The self-rising mascot

(Considerable discussion of sexual practices in this posting — largely in cautious language, but some may find the topics — male masturbation and male-male sexual acts — distasteful.)

To understand the brilliant 3/11 Wayno / Piraro Bizarro, you need to marshal detailed information about the Pillsbury Doughboy, the Roman Catholic confessional, the language of male masturbation in English, and self-rising flour (I wonder what, say, a Japanese exchange student in the U.S. would make of the cartoon; there is just so much culturally specific knowledge needed to understand it):

(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 5 in this strip — see this Page.)

You must recognize the central figure as Poppin’ Fresh the Pillsbury Doughboy (though you can’t see the Pillsbury label on his chef’s hat), the dough-creature mascot of the (American) Pillsbury baking brand since 1965; and you must recognize that he’s at the grill, or screen, separating the penitent from the priest in the confessional box of a Roman Catholic Church, where he is confessing his sins (seeking absolution from the priest); then you must understand that the particular sin he’s confessing is masturbation (stimulating his penis by hand to become erect — to rise — for the purpose of sexual pleasure), and that this is a grave sin, requiring confession; and finally, and crucially, you have to see that his reference to his masturbating as self-rising (metonymically causing himself to rise) is a play on words, the ordinary use of self-rising being to flour (available mostly in the US and the UK) with added ingredients that will cause dough made from such flour to swell — to rise — on its own.

What makes the cartoon so delightful is that all of this is woven together by the fact that Poppin’ Fresh is an anthropomorphic being — a male one, with the desires of a sexually mature male — made of dough.

Pillsbury and Poppin’ Fresh. From Wikipedia:

The Pillsbury Company [founded in Minneapolis MN in 1869] was a … company that was one of the world’s largest producers of grain and other foodstuffs until it was bought by General Mills in 2001. [The company may have been swallowed up, but the brand name goes on.]

… Advertising company Leo Burnett Worldwide created Pillsbury’s Doughboy and Jolly Green Giant, which are two of the agency’s top brand icons.

Pillsbury introduced the Pillsbury Doughboy character Poppin’ Fresh in 1965, and  introduced the “Nothin’ says lovin’ like something from the oven” jingle along with the character, apparently exploiting an existing Nothing Says A Like B (snowclone) template.

(#2) I note that PF is woefully lacking in fingers, but has opposable thumbs — crucial equipment for masturbation

Meanwhile, PF’s classic chef’s hat marks him as into baking — of all sorts of food in the BREADCAKE category, comprising a gigantic range of breads, cakes, and related foods made from some kind of flour.

The hat:

(#3) A classic chef hat from The Manual site (selling gifts for men) on chef’s hats on 6/28/21

Meanwhile, the Pillsbury brand name covers flours of many kinds (including, of course, self-rising flour), and a wide range of foodstuffs in the BREADCAKE category. On the category, see my 4/29/18 posting “All the dessert world is not either cake or pie”, from which:

It’s (fairly) clear that the things canonically called cakes and pies are central members of a category (which has no customary label — [call it CAKEPIE]); that things canonically called pies fall into a category (which, again, has no customary label — [call it PIEESQUE]) with other things canonically called tartsflans, and quiches; and that things canonically called cake(s) (including some things canonically called tortes in English and some other languages) fall into a category ([call it BREADCAKE]) with things canonically called bread(s).

BREADCAKE includes canonical cake, tortes, creampuffs, etc.; canonical bread (leavened and unsweetened), toast, flatbreads, matzos, Melba toast, crèpes, pancakes, crackers, rolls, popovers, muffins, (AmE) biscuits, (AmE) cookies, shortbread, various kinds of sweet bread, doughnuts, fried breads of many kinds, stuffed breads of many kinds, and much more.

(The conventional labels for things in the BREADCAKE category are sometimes poor guides as to their nature. Consider the Adj + N compound noun shórtbrèad. From NOAD:

noun shortbread: a crisp, rich, crumbly type of cookie made with butter, flour, and sugar.

Note that shortbread is not a subsective compound: shortbread is not bread.)

Confession and the confessional. From Wikipedia:

A confessional is a box, cabinet, booth, or stall in which the priest in some Christian churches sits to hear the confessions of penitents. It is the usual venue for the sacrament in the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran Churches, but similar structures are also used in Anglican churches of an Anglo-Catholic orientation.

… The confessional is usually a wooden structure, with a centre compartment — entered through a door or curtain — in which the priest sits, and on each side there is a latticed opening for the penitents to speak through and a step on which they kneel. By this arrangement the priest is hidden, but the penitent is visible to the public.

As represented in art:

(#4) Juan García Martínez (Spanish painter, 1828-95), The Penitent (1884) — showing, in particular, the grill, or screen, separating the priest and the penitent

A summary of the relevant part of the Rite of Penance. The priest welcomes the penitent and invites them to confess their sins. The formula “Bless / Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned; it has been [period of time] since my last confession; these are my sins…” is widely used in the U.S. and some other places, but is not actually prescribed by the Rite. Crucial to the Rite: that the penitent confesses their sins and accepts the act of penance laid down by the priest, that the priest invites them to contrition, and that the priest intones the formulas of absolution and dismissal. You not only have to confess, you must also be contrite (expressing your intention to sin no more).

Confession of all grave sins is required, confession of venial sins is recommended but not required. You are obliged to confess faithfully your grave sins at least once a year; a yearly confession is necessary to perform your “Easter duty”, receiving Communion at least once during the Easter season.

More on the confessional in my 1/20/16 posting “From Yaosobi News”, provoked by a Next Door Studio gay porn video “Cheating Faith” featuring, oh dear, man-on-man sex through the confessional opening. (The immense significance of confession and the confessional in the practices of Roman Catholic Church makes the rite and its site obvious targets for sacrilege, as in “Cheating Faith”.)

On from this to masturbation. The Roman Catholic Church’s position on masturbation, from Wikipedia:

the deliberate use of the sexual faculty outside of marriage is, according to the teaching of the Church, contrary to its primary purpose of procreation and unification of the husband and wife within the sacrament of marriage. In addition, the Church teaches that all other sexual activity — including masturbation, homosexual acts, acts of sodomy, all sex outside of or before marriage (fornication), and the use of any form of contraception or birth control — is gravely disordered, as it frustrates the natural order, purpose, and ends of sexuality.

Which brings us to:

The language of masturbation in English. Background from NOAD:

verb masturbate: [a] [no object] stimulate one’s own genitals for sexual pleasure: we do not like to admit that we masturbate. [b] [with object] stimulate the genitals of (someone) to give them sexual pleasure: they masturbated each other in the long grass below the tennis courts.

An entry I especially treasure for its two examples: for intransitive masturbate, understood reflexively, an expression of cultural attitudes about the practice; and for transitive masturbate, a moment of steamy sexual poetry on mutual, or reciprocal, masturbation.

Of similar cultural interest is this NOAD subentry:

noun self-abuse: [b] used euphemistically to refer to masturbation: prostitutes were thought preferable to the guilt and fear induced by self-abuse. [Cf. the masturbatory sense of self-rising.]

(There is a Page on this blog on my postings about masturbation, both the practices and the vocabulary.)

In any case, the initial aim of male masturbation is to arouse the penis, usually by hand; the ultimate aim is ejaculation; and the purpose of the enterprise throughout its unfolding is the masturbator’s pleasure.

There are three aspects of penile arousal (consequences of engorgement with blood), all of which provide a basis for ways of talking about the initial stages of masturbation (which is what’s relevant in #1):

— the penis swells, becomes larger (this reference in tumescencetumescent and tumid)

— the penis hardens, becomes stiffer (this reference in get hardhard-on, stiffy, boner)

— the penis rises, stands up or out, becomes erect (this reference in erection)

It’s the third effect that serves as the basis for the double entendre in #1, where self-rising is intended to convey the racy ‘causing oneself (that is, one’s penis) to rise’ (a transitive use), rather than the expected ‘(esp. of flour) rising by itself, on its own (without external cause)’ (an intransitive use).

Which brings us to:

Self-rising flour. From Wikipedia:

In English-speaking countries, self-raising (or self-rising) flour is commercially available with chemical leavening agents already in the mix. In America, it is also likely to be pre-salted; in Britain this is not the case. The added ingredients are evenly distributed throughout the flour, which aids a consistent rise in baked goods. This flour is generally used for preparing sponge cakes, scones, muffins, etc. It was invented by Henry Jones and patented in 1845. If a recipe calls for self-raising flour, and this is not available, [you can substitute a mixture of plain flour, baking powder, and salt]

Background note from NOAD:

noun baking powder: a mixture of sodium bicarbonate and cream of tartar, used [as leavening] instead of yeast in baking.

The purpose of a leavening agent is to release gases into dough, causing it to, yes, swell and rise.

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