News for carnivorous penises

(No actual penises, but some decidedly peniform plants and lots of intimate anatomical references, sometimes in street language; urethras abound. So clearly not to everyone’s taste.)

It began with a Facebook posting by Jens Fiederer, with a photo of the Botanical Penis of Doom, from the Thailand-Secrets site:

(#1) Cheng Kam Wor: “This is a pitcher plant of the genus Nepenthes sp. The glans-like top is actually a lid for the bottom pitcher structure. A carnivorous plant like the Venus flytrap!”

Above with the lid closed (while the plant is digesting its prey). Here’s Nepenthes ventricosa with its lid open to entice unwary small creatures:

(#2) From Wikipedia:

Nepenthes, also known as tropical pitcher plants, is a genus of carnivorous plants in the monotypic family Nepenthaceae [#92 in my running inventory of plant families on this blog]. The genus comprises about 170 species, and numerous natural and many cultivated hybrids. … They are mostly liana-forming plants of the Old World tropics, ranging from South China, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines; westward to Madagascar and the Seychelles; southward to Australia and New Caledonia; and northward to India and Sri Lanka. The greatest diversity occurs on Borneo, Sumatra, and the Philippines, with many endemic species.

… The most obvious interaction between Nepenthes species and their environments, including other organisms, is that of predator and prey. Nepenthes species certainly attract and kill their prey, albeit passively, through active production of attractive colours, sugary nectar, and even sweet scents. From this relationship, the plants primarily gain nitrogen and phosphorus to supplement their nutrient requirements for growth, given these soil nutrients are typically lacking. The most frequent prey is an abundant and diverse group of arthropods, with ants and other insects [includimg termites] topping the menu. Other arthropods found frequently include spiders, scorpions, and centipedes, while snails and frogs are more unusual, but not unheard of.

Digression: a note on representations of the penis. Life-like representation. Especially of an erect penis. And publicly visible.

If it’s not especially lifelike, or if it’s in a context that establishes it as something other than an actual human bodypart, then it can be viewed in public — on display in a public place out in the world, or in generally available media, as in magazines, on Facebook, and the like — without sanction. It might be viewed as tasteless, but it’s not actionable.

As a result, cake-icing penises, joke shot glasses in the form of penises with testicles, schematic cartoon penis, and the like get by.

So do objects that might uncannily resemble penises, even erect ones, but are clearly not human bodyparts. That’s where the plants (and some mushrooms) come in. If they’re photographed in context, you can immediately appreciate that actual penises are not on display. (For the record: I suspect that the photo in #1 has been doctored a bit, to make the pitcher plants in it even more like penises in their details. That just makes them more startling — but, still, they’re plants.)

The easy lesson is: it’s the actual object, and not its mere appearance, that gives offense.

But there’s an extra layer of complexity, which has to do with cultural attitudes towards photographs: in normal circumstances, for some purposes we treat the things in photographs to be those things in real life; the camera’s-eye view is just another view of those things, like yours or mine.  So a photograph of a penis is just as offensive as an actual penis would be.

We understand perfectly well that a picture of a penis is not a penis, and that knowledge could lead us respond quite differently to images and to bodyparts, just as we respond differently to the plant images in #1 and to images of penises. But by sociocultural convention, we disregard the manifest differences between things in photographs and things in the world, treating them as equivalent for some purposes.

The urethra of doom. The exterior of the pitcher plant resembles a penis, with shaft and head. Consequently, the cavity of the plant is a wide urethra treated as a receptive organ, luring small creatures to their doom.

The urethra then serves as the analogue of a perilous body cavity in insertive sex. Most perilous for a man being fellated, where his penis is in danger of being literally bitten off. Then figuratively perilous for the insertor in vaginal or anal intercourse: beware the dreaded vagina dentata, and its brother the anus dentatus! Fictitious (in human beings, at any rate) but fearsome.

From Wikipedia:

Vagina dentata (Latin for toothed vagina) describes a folk tale in which a woman’s vagina is said to contain teeth, with the associated implication that sexual intercourse might result in injury, emasculation, or castration for the man involved.

There are many creatures with dentatus, -a, -um ‘toothed’ as their specific name, for instance Chlopsis dentatus; from Wikipedia:

(#3) The mottled false moray, looking about as cute as such a creature can get (teeth not illustrated here: eels are notoriously toothy)

The mottled false moray (Chlopsis dentatus), is an eel in the family Chlopsidae. It was described by Alvin Seale in 1917, originally under the genus Garmanichthys. It is a tropical, marine eel which is known from the west coast of Africa (based on larval specimens collected from there), as well as regions in the eastern and western Atlantic, western Pacific, and western Indian Oceans. It typically dwells at a depth of 64–355 m. Males can reach a maximum total length of 19.9 cm.

Similarly, plants with toothed leaves, like the excellent shrub Viburnum dentatum; from Wikipedia:

(#4) Arrowwood viburnum, with its toothed leaves

Viburnum dentatum, southern arrowwood or arrowwood viburnum or roughish arrowwood, is a small shrub, native to the Eastern United States and Canada from Maine south to Northern Florida and Eastern Texas.

Like most Viburnum, it has opposite, simple leaves and fruit in [blue] berry-like drupes. Foliage turns yellow to [gorgeous] red in late fall.

All that’s small potatoes. We get to the real stuff — the anus dentatus –with a sea cucumber of the genus Actinopyga, which possess, omigod, anal teeth. From Wikipedia:

Sea cucumbers are echinoderms from the class Holothuroidea. They are marine animals with a leathery skin and an elongated body … Sea cucumbers are found on the sea floor worldwide. The number of holothurian species worldwide is about 1,717 with the greatest number being in the Asia Pacific region.

… Numerous small animals can live in symbiosis or commensalism with sea cucumbers, as well as some parasites. … A variety of fish, most commonly pearl fish, have evolved a commensalistic symbiotic relationship with sea cucumbers in which the pearl fish will live in sea cucumber’s cloaca using it for protection from predation, a source of food (the nutrients passing in and out of the anus from the water), and to develop into their adult stage of life. Many polychaete worms … and crabs … have also specialized to use the mouth or the [cloaca] for protection by living inside the sea cucumber. Nevertheless, holothurian species of the genus Actinopyga have anal teeth that prevent visitors from penetrating their anus.

(Not easy to illustrate effectively. Perhaps that’s just as well.)

Digression: the externals. But back to the urethra. While my attention was on this organ, I turned to the external urethral opening: in technical anatomical terms, the urinary meatus; in more metaphorical language, the urethral lips or urethral slit; in street language, the piss slit. I wondered, innocently, if there was a milder slang term. Went on a search, and found something genuinely distressing, first in the Urban Dictionary, then in GDoS.

The UD entry:

Jap’s eye: The external opening of the male urethra, appearing as a slit at the end of the penis. Perceived by Europeans to resemble the eye of a Japanese man, some consider the term racist, but it clearly isn’t, because Japanese men have them too. Takahiro’s attempts to find medical attention for the burning sensation in his Jap’s eye were initially thwarted when he was directed to an optometrist. – by Urban Keith on 11/3/13

The definition is fine is far as it goes (but needs some contextualization; it was completely unfamiliar to me, and there’s a reason for that). The argument that it isn’t racist is, however, incoherent; the term manages to unite the slurJap with the slur slant eye or slit eye for an East Asian (someone whose eyes have epicanthic folds), and no fact of anatomy can overcome that racist double whammy.

From GDoS:

noun Jap’s eye [also japseye]: (its resemblance to a ‘slit eye’ and thus racial stereotyping) the urethral opening at the end of the penis. [1st cite 1999]

The term (and its variant jappa) is specifically British, and seems to have been used, at least at first, especially by schoolboys. But it’s moved into a somewhat wider sphere, the way schoolboy naughtiness is apt to do. Here it is in a dinosaur meme, a texty:


And from a Univ. of Central Lancashire archive, this flyer promoting performances by the bands Doom, Jap’s Eye, and Stretch at Cheers Bar, Wigan, on Saturday the 18th of December c1994 (exact year uncertain):

(#6) No further record of the flagrantly named Scottish band, but then bands are often short-lived and change their names a lot too

The perils of being penetrated: the drill of doom. Above, the perils of penetrating a cavity: a urethra, a mouth, a vagina, an anus. But of course being penetrated can be equally perilous: unwanted, violent, painful.

I’ll start with the urethra, where you are probably familiar with catheterization as a medical procedure and so aware of the discomforts that can attend it. However, inserting tubes or rods into the urethra is also practiced to inflict pain (in torture, or to provide masochistic pleasure) or in fact to offer sensual pleasure, in the practice known as sounding. From my 2/18/13 posting “Commercial categories: gay sex toys”, listing:

SOUNDING TOOLS for urethral insertion: penis plugs (allowing for urination while wearing the plug) and urethral probes (slim rods) — essentially, catheterization for fun.

The point here is that sounding is tricky: it can go wrong — inflict pain or do actual damage to the urethra.

Similarly with oral, vaginal, and anal sex involving penetration by a penis or a penis substitute — in brief, getting drilled. All can be consensual and pleasurable for the receptive partner — that’s the ideal — but drilling can be assaultive and nasty, and it can also go wrong.

All this by way of saying that a depiction of someone getting drilled, in any of these ways, might be capable of a variety of interpretations. And that a symbolic depiction of drilling is even more open to interpretation. Truly, you might not know whether to laugh, to be aroused, or to be horrified.

That brings me to the kitchen gadget marketed as the Hotdogger, made by the Una Creation company of São Paulo, Brazil, and available through Amazon, where it is described as follows:

(#7) “Hotdogger, hot dog bun driller perfect for grilling and BBQ, ideal size for brats and other sausages” ($9.99)

[product description:] The Hotdogger is a new kitchen tool designed to drill the bun instead of cutting it. Eating hotdogs will never be the same. You will be able to add lots of condiments without worrying about spilling everything in your shirt or seeing the sausages/brats slipping away from your hotdog. The Hotdogger is easy to use, 100% recyclable and dishwasher safe. Wondering how it works? Just take your Hotdogger and place the conical tip in the edge of the bun and start rotating while pushing it in. You can easily drill the bun and get it ready for adding the condiments followed by the sausage.

Drill that bun!

Ok, the Hotdogger is a symbolic penis. The bun might be, symbolically, also a penis (so that Hotdogging is drilling a receptive urethra), or a head (so that Hotdogging is drilling a receptive mouth), or (most likely) a woman’s crotch or someone’s buttocks (so that Hotdogging is drilling a receptive vagina or anus). Then you insert the wurst (hotdog or sausage) to fill the hole. Start with uncut buns, and you get a result that very much resembles pigs in a blanket. All dripping with sexual symbolism. (On p’s in a b, see my 8/23/11 posting “Corndogs and their ilk”.)

(I owe my acquaintance with Hotdogging to Kim Darnell, who came across a video on Facebook that purports to be a — hysterically funny — tv commercial for the Hotdogger as marketed on-line by the HYGO Shop (a company that specalizes in gadgets and novelty products of many kinds). Neither Kim nor I have been able to find a link for the video that doesn’t go through Facebook; and I’ve searched though HYGO’s entire catalog for the product without success, so it might just be a joke. Either way, I’d like to post it here; if you can find a sharable link, put it here as a comment on this posting, or send it to me by e-mail (zwicky at-sign stanford dot edu) so that I can add it to ths posting.)


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