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Measure of Man
2005-10-01

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HUNG: A Meditation on the Measure of Black Men in America, Scott Poulson-Bryant; Doubleday, Hardcover $24.95, ( 224 p ) ; ISBN 0-385-51002-0

reviewed by Tony Peregrin

For a lot of men, how you 'hang' has a lot to do with who you hang with, where you hang, and sometimes, how long you hang once you get there, according to Poulson-Bryant, founding editor of Vibe and co-author of What's your Hi-Fi IQ?, in his new book Hung: A Mediation on the Measure of Black Men in America, a libidinous hybrid of cultural commentary and personal anecdotes.

The pervasive belief that African American men are prodigiously endowed presents a curious conundrum for the contemporary Black male, who is simultaneously drawn to—and repelled by—this notion perpetuated by the popular culture that they are 'hung.'

In the book's opening pages, Poulson-Bryant freely admits that as an African American man, he should be 'hung like a horse,' but he's not, nor does he want to be. 'I think of black man-dick and I think that once upon a time we were hung on trees for being, well, hung. The sexual beast, the loin-engorged predator, the big-dicked destroyer not just of pure pristine white women but also of white men's sense of themselves; that's where black men have found themselves, culturally speaking: Hung. Strung up from trees.'

Today, Black men are still 'hung' for being 'hung' if only because they risk being viewed as little more than an engorged sex organ. Take 'Simon' for example, a successful athlete who refuses to take showers at the gym and changes clothes with a towel wrapped around him, because he would rather be a star on the basketball court than in the locker room; and 'Danny' a gay man living in Manhattan who frequents invitation-only sex parties, not because of the size of his penis, necessarily, but because of its color and what that seems to represent to others.

For some readers Poulson-Bryant's 'meditation' on the 'measure of black men in America' may not quite 'measure-up' for those seeking more of an academic approach to Black male sexuality and how it is expressed in American culture, as much of the author's research is internet-based or culled from anecdotal narratives provided by largely unnamed acquaintances of the author. Still, Poulson-Bryant's assertion, that Black men 'need to start thinking like the Big Swinging Dicks on Wall Street instead of acting like the Big Swinging Dicks of the public's fascination,' has the kind of thrust and vigor necessarily to stimulate dialogue on this topic.


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