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[Pn. 7] Technologies of the Flesh, Technologies of the Self: An Ethnography of Male Genital Modification Discourse

19 October 2013


In the last thirty years, cosmetic genital modification for cis men has gained popularity in North America, Europe and Australia. Penile enlargements, girth enhancements and foreskin restorations are among many of the possible surgical and “at-home” interventions one can perform on cis men’s genitals. Rather than evaluating participants’ motivations to reengineer their bodies (Braun 2009) or attempting to determine whether genital modifications are liberatory or oppressive forms of body work (Braun 2010, 2005; Green 2005), this ongoing project is founded on a loose patchwork of inquiries into how medical and popular discourses enable and foreclose certain possibilities for cis men’s identities and bodies. The purpose of this investigation is to ask: how do technologies of the flesh—including surgical expertise and discourses about the body—become technologies that are constitutive of particularly gendered and sexual selves? My attention to intersecting and competing discourses about gender, sexuality and the body stems from virtual observations of online support sites for cis men who modify their genitals. In addition, this ethnography is grounded in semi-structured interviews and observations of medical practitioners from the United States who specialize in male genital cosmetic surgery. By situating this research within masculinities studies and medicalization scholarship, and by drawing on the emerging theoretical tradition of somatechnics, I aim to open up spaces for alternative geographies of cis male subjectivity and embodied existence.


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