You won’t believe me. I know you won’t. I didn’t want to believe it myself, but I couldn’t deny what my eyes were telling me: My penis was gone! Really! Gone! I’d just come home from breaking up with my girlfriend, and I was undressing to take a shower before dinner when I reached down to touch myself and felt…nothing!
Do you understand?
My brain could not at first decipher what the tips of my fingers were telling me, but when I looked down I saw that between my legs where my penis should have been the skin was as smooth and as hairless as the top of my head. I stood in front of the mirror in my bedroom cupping my crotch like a shy girl forced to strip naked in front of strangers, praying that my eyes were playing tricks on me, that when I removed my hands and looked again my penis would be there.
I removed my hands and looked again. My penis was not there.
Not knowing what else to do, and since I was not about to call on one of my friends and say, “Hey, let’s go out for a drink. I need to talk,” I put my clothes back on and went across town to a bar where I didn’t think anyone would know me. I ordered a beer and sat by myself in a corner booth, making sure to avoid eye contact with anyone who happened to look my way.
“Mind if I sit down?” The inquisitive eyes of a pretty, red-haired woman were suddenly too close for me to avoid.
Great, I thought, I have no penis and a woman is trying to pick me up. Just what I need.
There was an openness in the way she looked at me, though, a kindness in her eyes that persuaded me not to refuse. I nodded my head.
“You look like you could use someone to talk to.” She slid into the seat opposite me.
“I guess, but it’s something I don’t think you’d understand.”
“What do you mean?”
Not knowing what to say in response, I looked down at the table.
She tilted her head and leaned forward, trying to catch my eye, “You know, there’s not much I haven’t seen or heard, so I doubt that whatever’s bothering you will shock or offend me.”
“Oh, this’ll shock you.”
I don’t know why, but I suddenly wanted desperately to tell her. I just didn’t know how, and so we went back and forth a few times—her encouraging me to open up; me insisting it’d be pointless—while a list of all the different things I could say ran through my head, each one sounding more absurd than the next. “My penis has disappeared” made it sound like the damned thing had sprouted legs and walked away; “I’ve lost my penis” was so ridiculous I actually smiled just thinking about it; and “my penis is gone” should’ve been the title of a very bad parody of a very bad love song.
“I don’t have a penis anymore,” I finally told her.
As I expected, she burst out laughing. “No, seriously…” she said, but then I guess she read on my face how serious I was. Her eyes darkened and her lips tightened into a thin colorless line. “You’d better show me.” She said this with such authority that without giving it a second thought I nodded my head and followed her to an upstairs apartment she said she was renting from the bar’s owner.
When I took my pants down, her face remained expressionless for a few seconds. “Tell me everything you’ve done in the past three days or so,” she commanded, and I did, and when I got to the part about breaking up with my girlfriend, the woman stopped me and nodded her head. “Now I understand. The woman you were seeing is a witch and she has taken your penis as revenge for breaking up with her. The only way you can get your organ back is to persuade her to return it to you.”
A witch! Now at least I knew what I was dealing with. I went to the church to talk to my priest. He didn’t want to believe me at first either—who could blame him?—but when I took my pants down and repeated what the woman in the bar had told me, he gave me his blessing.
The next day, I went back to the house of the woman I’d just broken up with and knocked on the door. She came out onto the porch so she wouldn’t have to invite me in.
“I want you to give me my penis back.” I kept my voice low and steady so she would understand how serious I was.
“What are you talking about?” For her part, she was trying hard to sound innocent.
“You know very well what I’m talking about!”
Before she could go back inside, I twisted a rope that I’d brought for this purpose around her neck, screaming over and over again into her ear, “Give it back! Give it back or I’ll kill you!”
She kept protesting that she had no idea what I was talking about, but when her eyes started to bulge, she nodded her head and mouthed the word OK. After I loosened the rope enough for her to catch her breath, she reached between my legs and stroked me. It was truly magical! I knew without having to look or touch that my organ had been restored to me.
I walked away without looking back, leaving the rope around the woman’s neck as a reminder of what I would do to her if she tried to harm me in any way again.
Imagine that someone has told you this story and asked you to believe it.
Now imagine actually believing it, not only because you believe in witches, but because you hear the story from the priest who was the narrator’s confessor, and you cannot imagine a priest lying about such serious matters. After all, he knows that if you ever learn her name and find out where she lives, the woman in question could be, no, would be—you make a note to yourself to see if you can locate her—hunted down like an animal and burned at the stake. You’re at war with Satan himself, and you need to be as merciless as he is. It may not be women’s fault that they are frail creatures, easily swayed by the promises of power and pleasure the Devil uses to seduce them, but they are still responsible for their choices: A woman who becomes a witch dedicates her life to the destruction of Christ’s kingdom, forfeiting the soul that God in His infinite wisdom and mercy gave her when she was conceived. Such a woman deserves to die.
You believe this, are committed to it, would give your own life in defense of it, and this is why you want to leave no room for doubt in the minds of the people for whom you are now writing that a witch can indeed remove a man’s penis from his body. Well, not exactly remove it, but you’ll get into the fine points of that distinction later, for an image of the Witches’ Sabbat distracts you momentarily from your work. The writhing bodies. The moans of carnal pleasure. The Devil in all his various incarnations moving from woman to woman, taking each one in a different position, and they kiss his erection, and they kneel between each other’s legs.… You take a deep breath. Satan is devious, knows your weaknesses too, and it’s only because your will is strong that you’re able to wrench your attention back to the world-saving importance of what you’re writing.
And what, then, is to be thought of those witches who…collect male organs in great numbers, as many as twenty or thirty members together, and put them in a bird’s nest, or shut them up in a box, where they move themselves like living members, and eat oats and corn, as has been seen by many and is a matter of common report? [A] certain man tells that, when he had lost his member, he approached a known witch to ask her to restore it to him. She told the afflicted man to climb a certain tree, and that he might take which he liked out of a nest in which there were several members. And when he tried to take a big one, the witch said: You must not take that one; adding, because it belonged to a parish priest.1
Of course witches don’t really remove men’s penises. That would mean the Devil had the power to alter permanently the structure of God’s world, and there’s no way God would allow His nemesis to become that strong. Rather, men who believe their penises have been taken from them have fallen under the influence of a glamour, or spell, that makes it appear their genitals are gone. For the Devil’s strength is ultimately nothing more than the power to deceive, which is why Satan can in no way enter the mind or body of any man, nor has the power to penetrate into the thoughts of anybody, unless such a person has first become destitute of all holy thoughts, and is quite bereft and denuded of spiritual contemplation.2 The men who fall prey to penis-removing glamours, in other words—most commonly…adulterers and fornicators3—deserve their unmanning, though you suppose their condition is to be pitied rather than reviled, for only the very few among us are truly without sin.
You don’t know, there is no way you can know, that the book you’re writing—what will become, when it is first published in 1486, The Malleus Maleficarum—is destined to be for nearly three centuries the Inquisition’s authoritative text on the theory, identification, interrogation, torture and execution of witches. Nor are you aware that what you’re writing will change irrevocably the way witches are seen and hunted, transforming witchcraft from a crime against your god committed more or less equally by men and women, and by relatively few people at that, into an almost exclusively female transgression.4 Nearly 100,000 women will be burned at the stake as witches by the time the influence of your text has waned in the mid-1700s, and at least twice as many more will have had their lives ruined by the accusation.5 There’s no way you can know this, but you’d be proud of it. Women, no, witches, no, women, witches—what’s the difference?—those treacherous, devious, evil, seductive, nearly irresistible creatures deserve every moment of agony they suffer, whether on the rack or burning at the stake. Each moment of pain, each lick of each flame on their sinful skin brings closer the fulfillment of God’s divine plan, and so the more of them you can burn off the face of the earth the better off the earth will be.
You put down your pen and look out the window, your thoughts having turned for the moment to the Jews, especially the Jewish doctors whose black arts are not so different from witches’ glamours,6 and you wonder again if excluding the Jews from The Malleus was a good idea. Granted, as Sprenger pointed out when you first argued about this, the Jews are not witches, but they are in league with Satan, and Satan uses them, and they share—you’ve read recently the work of Thomas de Cantimpré, and it is pure and noble and blessed, and he has it on the authority of St. Augustine that the Jews share with women, with witches, the curse visited upon Eve for her disobedience in the paradise of Eden that would have been ours if not for her. Just like Eve and her daughters, Jewish men bleed monthly, for they too rejected Christ. Augustine calls it a mark of Cain, and it is why, this mark, it is why the Jews drink the blood of Christian children. They think it will cure them. They are wrong, though, as the Jews are always wrong, mistaking Christiano sanguine, the blood of a Christian, for the one thing that would truly end their suffering, Christi sanguine, the blood of Christ, taken in Holy Communion.7
Ah, well, Sprenger is right. The Jews are not witches, and so even though this connection between witches and Jews intrigues you, you decide you must leave it for someone else to tackle. Over the centuries, many try, but it will be five hundred years before someone reveals the feminine corruption of the Jews as comprehensively as you have done for witches:
The true conception of the State is foreign to the Jew, because he, like the woman, is wanting in personality; his failure to grasp the idea of true society is due to his lack of free intelligible ego. Like women, Jews tend to adhere together, but they do not associate as free independent individuals mutually respecting each other’s individuality.
As there is no real dignity in women, so what is meant by the word “gentleman” does not exist amongst the Jews. The genuine Jew fails in this innate good breeding by which alone individuals honour [sic] their own individuality and respect that of others. There is no Jewish nobility, and this is the more surprising as Jewish pedigrees can be traced back for thousands of years.8
In the Jew and the woman, good and evil are not distinct from one another.9
It would be easy to understand why the family (in its biological not its legal sense) plays a larger role amongst the Jews than amongst any other people.…The family, in this biological sense, is feminine and maternal in its origin, and has no relation to the State or to society.10
The fact that no woman in the world represents the idea of the wife so completely as the Jewish woman (and not only in the eyes of the Jews) still further supports the comparison between Jews and women. In the case of the Aryans, the metaphysical qualities of the male are part of his sexual attraction for the woman, and so, in a fashion, she puts on an appearance of these. The Jew, on the other hand, has no transcendental quality, and in the shaping and moulding of the wife leaves the natural tendencies of the female nature a more unhampered sphere; and the Jewish woman, accordingly, plays the part required of her, as house-mother or odalisque, as Cybele or Cyprian, in the fullest way.
The congruity between Jews and women further reveals itself in the extreme adaptability of the Jews, in their great talent for journalism, the “nobility” of their minds, their lack of deeply-rooted and original ideas, in fact the mode in which, like women, because they are nothing in themselves, they can become everything. The Jew is an individual, not an individuality; he is in constant close relation with the lower life, and has no share in the higher metaphysical life.11
And so on and so on, until the fundamental difference between the Jew and the woman. Neither believe in themselves; but the woman believes in others, in her husband, her lover, or her children, or in love itself; she has a center of gravity, although it is outside her own being. The Jew believes in nothing, within him or without him.…The woman believes in the man, in the man outside her, or in the man from whom she takes her inspiration [Jesus], and in this fashion can take herself in earnest. The Jew takes nothing seriously; he is frivolous and jests about anything, about the Christian’s Christianity, the Jew’s baptism.12
The Jew, in other words, is an even more debased woman than a woman is.
- Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger, The Malleus Maleficarum, trans. Montague Summers (New York: Dover, 1971) 121. The story with which I began this section is my own blending of two other penis-stealing narratives in The Malleus. [↩]
- ibid. 120 [↩]
- ibid. 60 [↩]
- Anne Llewellyn Barstow, Witchcraze: A New History of the European Witch Hunts (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1994) 172. [↩]
- ibid. 23 [↩]
- Sander Gilman, Jewish Self-Hatred: Anti-Semitism and the Hidden Language of the Jews (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986) 37. [↩]
- ibid. 74-75 [↩]
- Otto Weininger, Sex and Character, trans. Authorized Translation (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1906) 188. [↩]
- ibid. 189 [↩]
- ibid. [↩]
- ibid. 195 [↩]
- ibid. 196 [↩]
- Fragments of Evolving Manhood: Thinking About Pornography 3
- Fragments of Evolving Manhood: Thinking About Pornography 2
- Fragments from Evolving Manhood: A Full-Throated Protest Against Existence and the World
- Fragments of Evolving Manhood: Do You Like Your Body? – 2
- Fragments of Evolving Manhood: The Violence In Me 1