The Flaccid Appeal Of The Festival Of New Masculinity


A month of chin-stroking studies exploring masculinity does not excite us.

What’s this? A festival of masculinity? In 2020? No, you’re not dreaming. Such a thing is happening. But don’t get excited – this is a decidedly flaccid affair from The Book of Man, described in the press release as a ‘conscious’ (online) magazine – ‘Woke’ presumably being a tainted description. Boasting that it is the antithesis of the Nineties Lad’s Mag (up there with Hitler these days in terms of hate figures it seems), it offers “progressive advice and inspiration to men, and features columnists such as Professor Green, Jason Fox and Russel Kane.” Don’t all rush at once to read it.

Throughout March, they will be presenting the Festival of New Masculinity, or possibly The Book of Man Festival (it’s a touch vague on the press release), and there will be none of that boorish fancying birds and engaging in drunken banter here, I think you’ll find. Instead, they are holding a series of events ranging from “communication and kindness workshops to panel talks on male body image and social media, mental health and ‘the sportsman mentality'”. Well. I’m all in favour of guys exploring new areas of consciousness, but the constant browbeating and attacks on lad culture and traditional masculinity in general are frankly wearing. It’s a radical thought I know, but perhaps male mental health issues are not helped by constantly telling young men that they are the root of all evil in society.

One event, held in conjunction with the Vagina Museum, is the Penis Gallery, dubbed ‘night of a thousand cocks’. Well, this at least sounds a bit edgier – a celebration of male sexuality rather than an attack on it. Submissions are now open for anonymous dick pics, which might at least give some temporary relief to the women on dating apps who are constantly bombarded with them on social media. Don’t get too excited – the dicks will be in flaccid state only – an erect cock, though no longer an illegal sight in Britain, might be a bit too provocatively sexual – and will be accompanied by a panel discussion about taboos and anxieties. Jo Menell’s thematically similar short film Dick, from 1989, also featured a thousand penises, but at least had a sex-positive and humorous spin with women enthusiastically discussing the parade of (yes, also flaccid) cocks on display; this discussion sounds rather ponderous and hand-wringing. I hope I’m wrong.

We mock, of course, because let’s face it – that’s what we do. But we can appreciate the thought behind this. No doubt the Book of Man mean well, and a support network for the poor guys who have been left bewildered by their constant demonisation in the media and academic circles is clearly a good thing. They are working with suicide prevention charity CALM, and anything that tackles the often ignored (or, in some of the more unpleasant intersectional circles, openly mocked) epidemic of young men killing themselves. But it all feels very touchy-feely, and I can’t help but feel that we’d be all better off if young men were simply not made to feel ashamed of being young men. Lad Culture certainly had plenty of problems, but I can’t help thinking it was preferable to the current fretting about male identity, very much the result of a middle-class obsession that has successfully crushed and demonised expressions of working-class blokishness and definitely doesn’t help the situation.

Anyway, if you want to send a photograph of your unaroused member, go ahead: