16 September 2007
A Phallic Obsession - The Icelandic Phallological Museum
by Paul Aitken
At 66 degrees latitude, Husavik, Iceland, is a mere 30 miles away from the Arctic Circle. At the high point of summer, the sun dips below the horizon for all of fifteen minutes. The local population numbers only 2,453 but the village receives over 100,000 visitors annually, the vast majority there to whale-watch and visit Husavik's whale museum.
But the Whale Center is not the only museum in this tiny hamlet. Husavik is also home to the Icelandic Phallological Museum, the world's only museum devoted entirely to dicks. Now I know what you're thinking; "A penis museum? How gay is that?" But the intent of the museum is anything but erotic. In fact, there's not a human penis to be found; a sore point for its curator and founder, Sigurdur Hjartar. Instead, what is on display are the representative penises of every species of mammal that lives on Iceland or swims in its waters. There are also 40 "foreign" species represented (including an African elephant, skink, polecat, pigmy shrew, badger, red fax and wallaby) as well as 22 folkloric specimens.
Folkloric? What the hell does that mean? Well, these are penises that putatively belong to mythical creatures. Among them; the dicks from an Icelandic elf, a water horse, a catafox (the offspring of a union between a fox and a cat), a troll, a merman and an elfin Billy goat. Sigurdur brushed off my suggestion that these were, in fact, all imaginary creatures. "The folkloric specimens are from the hidden man, Icelandic Christmas lad [Santa Claus], merman and nicor [kelpie]. You doubt their existence, but in the eyes of Icelanders they are as real as anything imaginary, like god or the Holy Ghost," he countered.
When I pointed out that mermen don't even have dicks, Siggy dryly replied that I obviously hadn't been close enough to one to see for myself. And as for the hidden man, apparently women can see his penis but men can't. "You will just have to come and see this for yourself," he suggested. Yeah right, fly thousands of miles to Reykjavík, drive a couple of hundred miles in a rented car, book a room, then pay to get into the museum to see if Santa's trouser-snake is for real.
But Siggy is very serious about the museum. He believes that phallology (the ancient study of penises) is grossly under serviced by academia. Type the word "phallology" into a scholarly search engine and you get 14 hits. Type in "penis" and you get 40 million. Sigg wants to change all that. He thinks the study of the penis itself is scientifically relevant. And judging by the diversity of what is displayed in his museum, he's right.
Biologically speaking, the penis is nothing but a delivery system for sperm. Yeah, we get to piss out of it standing up, and that's great, but by and large it is a supreme example of function over form. And what forms it takes! If you think there's a lot of variety in the locker room, you should see Siggy's collection.
The penis of a sperm whale is 2 meters long, that of a hamster is 2 millimeters. Many are pointy at the end. A surprising number are pencil dicks. Most species sport a bacculum or os penis, a bony support for the penis. Some have threads running through. Others are full of oil. The human penis is an inflated sack. Every species has evolved a different means of getting the job done.
Siggy began his collection in 1947 when a friend gave him four bull penises. He dried the penises, gave three away to friends as gifts and kept one for himself. It was the beginning of a lifelong obsession. Like many collections, it expanded exponentially when people learned of it and began sending him the penises of animals they had slaughtered or had found in fishing nets. In 1974, he opened the Icelandic Phallological Museum. To date, his collection boasts 257 specimens.
The northern light have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see,
Was 257 dicks,
That you can pay to see.
But the museum lacks a specimen for perhaps the most important species on the island and obtaining such a specimen has become Sigg's final obsession. The specimen he needs is from Homo sapiens. And given that there are three billion human dicks out there; one can understand Siggy's frustration in being unable to procure even one.
The long wait may soon be over, however. Four men have legally "endowed" their dicks to the museum. One of these generous fellows is a 92 year-old Icelander named Pall Arason. At that age you'd think Siggy would be collecting any day now. But Icelanders are famously long-lived and Pall's penis may be preceded by an American who has promised to donate his organ while he's still alive! The donor, who prefers to remain anonymous, is an admitted exhibitionist and I guess there's nothing more exhibitive than having your todger as a museum piece. The donor claims that he wants to watch people looking at his penis (apparently it's a big 'un). I personally think he's better off skulking around in a raincoat, but who am I to argue.
But even when he's got a man-sized dick (it must be over 5", according to Siggy) standing proud, the work is far from over. He may have a representative dick from every species in Iceland but Iceland is small. There are 4,629 mammal species world-wide and the museum collection will never be complete until they're all hanging off the wall or sitting in a jar. It may be that Siggy's lifelong quest will outlive him.
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