something so unlike our natural selves; but once again, we are asking not for more love, but for less.”

When I lived in the dorms at Biola, I would see attractive guys with their shirts off everyday. I would see naked guys everyday. And I realized I needed to say no to the lust in my heart and see these guys for who they were, my christian brothers. My friends, children of God, men. That is the higher calling God has for those who struggle with homosexuality. God wants to transform us into his perfect art.

Here are some writings from friends of mine that experience normal times of nakedness with me and the thoughts they have about it.

Ryan, how is it being friends with Richard as you experience physical nakedness with him?

Being naked around other men may not be a normal experience for every man in the US, but for a good portion of the male population I would think that it isn't something farfetched. Most boys that grow up playing sports, spending time at summer camps, and male dormitories at college experience nude settings as a norm. Setting such as these may include locker rooms, communal showers, and even innocent pranks. For me being naked around other men is quite normal, even though as I get older these settings are becoming more rare. None of this changes with Richard being in the room, he is just one of the guys. Over the years he has earned my trust with loyal friendship. I understand that Richard did not have the same experience growing up as I had, but what I like to point out is that he is still man. I can be naked around Richard because he is a man that I trust. - Ryan

Sith, how is it being friends with Richard as you experience physical nakedness with him?

 It’s been a journey and a learning experience. I’m not even sure I’m doing it right, but I know that God sees my heart, that I love this friend and want him to feel whole. Concerning physical nakedness, I was first very hesitant. Not so much because of an insecurity of my own body but because the whole idea of being naked with someone who has same sex attractions was so counter-intuitive to me. But Richard was a major catalyst for me to challenge my thought process, as he does with a plethora of issues in addition to same sex attraction. Was it counter-intuitive due to a cultural, social format I was brought up into believing? Was it Holy Spirit driven? What if this harmed him? made things “worse”? But what if there was good that came about this? Would the benefit outweigh the harm? With many other issues I have wrestled over, I have sought the counsel of my trusted mentors. But I knew that this was not like any issue they have faced before, so I was on my own for this one.The question kept ringing in my mind, what is my part in helping my good friend with his particular needs? It can not be denied that intimacy is an essential part of human interaction and an enjoyable life. And intimacy can be met in varying ways, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. With my other male friends, we have, in a sense, found some sort of intimacy with one another on all these levels. But the aspect of physical intimacy, in question, have been limited. At most, we joke around a do stupid things like moon one another or flash each other... There may be some merit to the saying, “guys will be guys.” But anyways, I digress. I have never been fully naked with anyone of my male friends, let alone for the purpose of intentionally fulfilling a specific need. We know that there is healthy intimacy and unhealthy intimacy. The question of what is healthy vs. unhealthy intimacy was the key issue. And once I found what health intimacy was, why not explore that with Richard together. It was difficult for me to find that line. But it was obvious that there was something inherently different from giving a guy a blowjob versus spending time together naked as friends talking about life. And of course, an inherent factor in this situation is that I did not have same sex attractions. Yes, there’s the physical nakedness, but to me, it was more than that. After deciding to experience physical nakedness with Richard, I came to the conclusion that it was a healthy vulnerability that came about. It can meet the needs of friends who may struggle with a flawed view of nakedness, that only being in the context of unhealthy sex. And this I mean also applies to those with heterosexual attractions, with unhealthy sexual desires. These were some of my many thoughts that ran in to the mind, that yes, as one can tell, there are still holes in these thought processes. But I was not willing to wait until until every hole was patched up while my friend was hurting. - Sith