God's Doodle: The Life and Times of the Penis
In the interest of full disclosure, I am a penis enthusiast. A fan of the cock, a lover of dick, a supporter of the wiener—that’s me. This qualification ought to make me the ideal audience for Tom Hickman’s latest, God’s Doodle. Purporting to detail the “life and times of the penis,” Hickman, alas, succeeds only in passing along trivial information and pointing out the obvious: Penises mean a lot to those who have them, less so to those who don’t.
It’s no surprise to learn that both the penis and its accouterments have been revered throughout history. The world has been ruled by men since the beginning of recorded history, and men’s thoughts have been ruled by their genitals for almost as long. Before science caught up, women weren’t even acknowledged to have a role in conception beyond incubation. The almighty seed was central to all fertility, even to the extent of being spread on crops. Talk about your GMOs.
Hickman is a journalist and thus, his research is exhaustive. In fact, I frequently had to take a nap after an extended reading session. His wit is dry, but palpable; unfortunately, it’s the humor of the world’s brainiest 12-year-old boy. Hickman has a myopic view of feminism in relation to male sexuality. The hard-line feminism of the ’60s and ’70s, exemplified by a fierce independence that made men feel less than necessary, has given rise to inclusive ideas that shun patriarchy, heteronormativity and rigid gender roles. But those evolved ideas don’t fit Hickman’s “male anxiety” narrative of feminism. Meanwhile, he has no problem citing myriad examples of misogyny from ancient to modern cultures.
But the most egregious foul Hickman commits is the omission of the penis as weapon. While rape is mentioned in passing—primarily as a woman’s excuse for castration or other acts of vengeance—the topic doesn’t even merit a listing in the index. (You can find the castration bits under “women, and damaging of male genitalia.”) Hickman may consider rape a “women’s issue” or may have not wanted to taint the historical worship of the penis with its darker side. Or it could be that he, wisely, won’t mine the topic of rape for humor. Whatever the reason, an extensive record of rape exists in the context of war and conquest, mythology and religion, and it continues into current times. Hickman’s sanitization of history, ancient and modern, is as distasteful as asparagus-flavored spunk.
I never read a book I wanted to like more than this one, but as glorious as the penis is, God’s Doodle left me limp.