A Mind of Its Own, by David Friedman, traces the history of how western culture has viewed the penis. It starts with the witch hunts and ancient Greece and Rome and follows through until the modern era. The book goes through six major time periods for opinions about the penis.
First of all, this book is really well written. It is decently thorough in what it covers, without being boring. The information is arranged mostly chronological, with a few minor jumps around for better flow and less confusion. The author has a fun tone and even the occasional joke. Especially towards the end when the opinions about the penis become more medical, and therefore a bit less scary. I also like the cover. If you can’t see it in that picture, the “O” is surrounding the man’s erection.
Beyond the style of the book, the information is just really interesting. Western culture’s prevailing opinion of the penis has change drastically since Ancient Rome or the major witch hunts. The reason for these changes was usually a shift in what part of the culture was most prominent in regards to the penis. Depending on the time period, it was the church, Leonardo da Vinci and other early biological explorers, early anthropologists and similar “scientists”(all of them extremely racist), Sigmund Freud and his ilk, feminists (who didn’t have it all right, either) and finally today’s doctors and pharmaceutical companies.
I don’t really have any complaints about the book. My only wish is that Mr. Friedman write a similar book on vaginas. I believe it is important to have these matching books by the same author. This way they probably used the same methods of research, you can compare the histories a bit more easily and the author will have better knowledge for comparison.
A Mind of Its Own proves, through the wide variety of opinions, that what the penis symbolizes in society is decided by society. Also, that the penis has alway been a large bone of contention. Sorry, I couldn’t help it.