This March, men’s magazine The Book of Man’s Festival brought its celebrated body positive ‘penis gallery’ (or night of 1,000 cocks as its affectionately known) – this time in collaboration with the Vagina Museum! And they’re asking Londoners to contribute (strictly flaccid) dick pics….
Conscious online men’s magazine The Book of Man have announced the return of their annual festival this March, with a series of events throughout the month tackling the subject of modern masculinity and mental health, in association with suicide prevention charity CALM.
The antithesis to your stereotypical 90s lads mag, The Book of Man was started by London journalist Martin Robinson, ex Editor of Shortlist Magazine, along with commercial and strategy Director Mark Sandford, to offer progressive advice and inspiration to men, and features columnists such as Professor Green, Jason Fox and Russel Kane.
Held throughout March 2020, The Book of Man Festival 2020 events ranged from communication and kindness workshops to panel talks on male body image and social media, mental health and ‘the sportsman mentality’.
The famous Penis Gallery, (lovingly dubbed ‘Night of 1,000 cocks) returned to The Book Club on 10th March showing penises in their (strictly flaccid) glory and featuring a panel discussion about taboos and anxieties. This year they’re upping the ante as The Penis Gallery meets The Vagina Museum, with Florence Schechter, director of the new Museum talking about the ground-breaking space and sharing in this dismantling of the myths and misinformation about genitalia.
Whats it all about?
In its second year, the festival is all about men engaging with a changing world, opening their eyes to new areas, learning new skills and understanding themselves. At the heart of the festival is communication. Communicating vulnerabilities and fears, communicating with friends and partners, learning how to be more expansive and honest about who we are and being able to show it.
Martin Robinson, Editor and Founder of The Book of Man says:
“The Book of Man is a support network for men which I set up to engage with issues around mental health and masculinity which have dominated headlines over the past few years. MeToo, the mental health crisis, and the high suicide rate for men under 50 were issues which needed to be engaged with to look at some solutions in a real, in-depth way. At BOM we examine the root causes of such issues and examine our identities as men, looking to break taboos about what a man can be, and opening up more doors for men beyond limited stereotypes, much as feminism has been doing for women. The Book of Man is a website but we successfully moved into events last year with our Festival of New Masculinity, and this year The Book of Man Festival 2020 will build on that with more of a focus on workshops and advice to engage with the core issues facing men – and society as a whole – today. With great guests, thought-provoking subject matter and a few surprises, this is going to a great series of events. Things are changing. Men are changing.’
What is the Book of Man?
A new support network for men, which is intended to look at men’s inner lives – mental health, anxieties, relationships, sexuality – in contrast to the usual men’s mag approach of dealing with appearances, the cars, the watches, the suits etc. We’re basically a digital men’s magazine with a very progressive vision of new masculinities.
What are the events you are organising and what is the mission behind those?
We run events which touch upon the issues above with the intention of bringing people together to discuss these often complex matters. Improving men’s communication skills is a recurrent theme, particularly when it comes to mental health matters, so these events at heart are about demonstrating communication. They’re also good fun.
Talk to me about The Penis Gallery X Vagina Museum. It is an interesting combination. What shall we expect to see and why did you choose to collaborate with The Vagina Museum?
We ran the penis gallery last year and had a very successful night, so we wanted to add in a new element this year. Having appeared at an event at the museum we asked them to appear at this one of ours, with the idea that if all genders can talk about their ‘privates’ together then we can share knowledge, understand each other better and this should help reduce anxiety and stigma. Also, it’s simply great to collaborate with people and places you admire.
How easy or difficult was to receive anonymous arty dick pics?
Quite difficult. Despite dick pics being slid into DMs en masse, people were quite shy when we actually asked for them. Something in the dynamic was wrong. Eventually we amassed quite a number, and it seemed to be a bit easier this year. Perhaps people have enjoyed the gallery of dick pics we put on the site after the event, and been encouraged to take part.
What is it all about?
Addressing one of the main male anxieties head on, and as a retort to porn culture. It’s about showing penises of all shapes and sizes and celebrating difference. We know rising sexual dysfunction amongst men is a big issue so this is our way of addressing this. As with everything we do, we want to bring unspoken difficulties to light in order to help people deal with them.
What are the biggest issues men face nowadays?
In brief, we are in a period of rapid social change, with gender roles shifting and a new landscape of life at work and at home – men need to get with the program on this or risk falling behind. Plus we have the social media world to contend with – utopian connective dream or mass psychic exploitation?
How do you support and help men?
Mostly by getting men to tell their stories, with the idea that this will be a stimulus to addressing your own issues.
How more sensitised are we against mental issues?
More sensitive to mental issues for sure – some say it’s a trend but I think there are unique pressures relevant to digital age late capitalism which is adding a new kind of strain.
Are mental issues a sign of our times or mental issues were always there but there were considered taboo?
Mental health issues are nothing new of course, history has continually shown individuals and populations dealing with depression, anxiety, addiction…I think perhaps we are finally looking at it as a medical issue as opposed to a psychological or spiritual one. Plus, as I said, I think the hyper-exposure of the digital age is playing havoc.
What are your future plans?
Growing into a true support network for men that will help them deal with any issues they face throughout their lives.
Here are some of the pictures that were shown during in the “penis gallery” – over 18s only!
More of the Book of Man here: