This article contains sexually explicit material.
Imagine finally getting the email letting you know that your package from Etsy had arrived. You get home, cut open the box, and see your gift: a porcelain white dildo, along with a collage of Wikipedia photos of the hip-hop artist Akon.
But you aren’t going to use that fake penis for sexual purposes. You’re going to put it on the top shelf of your bookcase, or possibly on your mantle. The pleasure comes from the appreciation of the art, not from the tickling of your prostate.
Artist Benjamin Woodyard is the brilliant mind behind the “99 Problems” art project, a series of 99 ceramic dildos that he’s selling on Etsy. For his project, Woodyard made 99 porcelain casts of his penis and packaged them with collages of various famous men. The collages depict specific male icons, such as Abraham Lincoln or Tupac, and they’re very, very NSFW.
Woodyard started the project as a way to jump-start a discussion about sexism and privilege in contemporary society. Although he’s always been interested in feminist politics, due to his status as a white male, he knew he could never fully understand the experience of being a woman. So he decided to launch the 99 Problems project as a way to “take on the stereotype of my privileged position and exaggerate it to the point of being grossly ridiculous.”
Woodyard decided to make casts of his own penis and decorate them with photographs of famous men as a form of self-reflexive commentary on the stereotype of the white male artist who freely flaunts his masculinity and sexuality.
The project is intended to be tongue-in-cheek, in part because Woodyard knows he doesn’t have the biggest cock on the block—in fact, he’s fairly average-sized, if the above photos are any indication.
As the ultimate example of turning lemons into lemonade, Woodyard incorporated his modest size into his art project. As he writes in the description on his Esty page:
But! The dicks aren’t that big, why would I, in reality, be so proud of such an average dick? And why do they all have faces of other men on them? The size normalizes the egotistic/narcissistic gesture of making them in the first place, maybe undercuts it even, lending the piece some realism. By giving these different men of interest these average-to-small dicks (sizes vary) it normalizes them too, bringing them down to a more personal level.
Pop culture and male celebrities were also integral to Woodyard’s project. For example, he made 99 molds in reference to Jay-Z’s “99 Problems,” and the packages feature celebrities from Lou Reed to Richard Nixon.
The dildos also vary in size because Woodyard took two molds of his penis, with one mold being more erect than the other. The variations in size are in accordance with his artistic subjects. The dildo for Hitler, for instance, is little and limp, while Buddha is honored with a straighter and larger dildo.
Although Woodyard feels pretty exposed by the project, he’s not much of an exhibitionist. The goal of the project isn’t to get you to see his penis.
“It is supposed to be a conversation-starter and grab your attention,” the Ontario-based artist wrote in an email to the Daily Dot. “By putting my genitals on display it puts me in a vulnerable position socially, but I hope it also makes people realize that the subject of the work is a lot bigger than my dick.”
It’s been about two years since Woodyard completed his project, but the dildos are still available to purchase on his Etsy page, along with some of his other creations. And with some time to reflect since finishing “99 Problems,” he’s learned some important lessons on his male privilege.
“I have learned that vocally addressing the subject of feminism and being in a position of privilege as a white male can often be less helpful than actually shutting up and listening,” he wrote. “So I guess I want to say this to white men and boys: Listen to your peers who do not share your social position as white men. Actually listen to them.”
Photos via BenjaminWoodyard/Etsy | Illustration by Fernando Alfonso III