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He spent his days singing and drinking with the ladies and deflowering virgins
January 6, 2011 4:34 PM   Subscribe

Phallus paintings and wood carvings were ubiquitous, like red chilies, all over Bhutan. But now they are fading as Bhutan undergoes prudish self-censorship They come in various sizes, color schemes and embellishments. Some have ribbons tied around them like jovial holiday presents. Others are coiled by daunting dragons. A few even have eyes. They typically feature hairy testicles, from the neatly trimmed to full-on Yeti-style. And, of course, all are fully erect. “Oh, golly,” said an elderly woman visiting from Seattle, when she stepped off the bus in the Punakha valley and found herself surrounded by an alarming concentration of penis imagery, set against a magnificent Himalayan backdrop.

Bhutan, famously wary of mass tourism, has been trying to prevent an influx of “volume tourists” who might create demand for Western-style culture. So the country of just 700,000 keeps those numbers low by charging visitors a daily minimum fee of up to $250.

But there's a tension here.

Since tourism is a major source of income for Bhutan, Prime Minister Jigme Thinley announced earlier this year that Bhutan aims to triple the number of tourists by 2012.

That's potentially bad news for penis worship. That's because some here worry the influx of tourists to this isolated Buddhist oasis is already weakening the essence of Bhutan — namely its relationship with the omnipresent phallus.
posted by KokuRyu (35 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
OH NO!!!!!!! NOT A PENIS!!!!!!
posted by Askiba at 4:38 PM on January 6, 2011


You can have my phallus when you pry it from my cold dead hand!
posted by Splunge at 4:39 PM on January 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


Huh huh. Huh. Huh huh huh. You said Bhutan.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 4:40 PM on January 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Previously
posted by dephlogisticated at 4:40 PM on January 6, 2011 [12 favorites]


Hmm, I knew a woman years ago that planned for years to visit Bhutan, and I thought it was just for the far far away bragging rights. My opinion of her has, ahem, risen significantly.
posted by sammyo at 4:46 PM on January 6, 2011


Drukpa Kunley is a wonderfully subversive character, unique to, and beloved across, the Tibetan region. He functions in a similar way to the Coyote and Raven figures of the First Nations, but is based on a actual person. This book is the best written source I am aware of to get acquainted with him, but the ideal way to get to know the stories is to be told them by a someone from the region. If they can stop laughing long enough to choke one out.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 4:55 PM on January 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


Life in Bhutan must be like living in a Coil album cover.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:55 PM on January 6, 2011


Life in Bhutan must be like living at Burning Man.
posted by aubilenon at 4:58 PM on January 6, 2011


Hey Bhutan Tourist Board, I hear sex sells.
posted by LogicalDash at 5:07 PM on January 6, 2011


Oh good, now I don't have to waste an Ask question on this: what's the proper name for those Roman winged-phallus amulets? I swear they had one, in Latin.

(this comes up for me in conversation more often than it ought, I MEAN THEY PUT BELLS ON THEM AND TURNED THEM INTO FLYING PECKER WINDCHIMES SERIOUSLY)
posted by cmyk at 5:09 PM on January 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


like living in a Coil album cover.

Yeppers.
posted by everichon at 5:10 PM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I keep reading things about Bhutan being this unblemished Eden where human beings have reached the highest conceivable level of perfection in life. The whole thing about Bhutan being the happiest country in the world, or one of the happiest, according to various surveys is one example. If all that is true -- and I'm not saying necessarily that it isn't -- then why are they changing? Shouldn't they just disallow all tourism entirely and refuse to allow any deviation from traditional life? You might say that they just don't know any better and are being taken in by the wicked seduction of the Western World, but that doesn't appear to be true, judging by the wary statements from their officials.
posted by Xezlec at 5:13 PM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I bet the Japanese phallus festival is bigger. Ane maybe even lasted longer.
posted by binturong at 5:17 PM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bhuyztone
posted by DU at 5:17 PM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Kunley traveled through Tibet and Bhutan, urging followers to reject the hypocrisy and greed of the world and to lead honest and spiritual lives. He spent his days singing and drinking with the ladies and deflowering virgins. His sexual escapades are legendary, so much so that a monastery in the Punakha valley was built in his honor after he subdued the cannibal demon goddess of the area with his “magic thunderbolt of wisdom.”

'Once I was wealthy,' she told him, 'but since no Buddha or Adept has ever set foot in this poor outlandish valley, the demons have run amuck and devoured both men and cattle. I myself do not expect to live through this coming night. You are a holy man and need not stay here. Go away while you can or you will be eaten alive. Tomorrow, if I am not here, you can take anything of value from the house to support yourself or to distribute amongst the poor.' Thus she made her will.
'Things aren't as bad as they seem,' the Lama told her. 'I will stay with you here tonight.
'Do you have any chung?'
'I had a little but the petty gods and demons stole the moisture,' she replied. 'I don't know whether there is any taste remaining in the grain.'
'Bring the grain and I'll see,' he said.
He was drinking when night fell and the demons arrived at the door. When they began pounding upon it the old woman began screaming in paroxysms of fear.
'You stay up here,' the Lama directed. 'I'll take care of this. Down below, he took his erect penis in his hand and thrust it through the hole in the door which was big enough to take a fist, and as a Flaming Thunderbolt of Wisdom it rammed into the Serpent Demon's gaping red mouth knocking out four teeth above and four teeth below.
posted by ennui.bz at 5:27 PM on January 6, 2011 [10 favorites]


The Romans used Priapus for their cock worship, cymk.
posted by Phalene at 5:28 PM on January 6, 2011


Oh good, now I don't have to waste an Ask question on this: what's the proper name for those Roman winged-phallus amulets? I swear they had one, in Latin.

(this comes up for me in conversation more often than it ought, I MEAN THEY PUT BELLS ON THEM AND TURNED THEM INTO FLYING PECKER WINDCHIMES SERIOUSLY)


Bells? Big wooden swinging things bonking against each other? They're called "Morris Dancers", cymk.
posted by sebastienbailard at 5:35 PM on January 6, 2011


... go off half-cocked!

(set-up of joke omitted due to lack of interest)
posted by "Elbows" O'Donoghue at 5:47 PM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


A Tibetan lama once told me that Bhutanese women were renowned for their velvety and tight fit. Perhaps the erect phalli are in appreciation of this?

Or it could be connected to the Shiva lingam phallic symbol in Hinduism, which predated Buddhism by 1000 years? I always got a kick when traveling around India or Nepal and seeing women - men too- tenderly pouring milk or water over a large stone phallus in honor of Shiva.
posted by nickyskye at 5:55 PM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is it just me or is there something a little odd about the first photo in the gallery? It's as though the penis has been twisted through 180 degrees from knob to balls. Either that or Bhutanese men have the frenum on the top side of their todgers.
posted by tim_in_oz at 6:02 PM on January 6, 2011


“Oh, golly,”

That's what she said!

sorry
posted by jonmc at 6:04 PM on January 6, 2011


My parents pestered me to take them to Tagata Jinja to see the stone phallus thingies (about 90 minutes by car from where I live in Japan), so I did. They were pleased, but when I proceeded to take them to the female-related Oogata Shrine just down the road, they got all shy and embarrassed, and didn't want to go in.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:05 PM on January 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Bells? Big wooden swinging things bonking against each other? They're called "Morris Dancers", cymk.

And also "Fascinum", via:

http://www.theamericanmag.com/article_print.php?article=256&show_images=1
:

"...
Next, you make your way into the kitchen. Hanging from the cabinets is what looks like an indoor wind chime in the shape of a stout man in light armor and a tunic. Emerging from beneath his tunic is his penis. It's shaped like a tiger and it's attacking him. He's trying to stab his member with a knife and protect himself from it with a little shield. Four bells dangle below this epic castration battle.

This is in your friend's kitchen.
..."

Guard your virtue, cymk.
posted by sebastienbailard at 6:07 PM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Come to think of it, I'm curious that the penises all look circumcised, which is not something the Bhutanese people traditionally do.
posted by nickyskye at 6:09 PM on January 6, 2011


Fascinum! That's it, thank you sebastienbailard!

Guard your virtue, cymk.

After this thread, I don't think I have any of that left anymore.
posted by cmyk at 6:13 PM on January 6, 2011


It's strange. I feel that if I go for the, I like the phallus thing, I will be yelled at because the phallus is the form of the oppressor. And it should not be there, simply because it scares the foreign children. OTOH, if I say that the public phallus is an oppressing thing, I will be yelled at by the people that think that the culture should remain pure.

So while I love the phallus in Bhutan I neither agree or disagree with the article. Nor do I agree with the concept of tourism changing the lives of the peoples that live in Bhutan. In fact I refuse to have any concept of the Bhutan Phallus's except in the way of a stupid American multisexual who loves the idea of huge penises in society. OTOH, I am not and never have been a size queen.

Penis is good. Phallus is good. Vaginia is good as well.

Oh boy. Now I'm fucked.
posted by Splunge at 6:33 PM on January 6, 2011


*sigh* It's been interesting (and somewhat disappointing) watching Bhutan's slow but inevitable cultural changes to accommodate more Western attitudes, ever since the introduction of television over ten years ago.
posted by PsychoKick at 6:50 PM on January 6, 2011


ennui.bz for the win, I think.

But Splunge, no, you're not fucked yet. Unless your ass has been ringed with bangles and ribbons.

That never happens to me, much as I wish for it and, um, position myself appropriately.
posted by yesster at 7:01 PM on January 6, 2011


*sigh* It's been interesting (and somewhat disappointing) watching Bhutan's slow but inevitable cultural changes to accommodate more Western attitudes, ever since the introduction of television over ten years ago.

Perhaps were jealous of "video night in Kathmandu"?

How I loathe Pico Iyer
posted by KokuRyu at 7:17 PM on January 6, 2011




cmyk: "Fascinum! That's it, thank you sebastienbailard!"

Oh, I am SO making a fascinum windchime in my next metal sculpture class.
posted by dejah420 at 7:40 PM on January 6, 2011


dejah, I wish to see pictures of this tintinnaphallusum once you've constructed it.
posted by cmyk at 7:43 PM on January 6, 2011


Those aren't necessarily circumcised. Any penis, when erect, looks like that. The foreskin rolls back. (I KNEW there was a good reason to have dated a British guy. It was all worth it for the KNOWLEDGE.)
posted by TrixieBiltmore at 8:18 PM on January 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh, I am SO making a fascinum windchime in my next metal sculpture class.

Don't forget the bells. The Romans put bells on them for the same reason responsible homeowners put bells on cats these days.
posted by sebastienbailard at 8:26 PM on January 6, 2011


I have conflicted feelings about Bhutan. I visited the country in 2006, when the former king was still on the throne. While it is a beautiful and fascinating place, being a tourist in Bhutan was sort of like going to a dinner party where the host is constantly asking you if you would like your glass topped up, if the honey-roasted peanuts are okay or if they should bring out the plain salted ones (“Because I’ve got both!”) and if there is anything, anything else that you need to the point that they forget to sit down and relax. After a while, it just starts to feel awkward and tense.

When we visited a school outside Thimphu we thought we would have a chance to talk to the students, who were our age. The problem was, though, that as soon as we took a seat next to them, they would leap up from their chairs and start waiting on us. This was a pattern that repeated itself over and over again – the hospitality was so effusive and deferential that actual cultural exchange was hopeless.

To a certain extent, Bhutan lives up to its image as a serene mountain kingdom, the model Buddhist community if you will. But the Buddhism that has developed in Bhutan is a wholly distinct thing, an amalgamation of mainstream ideology and local folklore. It’s a variant of Buddhism populated by demons and divine madmen who masturbate over the demons to banish them, and it’s sad to see this aspect neutered.

Still, I’m getting a bit weary of the constant depiction of Bhutan as a holier-than-thou country where everyone’s trying to amass Gross National Happiness rather than filthy lucre and where the biggest problem is that there are fewer penises on the walls. It’s a real place with more pressing issues – such as the ongoing refugee dispute with Nepal. Let’s not trivialise Bhutan just because they happen to have genitalia carved on their houses.

tl;dr: Penises are fun but distracting.
posted by diogenetic at 4:01 AM on January 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


the phallus is the form of the oppressor.
posted by Splunge at 2:33 AM on January 7


That's it. "The Oppressor" is the new pet name for my penis. I can't wait to tell the other half.
posted by Decani at 5:21 AM on January 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


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