The Great Penis Robbery

Louisa Lombard reports from Tiringoulou in the Central African Republic, where sorcerers are said to be stealing men's genitals:

So that's where I left my phone.As best I could reconstruct from witness accounts, the stranger had stopped to purchase a cup of tea at the market. After handing over his money, he clasped the vendor's hand. The tea seller felt an electric tingling course through his body and immediately sensed that his penis had shrunk to a size smaller than that of a baby's. His yells quickly drew a crowd. Somehow in the fray a second man fell victim as well....

Penis snatching, [Lombard's informants] said, was a means of supplying an illicit and lucrative trade in organs. Cameroonians and Nigerians—people from places "where they have multistory buildings"—were seen as particularly well versed in the business. "You see how advanced Cameroon is?" someone said. "It's because they are so strong in commerce of all kinds, including in genitals and scalps." The stolen organs, my companions said, are sold to occult healers for use in ceremonies, or else they are quickly fenced back to victims of penis snatching for a price. But the real money was to be made in Europe. One man who had spent some time living in Cameroon said he had heard of a woman there who was nabbed by airport security while trying to smuggle several penises to the Continent inside a baguette.

Such rumors and accusations aren't uncommon, Lombard adds:

Sign of the witch.Reports of genital theft have spread like an epidemic across West and Central Africa over the past two decades, in tandem with what appears to be a general resurgence of witchcraft on the continent. Anthropologists have explained this rise as a response to an increasingly mystifying and capricious global economy. Which is to say that when the workings of capital are as genuinely obscure as they are in today's Africa, proceeding behind a veil of complexity and corruption, rumors of "occult economies"—often involving a trade in human organs—offer a less mystifying explanation for the radical disparities in wealth on display.

That said, genital theft is neither new nor confined to Africa. Similar panics afflicted Central Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries. (Malleus Maleficarum, a book-length jeremiad against the dangers of witchcraft from 1486, includes a discussion of sorceresses who "take away male members" and keep them in birds' nests.) And in 1967, an outbreak of koro—the belief that the penis is retracting into the body—overwhelmed hospitals in Singapore.

Those anthropologists' approach to tales of occult economies—their belief that these rumors can teach us things about people's anxieties and experiences, even when the stories are absurd—is similar to the way I discuss some of the stranger conspiracy theories in The United States of Paranoia, due out in August. Read a description of the book here; take a closer look at the cover here; preorder a copy here.

Bonus link: A few years ago in Harper's, Frank Bures offered a different (but complementary) take on the subject of supposed penis thefts in Africa, mixing a dispatch from Lagos with his thoughts on how psychiatry treats "culture-bound syndromes."

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  • Tim||

    You won't be laughing when the Government steals your penis.

  • ||

    And in 1967, an outbreak of koro—the belief that the penis is retracting into the body

    Hey man, I'm pretty happy when mine disappears inside a body.

  • ||

    Especially your own, amirite?

  • sarcasmic||

    So that's why people do yoga. It is all starting to make sense.

  • ||

    Well, that's why Warty does yoga. I can't speak for other people.

  • Brett L||

    The Ultimate Situp and 19 year olds in tight clothes contorting themselves. yep.

  • sloopyinca||

    But weren't we informed last night that 19-24 year olds aren't nearly as hot as 28-30 year olds?

  • Banjos||

    Laugh all you want, but a 28 year old professional cheerleader is still 10 times hotter than a baby-faced 18 year old cheerleader.

  • sloopyinca||

    Did you get out your detective kit and find the number "18" somewhere in my post? Was it written in invisible ink?

  • GILMORE||

    What's the deal with the Cheerleader fetish, anyway?

  • sarcasmic||

    Save the cheerleader, save the world.

  • Fluffy||

    Laugh all you want, but a 28 year old professional cheerleader is still 10 times hotter than a baby-faced 18 year old cheerleader.

    Holy cow, this is just SO WRONG.

    Pro football and basketball cheerleaders look like fucking Michelle Obama next to the average NCAA basketball cheerleader.

    1. The pro cheerleaders are too large, generally. After college, cheerleading ceases to be about throwing somebody in the air, and starts to be about jumping around on the sideline like a third-rate pole dancer. This drives the petite girls (who dominate college) out and encourages the Wookies. Driving the average appearance score down three points all by itself.

    2. Pro cheerleaders are all used-up looking.

    "But Fluffy, you know you would!" Probably not, actually. Most pro cheerleaders fall on the wrong side of my Madonna / Whore complex. I don't like fake hair, I don't like too much makeup, I don't like big heads, and if the first thing I think when I see you is "stripper" I don't like that either.

    So, to sum up, college cheerleaders FTW.

  • Brett L||

    I don't really discriminate, I've dated between 23-35 from the yoga studio and been happy with all of them. I was thinking of one in particular who is probably 24 now.

  • sarcasmic||

    You can have my penis... when you pry it from my cold, dead, wife!

  • LTC(ret) John||

    I...you, just...I mean....augh!

  • sarcasmic||

    Too far?

  • Aresen||

    Nah. Probably too short.

  • JW||

    How long has she been dead?

  • sloopyinca||

    Based on your wife's "no jacking it while out of town" policy, I doubt extracting your member from her iron grip is gonna be that easy.

  • sarcasmic||

    Why would I want to?

  • sloopyinca||

    Haven't you ever been on a work trip that lasted more than 5 nights? "Want"'s got nothing to do with it.

  • sarcasmic||

    Actually, I haven't. Never had to travel for work. But I know what you mean. I wasn't born married.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    a woman there who was nabbed by airport security while trying to smuggle several penises to the Continent inside a baguette.

    Nobody likes airline food.

  • Paul.||

    *rimshot*

  • LTC(ret) John||

    That worked on a couple of different levels. +1

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Siggy Freud is like, "fuck, this is too easy!"

  • ||

    Rulers, how do they work?

  • ||

    They shrink?

  • OO=======D||

    DAYUM!

  • sloopyinca||

    Didn't Counterfly fill us in on this the other day? He said it was a scam to get people to read literature from some cult or another. Once you read their stuff, they make your dick go back to it's normal size.

    He basically compared them to Jehovah's Witnesses, which means these penis nabbers might be suing him soon for defamation.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    Jehovah's Penis Nabbers?!

    Damme! These new faiths are disturbing.

  • sloopyinca||

    They don't believe in holidays, birthdays or dongs longer than 4 inches.

  • AlmightyJB||

    I fucking never opening my door again

  • AlmightyJB||

    How does my keyboard miss an apostrophe and a letter? What I gotta hit it with a hammer.

  • Enough About Palin||

  • sloopyinca||

    You bastard!

  • ||

    I WAS IN THE POOL

  • sloopyinca||

    This might be applicable.

  • Banjos||

    And I would have gotten away with it too if it weren't for you libertarian kids.

  • ||

    You're not putting them in the mayo, are you?

    Or...no, I don't even want to ask.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    Artisan Member Mayo?

  • ||

    Gives a whole new meaning to "handcrafted."

  • LTC(ret) John||

    + a lot

  • NoVAHockey||

    it's the pickles those two are always talking about!

  • ||

    For that extra umami flavor.

  • Anomalous||

    Ooh, mami!

  • ||

    Is this part of the baby-by-xmas strategy?

  • Banjos||

    Ovulation for this month has come and gone. I will know if sloop's sperm took in about a week. Otherwise, I will have to try next month and hope for a baby that is two weeks premature which I think is doable considering Baby Reason™ was. How bout that for TMI!!!

  • sloopyinca||

    I'm sure there was a classier way for you to put this. Not that I expected it, but I'm still sure there is.

  • JW||

    For maximum probabilities of success, you should be mating with several men at once.

  • sloopyinca||

    ::narrows eyes::

  • ||

  • sloopyinca||

    I'm just not a fan of superfecundation.

  • ||

    You could end up with half-sibling twins!

  • JW||

    Look, you can get mad at me or just accept the science.

  • sloopyinca||

    I can't do both?

  • Spoonman.||

    You know you live in a shithole when you think Cameroon is advanced.

    Imagine showing one of these people New York, or for that matter Tulsa.

  • sloopyinca||

    Imagine showing one of these people New York, or for that matter Tulsa.

    No. Pump sterility-inducing chemicals into their water supply and let white peopole take over their continent.

    /American and D.B. cooper

  • ||

    That's a totally unfair representation of DB's beliefs.

    let white ethnically pure whites, asians (particularly the Japanese) or non-ethiopian jews take over their continent.

  • sloopyinca||

    Shit, you're right. I forgot that anybody with an IQ below 110, a disease that may shorten their life expectancy or a weight problem won't be able to breed.

    The more I think about it, the more certain I am that it's a regular just fucking with us.

  • pmains||

    Either there is a second DB Cooper who did not disappear after jumping out of a plane, or Wikipedia and Google have failed me. What on earth are you guys talking about?

  • ||

    We have a commenter going by D.B. Cooper who seems to be the same guy as American or New Rise. He keeps rambling about wanting to live in an America where white makes right.

  • AlmightyJB||

    "Imagine showing one of these people New York, or for that matter Tulsa."

    Those are bad examples

  • sloopyinca||

    No, they could take their new found knowledge of tall bike racing or rooftop beekeeping home with them from New York. They could teach it to their countrymen, ironically, and form a new Hipstertopia, thus helping us rid that scourge of humanity from our shores.

  • Trespassers W||

    A few months ago, I was wondering why I never see hipsters riding around on penny-farthings. And then I saw something like this, and realized that there is no caricature of hipsters that one can make, no matter how ridiculous, that isn't true somewhere.

  • Libertarian||

    If you really want a laugh, visit the Bike Snob. Funniest writing I've seen anywhere, especially on hipsters............. He could have given you a headsup on pennyfarthings a couple years ago, too.

  • Libertarian||

    Sorry! Linky thing:

    http://bikesnobnyc.blogspot.com/

  • AlmightyJB||

    So is that what happens when people move to D.C.?

  • sloopyinca||

    No. It's what people who move to DC do to the rest of us.

  • NoVAHockey||

    yep, DC is like that. nothing but an assortment of dicks from all over the country.

  • CampingInYourPark||

    "Even as President Obama highlights impending cuts to national parks because of the sequester, he plans to use his power as president to designate five new national monuments Monday, according to an administration official."

    "Rick Smith, of the Coalition of National Park Retirees, said that the president acted because Congress had failed to enact legislation creating more parks and protected sites.

    How about a monument to the brave dickless men in the world?

    http://www.washingtontimes.com.....z2OI99Zlvo

  • sloopyinca||

    How about a monument to the brave dickless men in the world?

    I thought it was bad form to build a monument to a sitting President.

  • kinnath||

    This is as good a place as any:

    http://www.salon.com/2013/03/2.....tersphere/

    Women aren’t even safe in the Twittersphere

    When women, like Adria Richard, speak up, they risk the misogynist wrath of those who try to shut them down

    By Mary Elizabeth Williams

  • sloopyinca||

    Those first two are nothing like the third example. Those poor girls have fucking suffered through rape and are being given shit for stepping forward? Fuck the scum that would ever give them shit for it.

    The Richards chick may not have wanted the men fired, but she started it. They did not initiate any interaction with her at all. She brought this on completely on her own.

    But leave it to Salon to bring up two rape victims being harassed and somehow equate it to the backlash some dumbass got when she tried to publicly shame two men for making harmless jokes to each other.

  • ||

    Seriously

  • JW||

    Report immediately to the Lindy West Rape Culture Re-education Camp.

  • sloopyinca||

    That's not the one where they cure your rapey urges by making you look at a swimsuit spread of that fat, ugly fuck for two weeks straight, is it? That shit'll make me go all Alex De Large.

  • Virginian||

    Holy shit I need to stop trusting the media. I thought they were actually making sexual jokes to her.

    Let me get this straight: She eavesdropped on a conversation, got offended, tweeted a photo of some guys who were not even talking to her, got one of them fired, and she thinks she's the hero?

    What the actual shit?

  • Brett L||

    She actually also got fired, too. So there's some justice.

  • GILMORE||

    I'm confused.

    If someone claims that their dick has been stolen... isn't there at least a preliminary 'investigation' to verify the claim? I am not impressed with the methodologies of African Dick Detectives.

  • pmains||

    Indeed. If they're not being stolen, how did they get into the baguette? Why are we conflating actual penis thefts with koro, which I thought was a psychological problem? How are these penis thieves managing to separate these organs from their rightful owners?

    This post left me wondering, "what the hell was that all about?"

  • Jesse Walker||

    If they're not being stolen, how did they get into the baguette? Why are we conflating actual penis thefts with koro, which I thought was a psychological problem?

    It's all psychological, unless you believe in magic. The baguette story is almost certainly an urban legend.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    "African Dick Detectives"

    They never lived up to the promise of their first album.

  • ||

    We all really need to stop listening to anything that cultural anthropologists have to say, considering their delusional refusal to engage with evolutionary psychology.

  • Anomalous||

    I want my pecker back, pecker back, pecker back...

  • Proprietist||

    This is a South Park episode waiting to happen.

  • Libertarian||

    I, for one, would like to see the "baguette" replace "vagina." And six of them in there at once? I think I saw that movie.........

  • Libertarian||

    Just to clarify, I meant the WORD "baguette" replace the WORD "vagina."

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