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Technologies of the natural: 'Male enhancement', gender confirmation surgery, and the 'monster cock'

Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
Responding to Susan Stryker's (2006) call to identify the "seams and sutures" of the 'natural body', this dissertation analyzes the social incarnation of the 'natural male body' through 'male enhancement' discourse in Canada and the United States (247). As one of the few sociological investigations into the medical practice of male enhancement, this research reorients our analytical gaze away from the somatic transformations of historically-oppressed people's sexed bodies, towards bringing the male body, cis masculinity, and whiteness into the spotlight of critique. This investigation is grounded in fifty hours of online observations of a male enhancement forum for cis men interested in augmenting their genitals; and twenty in-depth, qualitative interviews with medical practitioners who specialize in male enhancement procedures. Drawing on the theoretical and analytical tradition of somatechnics, I juxtapose bodies and somatic transformations in relation to each other to reveal the underlying assumptions, justifications, and prohibitions for particular forms of bodily being. I first compare how male enhancement for cis men and gender confirming genital procedures for trans people are discursively produced in contrasting ways, despite how both sets of these procedures use overlapping medical knowledges to intervene on genitals, aiming to produce similar aesthetic results and to reduce patient suffering. Yet male enhancement is discursively framed as 'restorative' or 'augmentative' of the natural male body, whereas gender confirmation surgeries are rendered 'constructive' of an unnatural body. In the second half of my analysis, I demonstrate how male enhancements that result in 'monster cocks', by definition, make penetrative sexual practices impossible or cause sexual partners pain, thereby creating a tension between sexual practices that male the body, and dominance practices that accomplish masculinity. Reading the monster cock in relation to discourses about the 'female reproductive body', dyspareunia, and racialized bodies, I trace how male enhancement discourse works to shore up the contours of whiteness, cis masculinity, and the male body. This project aims to disrupt the naturalized white male body against which all others are measured, and attempts to make an intervention into how bodies come to matter.
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