• Plenty of men give their genitals funny or macho names, but can this inhibit our ability to talk about problems when things go wrong?
•In part of our new series of opinion pieces, journalist Mike Rampton asks if it’s time to drop the moniker and call a penis a penis
Giving anything a name is fun — although, unlike when you name a boat, you probably don’t want to go smashing bottles of champagne against the side of your penis to christen it — but with it comes great responsibility. It needs to be thought through. Just as giving a child a questionable name may affect his or her life, giving your penis a nickname might have further-reaching consequences than you might expect.
Penis names of the rich and famous
It’s a popular pastime, penis naming. TV presenter Noel Edmonds famously refers to his as Mr Happy, while Friends’ Joey Tribbiani opts for The Little General (promoted from The Little Major after one particular experience). Channing Tatum calls his Gilbert, while Hugh Jackman refers to his as Ol’ James Roger. Ludacris calls his penis The Truth, allowing him to quote the line from A Few Good Men, “You can’t handle the truth!” Russell Brand used to go for The Emperor before deciding his penis was too much of a chameleon to sport one name. “He’s like Ruby Tuesday,” he told a reporter. “Who could put a name on him?”
“I call mine The Big Mac,” podcaster Scotty McGlynn tells Numan. “Sometimes I’ll tell someone The Big Mac is out to play and they’ll look at me like, ‘WTF?’”
Scotty is far from alone. There are lengthy Reddit threads about penis naming and surveys revealing a lot of men name their penises — everything from Wee Man and Big Boy to Chewbacca, Willy Wonka, E.T. and Elvis.
There’s obviously a laugh to be had ascribing a moniker to the contents of your underpants, but could we be doing ourselves a disservice? Could insisting on amusing or macho names affect how we think about our penises, and end up doing us more harm than good?
The nickname you have for your penis could be very significant
“Names are very important,” says Paula Hall, a sexual and relationship psychotherapist, sex addiction therapist and co-founder of the Laurel Centre. “Names affect not just how we feel about someone or something but also how we treat them, so the nickname you have for your penis could be very significant. It could make the difference between care and respect, or dismissal and indifference.”
Your genitals are, of course, extremely important, but they can be embarrassing to talk about. Men are less likely than women to visit doctors, and that number increases dramatically when penises enter the equation. A study by Numan found that less than half (42%) of men that experienced erectile dysfunction took steps to fix it.
When it comes to other parts of our bodies, we usually have the right language — anyone who has a passing interest in sports or has set foot in a gym once knows their ACL from their metatarsals — yet there’s one area we continually avoid using the right words for.
This predilection for genital pet names can start in early childhood but it’s something experts argue we should change. According to Psychology Today, recent research shows that knowing the correct anatomical terms for body parts enhances kids’ body image, self-confidence and openness.
Kids are being encouraged to drop the nicknames, so why not adults?
Despite children increasingly being encouraged to call a penis a penis, plenty of adults still surround their own parts with euphemism and nicknames. Are we less likely to seek help when ‘something’s wrong with Little Willy’ than when we have an actual issue with our penises, like ED?
And what about relationships, both with ourselves and others? “I’ve checked this with a lot of women, and giving your penis a name like Little Dave isn’t something that tends to inspire a lot of lust,” says psychosexual therapist Mike Lousada.
“The language you use around your genitalia is very important because it shows a lot about the relationship you have with it. Talking about Mr Winky sounds like something a boy would say, so can make it seem like you don’t have an adult relationship with that part of your body.”
If a diminutive nickname suggests the relationship with your penis isn’t serious enough, what about an over-the-top macho nickname? “With overly macho names — ‘Unleash the Beast!’ — I think it depends on the meaning behind the name, and the emotional connection,” says Lousada. “If you’re calling it The Beast in order to compensate for some perceived inadequacy or to make yourself feel more potent in some way, it’s unlikely to help.”
A disconnect with real experiences can cause problems
Lousada suggests a lot of men’s sexual problems can stem from a disconnect between their real experiences with their penises and the images they create in their heads of what they think their penises should be. An irreverent name can add to this disconnect — Lousada urges men to listen to what their penises are actually telling them.
“If you’re going to name him, name him something that reflects your true experience of that part of yourself rather than a diminutive, or some kind of over-inflated macho name,” he says.
The bottom line
Nobody’s saying we can’t name our penises, or that anyone who’s doing so is wrong. After all, if we can’t have fun with our penises on our own or with other consenting adults, what’s the real point of anything? Maybe we just need to reframe how we use the nicknames — sure, that’s Mr Tiddles, but it’s not just Mr Tiddles. It’s also your penis.