The well-placed cactus

(Racy stuff about cactuses and the male genitals, so not in good taste, but not actually dangerous.)

Yesterday, from Heidi Harley on Facebook:

(#1) HH: Tucson does good sunrises too

And then in a further exchange:

Emily Menon Bender: Such a well placed cactus!

AMZ: I’m savoring “a well placed cactus”. Being the person that I am, I’m contextualizing it in things like “And in the garden stood a handsome young man with a well-placed cactus”.

Playing on the cactus as phallic symbol, with an echo of well-endowed and an allusion to the use of well-placed objects (even, perhaps, potted cactuses) to conceal naughty bits (breasts, male genitals — the very things that can be referred to as well-endowed) in otherwise nude representations.

Concealing vs. revealing the male genitals is a recurrent theme on this blog. There’s a Page on the subject in general, and also a Page on cock teases, which toy with threatening to remove a cover for the genitals. In the first category, there’s a subtype in which the genitals are concealed by an object — as in this photo of Peter Sellers’s Inspector Clouseau negotiating his way through a nudist colony in the movie A Shot in the Dark:

(#2) The Clouseau guitar stratagem

There are photos of naked men standing strategically behind a plant, or holding a plant in front of their crotch, but I haven’t found any  good ones. The closest I’ve found is something rather different: a cactus used as a stand-in for an erect penis:


and that will have to do for the moment.

Penis cactuses. Columnar cactuses (like the one in #3) are all phallic to some degree, but some are so strikingly phallic they’ve become known as “penis cactuses”. I give you the Bolivian torch cactus. From Wikipedia:

(#4) A gang of green penises (but with wicked spines)

Echinopsis lageniformis (syn. Trichocereus bridgesii), the Bolivian torch cactus, is a fast-growing columnar cactus from the high deserts of Bolivia.

… The monstrose form of Echinopsis lageniformis is known as the penis plant or penis cactus. Contrary to the typical columnar habit of the species, this cultivar displays short stem sections that branch avidly, forming a low spiny bush. The upper part of each stem segment is smooth and spineless, resembling a penis [complete with urethral slit]. The lower part is spiny and shows a tendency to form ribs. The plant is light green. The German name for this cultivar, Frauenglück, more euphemistic than its English equivalent, translates as “women’s joy”.

See also the World of Succulents site on Pachycereus schottii ‘Big Penis Cactus’, very similar to #4, but growing up to 3 ft. tall.

A cactus with the whole package. Finally, from a Reddit posting, “My well endowed cactus is about to bloom”, this remarkable plant:

(#5) Possibly another Echinopsis species

This one manages to represent the testicles as well as the penis (so the poster labeled it [NSFW]).

Meanwhile, in response to my “Halloween pumpkins” posting of 11/1, about a species of globe-like pumpkin-colored flowers, Tim Evanson posted on Facebook:

Some years ago, I saw an image of a well-endowed young man who had painted his testes to look like jack-o-lanterns.

Talk about your Halloween pom-poms!

(Alas, I could find no record of this remarkable image.)

Now, NOAD restricts the application of the adjective well-endowed, when used of a man, to penis size, leaving testicles out of the picture, though they are subject to at least as much variation in their properties (including size) as penises, as you can see from photos of men’s genitals (now easily available in bulk on the net), and as I can affirm from about 55 years of first-hand, so to speak, experience. Just as there are men renowned for their big penises, so there are men renowned for their huge cojones. Though the two populations overlap considerably, there are a number whose two genital sizes aren’t concordant.

So much for anatomical facts. Then there are the facts of English usage, which don’t seem clear to me at all. The question is those size-discordant guys: would people use well-endowed for a big-penis, small-testicle guy? for a small-penis, big-testicle guy? (All four combinations are attested, but the fieldwork presents a great many obstacles.)

(I realize that only a committed linguist would think to ask such questions, but then that’s what we’re here for. We should be able to give as much attention to the uses in context of anatomical vocabulary as, say, Labov famously did to vocabulary in the container — cup, bowl, glass, vase, etc. — domain.)

In any case, I suspect that there would be both considerable variation in usage and considerable uncertainty. Well-endowed unquestionably takes in big penises, for some delineation of size categories; the issues are whether having small testicles undercuts that, and whether big testicles by themselves are sufficient, and it’s entirely possibly that lots of people just have no idea. There’s a lot of terra incognito in people’s mental lexicons — and that’s ok, because your mental lexicon doesn’t have to cope clearly with all cases, just be good enough most of the time on the ones that are important to you in the social world you live in.

No doubt you were not expecting a photo of a gorgeous sunrise in Tucson to end with musings on testicles. The life of the mind is endlessly surprising.

3 Responses to “The well-placed cactus”

  1. Bill Stewart Says:

    I hope you can come visit our cactus garden soon.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      Oh Bill, I’ve enjoyed your pictures. Unfortunately, that’s probably the only way I’m going to appreciate the garden; I have no way to travel anywhere.

  2. Sim Aberson Says:

    Just last night, we watched The Twentieth Century (, a surreal, gender-bending, German Expressionist telling of the rise to power of William Lyon Mackenzie King in Canada. Multiple scenes involve a cactus that, well, spews when certain climaxes occur. It’s fun that I saw this post after watching that enjoyable film.

    Alas, I could not find an image on the interwebs.

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