Private Dicks: Men Exposed (review)
Insert talking-head joke here: Documentarians Meema Spadola and Thom Powers sat a diverse group of American men down in front of a camera — after having most of them disrobe before it — to talk about their penises. And while there’s far more exposed male flesh onscreen than all but the most hardcore porn viewers will be accustomed to, what’s shocking and refreshing here is not the nudity but the frankness as these regular guys discuss everything from attitudes about size and shape to thoughts on masturbation and lovemaking — there’s even the unique perspective on penises, care and feeding of, from a male-to-female transsexual who no longer possesses one and from a female-to-male transsexual who suddenly understands how testosterone takes over and imbues the organ with a life of its own. The bracing, plainspoken honesty is undercut, however, by one interviewee, who was outted after the film aired on HBO in 1999 as “professional hoaxer” and media critic Alan Abel, who responded to the filmmakers’ appeal for subjects in an attempt to balance out what he perceived would be a preponderance of macho males bragging about their sexual conquests, as the DVD-extra short about Abel’s prank explains. That is not in evidence in the final film, which retains the segments with Abel’s “character,” Bruce, who “reveals” the trials and triumphs of being attached to a very tiny penis (and remains notably clothed in the process) — but the valid points Abel is trying to make about the mistake men make in tying confidence to size get diminished through his trickery.