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Leave it to the Big Media—the

Sam Sawyers and Diane Donaldsons

of the press—to completely

miss the hard-core lesson of

Clinton's porno presidency.

Eight years into a decade that

has resolutely refused to define

itself with a good pick-up line

– we remember the '80s as the

Decade of Greed, and the '70s

earned the moniker the Me Decade

l'affaire Lewinsky has finally

delivered us from the evil of

the nameless 1990s. Wrap your

lips around the Decade of the

Penis. Never before—and

perhaps never again, so enjoy it

while it you can—has the male

organ been so prominently

discussed, dissected, and

displayed as over the past few

years. While there have been

occasional Iggy Pop-ish flashes

of brilliance and Richard

Gere-esque moments of Breathless

exposure, the '90s have shown

more dick than a John Holmes

film festival.

It hasn't all been easy come,

easy go. Indeed, for the first

half of the decade, the penis

took a beating, first popping

into public consciousness during

the 1991 Senate hearings for

Clarence Thomas, an inquiry

ultimately focused on whether

the Supreme Court hopeful had

filed an amicus brief in the

matter of Anita Hill v. Long

Dong Silver. That spectacle

inspired the feminist rallying

cry "Men Just Don't Get It" and

the much-heralded Year of the

Woman in politics. But, in fact,

the male organ moved to center

stage faster than Wayne and

Garth could say "schwing." To

wit, the Sophoclean irony of

basketball great Earvin Johnson,

who appeared on The Arsenio Hall

Show and copped to being

HIV-positive, pointed to his own

less-than-magic Johnson and

mumbled the limp laugh line,

"Please put your thinking cap

and your cap on down there." (In

yet another validation of the

iron law that history presents

itself first as tragedy and then

as sketch comedy, Johnson

apparently hired the same

writing team for his own

one-night stand with late-night


In 1993, the travails of another

all-too aptly named character,

John Wayne Bobbitt, helped kick

start one of the greatest

national debates since Lincoln

met Douglass and Harry met

Sally. As men and women pondered

the ethics and mechanics of

castration, Bobbitt—soon to be

a major motion porn star—was

grateful not only to his doctors

but to the jury that eventually

acquitted him of sexually

assaulting the missus. "I just

want to get on with my life,"

quipped the self-admitted

foreplay failure, who later

emerged triumphant as the

eponymous hero of the adult

movie Frankenpenis.

More or less concurrently, the

self-crowned King of Pop,

Michael Jackson, took a break

from merely grabbing his crotch

on stage to drop trou and have

his family jewels photographed

as part of a molestation case.

Never one to pass up a photo op,

he also reportedly posed for

shots of his buttocks, lower

torso, and thighs. With visions

of Jacko's genitalia still

dancing in the national psyche

like the ersatz gang members in

the Beat It video, Howard

Stern's radio show and memoirs –

Private Parts and Miss America

helped thrust yet another

schlong—thankfully an

apparently diminutive one—into

the face of Joe Sixpack and

Sally Baglunch. Stern's recent

on-air measuring of his erect

pecker at a full 6 inches raises

perhaps more troubling perjury

issues than anything mentioned

in the Starr Report.

The presidential putz made its

first public appearance in '94,

and, in keeping with the first

half of the Decade of the Penis,

it was put through a grinder.

Paula Jones charged Bill Clinton

not simply with sexual

harassment—a serious charge,

yet easy enough to avoid mental

imaging—but, perhaps more to

the point, of having a crooked,

albeit erect, penis. As the

nation that once turned its

lonely eyes to the blessedly

baggy-pants-wearing Joe DiMaggio

grappling with that bit of M. C.

Escher imagery, prostate-cancer

sufferers—such as Squirmin'

Norman Schwartzkopf—wandered

the media landscape like so many

overzealous "greeters" at


The later years of the '90s have

seen the penis get a fairer

shake, though no less exposure.

Two years ago, everybody's All

American Michael Jordan

explained why he endorsed every

currently available consumer

product except for condoms.

"They're too small," explained

the Space Jam star, no doubt

firing up the imaginations of

Trojan Plus ad execs with a

whole new "Be Like Mike"

campaign. Box office colossi

like Boogie Nights have

featured the biggest and

best movie prosthetics

produced during the

entire period from Doctor Zaius'

first tribunal to Roddy McDowall's

journey to the eternal sound stage.

Similarly, The Full Monty, en

route to documenting the depths

to which British men would sink

rather than work, built its plot

climax around manly full-frontal


And this year saw Viagra, the

first purely recreational

substance to win FDA approval

since model-airplane glue,

become the latest drug craze.

Amidst reports of death and

hyperaggresive users,

septuagenarian presidential

loser Bob Dole proclaimed –

while wife Libby remained

strangely silent—that it

worked "great," thereby

fulfilling the prophecy in the

Stones' tune "Start Me Up":

Someday science would make a

dead man come. And, of course,

there's the presidential winner,

whose recent travails have

established that his penis,

crooked or not (hmm, that might

explain the semen-stained

dress), nonetheless works like a


As the Decade of the Penis

finishes up, one is left

wondering only what might come

next. As the literary critic and

prominent Kinsey Report reviewer

Lionel Trilling suggested back

in the 1940s, American culture

is nothing if not dialectical.

If the Year of the Woman helped

beget the Decade of the Penis,

then it's an even-money bet that

the Decade of the Penis may well

usher in a Century of Vagina.

And sure, while there have

always been occasional Muffys

from Family Affair available for

public consumption and there

were four years of an actual

Bush administration, the next

100 years may well show more

pussy than the average issue of

Cat Fancy.

Nick Gillespie is editor-in-chief of reason. This story originally appeared in Suck, and can be viewed in that format here.