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Hung Up on Size

The author of a new book about an old stereotype discusses America’s fixation on measuring up.

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The cover of Scott Poulson-Bryant’s new book, Hung: A Meditation on the Measure of Black Men in America, is none too subtle: A ruler is slapped across an image of a chiseled, shirtless man. But what about the meditation part? Brian Keith Jackson spoke with him.

Your title doesn’t leave much to the imagination.
The title came to me before the book did. I loved the idea of black men historically and stereotypically being considered well hung. But there was also a time when black men were being hung from trees for being well hung—a supposed threat to white American culture during slavery, Jim Crow, and afterward.

Okay, but what about that ruler? Isn’t that exploiting the exploitation a little?
I wanted a ruler on the cover. I’d be lying if I said there’s no power to be derived from the myth.

Have you derived much power from it?
I was a sophomore at Brown, and I met a white girl at a party. We had sex. She’d come after me. I didn’t pursue her. Afterward, she basically said, “I thought your dick would be bigger.” I asked her why, and she said, “Because you’re black.” And I said, “I did too.” That isn’t to say that I have a tiny dick, because I don’t. But I always thought as a black man I should have a certain number. That’s what society teaches you.

But how are you trying to advance the conversation about all this?
Enough people talk about it, so I figured maybe they’d want one brotha’s perspective on it. There was a time when as black men we were the discussion—but not part of the discussion. The mere fact that I can be is a step forward.

So what have people been saying about your contribution to the discussion?
Women love the book.

And men?
Black gay men do. Some white guys that I’ve talked to have really been excited—well, not excited, but into what I was talking about. One white guy sent me an e-mail and said, “What you don’t deal with in the book is the perspective of dick size. A seven-inch dick on a guy who is five foot five is going to look different on a guy who is six foot nine.” Probably, but that’s not what the book is about.


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