Following in the footsteps of such bestselling, taboo-breaking books as Randall Kennedy’s Nigger and J. L. King’s On the Down Low, Hung brings a topic previously discussed only in intimate settings out into the open. In a brilliant, multilayered look at the pervasive belief that African American men are prodigiously endowed, Scott Poulson-Bryant interweaves his own experiences as a black man in America with witty analyses of how black male sexuality is expressed in books, film, television, sports, and pornography. “Hung” is a double entendre, referring not only to penis size but to the fact that black men were once literally hung from trees, often for their perceived sexual prowess and the supposed risk it posed to white women. As a poignant reminder, he begins his book with a letter to Emmett Till, the teenager who was lynched in Mississippi in the mid-1950s for whistling at a white woman. For Poulson-Bryant and other men of his generation, society’s deep-seated obsession with the sexual powers of black men has had an enormous, if often deceptive, influence on how they perceive themselves and on the assumptions made by others. His tales of his sexual encounters with both sexes, along with anecdotes about the lives of various friends and colleagues, are wryly and at times shockingly revealing. Enduring racial perceptions have shaped popular culture as well, and Poulson-Bryant offers a thorough, thought-provoking look at media-created images of the “Well-Hung Black Male.” He deftly deconstructs movies like Mandingo and Shaft, articles in the popular press, and edgy works like Robert Mapplethorpe’s Black Book, while also providing distinctive profiles of icons like porn star Lexington Steele and rapper L.L. Cool J.A scintillating mixture of memoir and cultural commentary, Hung is the first and only book to take on phallic fixation and uncover what lies below. Readers may be scandalized, but they’ll also have plenty to ponder about America’s views on how black men measure up.
“Hung is deeply compelling, disturbing, complex . . . Brave Scott Poulson-Bryant, for putting his size on the line and truly measuring up.” —Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues
Praise for Hung
“Like a new lover, Hung is seductive, startling, smart, and seditious.” —Jill Nelson, author of Sexual Healing
“In Hung,Scott really goes there, talking honestly and telling secrets about the black phallus and its, uh, massive impact on America.” —Touré, author of Never Drank the Kool-Aid
Pop culture journalist Scott Poulson-Bryant explores a belief that has captured the American imagination–namely, the idea that African American men are bigger and therefore better when it comes to their prized member.Scott recently took some time to explore with BLACK INK the controversy of how Black men measure up in America:Black Ink: HUNGdeals with a concept that many people have privately dealt with but has rarely found a public forum. What made you decide to create a work that would put the notion of Black male endowment in a more public setting? Scott Poulson-Bryant: To tell you the truth, the notion of Black male endowment already is in a public setting. We just like to act like it’s not. I was reading in the paper just the other day that Mike Tyson was reportedly looking to star in a porn film. Okay. Fine, if you say so. But then the article went on to mention the exact supposed dimensions of Tyson’s penis size. Why? Because people seem fascinated by the idea of it. I was watching Big Brother on TV the other night and the sole Black guy in the house was taking a shower. One by one, almost every person in the house, starting with one of the masculine heterosexual white guys, went over to the shower to get a glimpse of the black guy’s “big chocolate pee-pee.” Ya don’t get more public than national TV, you know what I mean?Seriously, though, the idea of how Black men swing has long occupied a place in the public imagination, almost as long as Black men have been part of the American community as slaves, when we were bred to be big and virile and still subservient.I just thought that with HUNG, it was time to give the idea its literary spin. It is something people talk about. Why wouldn’t it be something people might wanna read about?BI: What are some of the ideas around the hung myth that you explore in the book? Which was the most compelling for you to write about? The most difficult? What did you have the most fun with?SPB: The fun thing about writing HUNGwas that I could use so many different styles and discourses to discuss such a controversial topic. There are parts of the book that read as memoir, when I talk directly to the reader about my own sexual experiences to highlight certain issues. Then there are parts of the book that are literary and media criticism, where I tackle subjects like the film Mandingo and the O.J. Simpson murder case and the world of pornography.Speaking of porn, I might have had the most fun interviewing Lexington Steele, the famous porn star, who gave me a complete education on what it’s like for Black men in that industry, the power they have and the power they don’t have. I’ve spent my whole career talking to Black men about the work they do–how people behave professionally and creatively has always interested me–but this time I got more than an earful, as you can probably imagine! I think folks will find that section of the book very interesting.The difficult parts of the book were probably the historical elements, where I had to directly address the idea of lynching and slavery and Jim Crow. My research took me to some dark places, and when it came time to actually sit down and write about them, I had to really gear myself up. But that was also a great challenge–to render those ideas with gravity and grace and still be entertaining to the reader.And I have to say, talking to some friends and acquaintances about sex and their experiences was always fun, partly because I so enjoy interviewing people but also because some stuff was just so illuminating. I interviewed one guy with a massive penis who seems almost ashamed of it. I had to wrap my head around that one. But once I did, I got a good sense of where he was coming from. Most people who’ve read the book find his story really interesting.BI: You quote a line from James Baldwin and use it as a connective thread throughout the book: “The color was its size. The size was its color.” Comment on that.SPB: James is a real totem for me, as a writer and as a Black man. I actually quote him quite a bit in the book because he’s such an inspiration. The line that you mentioned is from his last novel, Just Above My Head (which everyone in the world should read!), and it refers to a character, a Black man, who experiences a bit of sex with White women and comes to realize that they all seem amazed by the size of his Johnson. He surmises that it is the color they are most astonished by, most awed by. Metaphorically speaking, it had occurred to me that of course that would be the case: so many people just assume that all Black men are prodigiously endowed that the expectation becomes the rule, the fantasy becomes the reality. The notion of the Black dick” almost doesn’t exist without the signifier “big” before it. “The color was its size; its size was its color” was so, to speak, that germ of an idea that grew HUNG into a book.BI: You interviewed quite a few folks regarding how they view the hung myth. How open were people to talking about this issue? You also reveal how hung you are. How did that feel, to reveal yourself (pun intended) in such a way on the page?SPB: “Hello? My name is Scott Poulson-Bryant. I’m a writer working on a book about penis size and Black men, and I was wondering if–uh, hello? Are you there? Did you hang up on me?”That’s how it was sometimes. Other times people’s responses were so cool and chill that you forget that all this stuff is considered taboo by so many people. I talked to men, women, straight, gay, all races, classes. I found that there were certain very entrenched notions, and I found wildly divergent ideas. Most people, however open they were, did want their names changed in the book. I guess all that dick-talk wouldn’t really make their bosses or significant others all that happy? Who knows. But it was fun.As far as revealing stuff about myself, sexually and emotionally, that’s always been a part of my writing. I’ve been criticized or chastised by people in my writing career for being “too honest” (which I deal with a bit in the book), but I don’t think of it that way. I just think when you call yourself a writer it’s imperative that you cut deep into the vein and bleed as much of the truth onto the page as you can. That’s a sorta gross metaphor but it’s the right one, I think. What’s the point in writing about something so ripe with potential, then pull your punches? As far as talking about the size of my own penis, well, it’s sorta hard to talk about other dudes’ penises and not at least share something about myself, you know? That would be bad sharing and I’ve always been good at sharing, ever since Pre-K. No, to be serious, I try not to have any shame in my game. You can’t or you’d never really accomplish anything in life. Around the same time I realized that I’d never have the biggest dick in the room I started to understand that I also had crazy skills. And at the end of the day, what you show off to the masses in the locker room has nothing on how you prove yourself to one special person in the bedroom.BI: How do you hope the public will react to HUNG?SPB: I hope people discuss the book amongst their friends. I hope people appreciate that I tried to be as honest as I could. I hope that people get my sense of humor. I hope people, especially Black folks, understand that sometimes you got to put some dirty laundry in the street to ensure that the place we call home stays really, really clean. I just hope folks buy it, learn, and laugh.