When a Penis is More Than a Penis

My partner Dutch and I were sitting down to watch restored films in our friend Todd’s backyard last night when someone in the audience asked for a bottle opener. Todd’s new neighbor, a young blonde woman, whipped out a bottle opener which was penis-shaped. Of course, I had to ask her where she found such an item. “Spain,” she said as she handed me the opener to admire.

The opener was beautifully decorated wood with a lovely shape that fit in my hand perfectly. It was painted black with scrollwork in gold and white with the tip of the penis etched and painted gold. Quite simply, it was a beautiful piece of working art. Even Dutch agreed that our simple unadorned wooden shoe bottle opener from The Netherlands doesn’t compare to this woman’s penis bottle opener.

A Google search revealed that her penis opener can be found in Fuerteventura, Canary Islands, Spain. Sadly, I cannot locate any history on why the penis is offered as a bottle opener — if it is a tourist money-maker or if there is a cultural reason.

My internet search revealed that other penis bottle openers are sold as souvenirs in Bali and Greece as well.

Travelers to Australia can purchase a furry kangaroo scrotum bottle opener. The genuine kangaroo balls are harvested and processed according to Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service rules and regulations, meaning the kangaroo scrotums are harvested only after the kangaroos are killed for other reasons, such as for meat consumption.

Visitors to The Icelandic Phallological Museum, located in Reykjavik, Iceland, can enjoy the world’s only museum dedicated to penises. The museum artifacts include 282 penises and penile parts from 93 different species of animals, most belonging to the majority of the land and sea mammals found in Iceland.

After touring the museum, visitors can purchase phallic-related items at the gift shop, including designer condoms, a penis and testicles salt and pepper shaker set, penis-shaped pasta, a penis key ring, and a magnet that states, “It’s all about Dicks.” These items, among others, are available for purchase online from the museum’s website.

Art lovers and museum goers should take advantage of any Pompeii exhibitions they encounter during their travels. The Gabinetto Segreto, or Secret Cabinet, of Naples, Italy, held the erotic artwork of Pompeii and nearby Herculaneum, for nearly two centuries after Pompeii was “discovered” by Europeans and its treasures removed. These works of art include phallic wind chimes, oil lamps, fertility sculptures and marble statues.

Dutch and I were fortunate to see some of these erotic pieces of artwork from Pompeii while we were in Montreal this past summer. Romans, including the citizens of Pompeii and Herculaneum, had a particular fondness for the erotic in art and in everyday objects. The extremely well-endowed god Priapus was a common good-luck symbol for the Romans, who casually accepted erotica like we accept cellphones.

My favorite piece from the Pompeii exhibit is called ‘Pan Copulating with a Goat,’ which is not a piece representing bestiality as most people assume at first. This is a beautiful solid marble sculpture showing marvelous details, such as the texture of goat hair and hoof, depicting a sex act between the god Pan and a female goat. For a lovely photo of the sculpture and other Pompeii erotic art, check out the blog, Hole in the Doughnut Cultural Travel.

After the erotic Roman treasures were looted from Pompeii by Europeans, they were placed in private collections, many winding up hidden in locked closets at various times throughout history because the pieces were considered indecent and even pornographic by European society. In keeping with how the Pompeii artwork was treated and hidden away by the Victorians, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts exhibited the Pompeii artwork in an unmarked little room off to the side of the main exhibit. I would have missed this room completely had I not been curious about its very presence.

When I entered the side room, I was delighted. Not only was I looking at works of art that are well made and thousands of years old, I was looking at work that pushes boundaries and encourages conversations among people. There were many conversations, some serious and some light-hearted, taking place in that little side room, in French, English, and many other languages, about the penile artwork surrounding us, just as there were lively conversations in Todd’s backyard about the penis bottle openers of Spain.