BOOKS: The Cultural Encyclopedia of the Penis

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I was pleased today to receive my copy of The Cultural Encyclopedia of the Penis, a handsome hardcover reference book from Rowman & Littlefield edited by Michael Kimmel, a distinguished writer and authority on male sexuality, along with Christine Milrod and Amanda Kennedy. It’s an intelligent, serious but not overly scholarly volume with fewer illustrations than I would have imagined. The dozens of contributors include distinguished sexologists including Milton Diamond and my friend Winston Wilde, as well as Cynthia Albritton, aka Cynthia Plastercaster, famous L.A. groupie and member of The G.T.O.’s.

My subject was BODY ELECTRIC, and here’s my entry on that subject:


In the realm of penis-pleasuring, “Body Electric” is code for a particular type of erotic massage. Invented by massage therapist and former Jesuit seminarian Joseph Kramer and first disseminated through a workshop for gay men called “Celebrating the Body Erotic,” Taoist erotic massage incorporates a wide variety of cock strokes intended to raise and circulate erotic energy around the body without the goal of ejaculation.

In 1984, Kramer founded a massage school in Oakland, California, that he named the Body Electric School after Walt Whitman’s famous ecstatic poem extolling the sacredness of the human body in all its forms and flavors. At the time, Kramer was on a mission to heal the split between sexuality and spirituality in his own life and to bring that healing to his tribe of gay men. With the onset of the AIDS epidemic, gay men had become terrified of touch and sex, and Kramer conceived a pleasurable way to share intensely erotic physical contact that involved no exchange of fluids and therefore constituted completely safe sex.

Synthesizing teachings from Stanislav Grof (on holotropic breathwork), Mantak Chia (on learning to separate orgasm from ejaculation), and tantra (on viewing sexuality as sacred energy), Kramer taught up to 40 workshops a year across the United States and Europe in 1988. He devised 30 different strokes for the “magic wand” that, unlike conventional masturbation, were designed not to facilitate ejaculation but to raise energy and extend pleasure indefinitely. He gave them playful, evocative names such as “Cock Shiatsu,” “Rock Around the Clock,” “Twist and Shout,” and “Hairy Palm Sunday.” Combined with steady, continuous, conscious breathing, a massage integrating these strokes culminated in a full-body contraction known as “The Big Draw,” which “squeezes the orgasmic energy you have generated into the core of your being where it shoots up through your heart and out the top of your head, connecting…with all other energies.” The combined flooding of breath and erotic energy can trigger a full-body orgasm. Some receivers hallucinate, weep, or have involuntary tremors that resemble grand mal seizures, while others simply feel pleasant tingling or peaceful calm.

Participants in Kramer’s workshops and week-long intensives gradually formed a community sharing a vocabulary and philosophy of sacred sexuality. In 1993 Kramer sold the Body Electric School, which continues to offer classes for groups of men and women in erotic touch as a healing practice.


The Cultural Encyclopeida of the Penis is a pricey reference book — it lists for $85, which means it’s aimed more at schools and libraries than individuals — but you can order it from Barnes & Noble here. I’m reproducing the first page of the table of contents, as a teaser.

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MEDIA: Matt Alber’s “Handsome Man” video is a 4-minute primer on gay male intimacy

One of the paradoxes of gay male porn is that it shows all the juicy explicit details of sexual intimacy while rarely giving the slightest hint of emotional or social intimacy — such as what people say in order to get into sexual situations and what they say after everybody orgasms. So guys who watch a lot of porn, especially younger guys, guys who are in the closet, late bloomers, and the sexually inexperienced, can get lulled into thinking that’s all there is and forget or never learn how to conduct the simplest forms of interpersonal socializing.  Because if you’ve never seen it, how are you supposed to know what it looks like?

The new video by Texan gay singer-songwriter Matt Alber (which debuted today on represents a perfect antidote or companion to a steady diet of porn. In just 4 minutes and 44 seconds, it captures a multitude of glimpses of gay male intimacy that hardly ever show up even in full-length films and TV shows about gay life.

Two good-looking guys who aren’t kids, who have facial hair, geeky glasses, and imperfect bodies — 39-year-old Alber and his buddy Alan — wake up in bed together. They get up slowly, nuzzling and smooching. They have breakfast, they go back to bed, they take pictures of each other. They share a book. One writes a secret note on the back of a strip of photo-booth shots they’d obviously taken recently. The other one reads it after the guy leaves, and you see emotion surge into his eyes.

As these scenes play out, we hear the song “Handsome Man,” which kicks off Alber’s recently released EP Wind Sand Stars. The lyric conveys some of the simple thoughts and questions that emerge when you’re Getting to Know Someone:

Hey handsome man what’d ya do last night?
Did you have a good time? Was the music all right?
Did you wear that jacket with the deep blue jeans?
Bet the boys went crazy, bet you caused a scene.
Cuz everybody smiles when a handsome man walks by

Say handsome man, where you off to now?
Are you out in the garden or off to town?
Are there any new songs that you’re listening to?
I’m gonna take ya dancing when I come to see you

Handsome man, can I ask you this?
I know we’ve both been loved and we’ve both been kissed
But when the hounds are sleeping and the night is deep
Will you tell me the story of you and me?

I love that Matt Alber prizes these tiny mundane touches of gay male affection and interest and that he’s willing to model them, to be a kind of teacher of gay intimacy. Check out the video and let me know what you think. And if you haven’t ever seen it, be sure to check out the video that put Alber on the map, “End of the World,” an even more romantic four-minute fairy tale with the kind of happy ending you don’t see in porn.